Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann takes charge of his first match on home soil in Saturday’s friendly against Turkey in Berlin, promising improvements in defence seven months from hosting Euro 2024.
Nagelsmann, 36, was named Germany’s coach in September after former boss Hansi Flick became the first manager in the country’s history to be sacked.
Flick was let go with Germany administrators fearing humiliation in the home tournament, the coach having overseen a group stage exit at the Qatar World Cup and a run of five winless games.
Flick’s Germany conceded 13 goals in that five-game run, including four against Japan in what became the 58-year-old’s final match in charge.
Nagelsmann took over Germany ahead of the U.S. tour in October.
Germany beat the U.S. 3-1 and drew 2-2 with Mexico, showing Nagelsmann that the side still has defensive improvements to make.
- ‘Construction site’ -
When Germany won the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the side conceded just four goals in seven matches, shutting out Portugal, USA, France and runner-up Argentina.
Speaking when announcing his squad on Friday, Nagelsmann called the team’s habit of leaking goals was “a construction site” saying “we want to build a stable defense.”
It is a sentiment well understood throughout Nagelsmann’s charges, with midfielder Leon Goretzka saying “it is still too easy to score goals against us.”
“Everyone is aware that defence is the key to success in tournaments. We haven’t been able to do it so well in the past few tournaments.”
Germany last kept a clean sheet at a major tournament in 2016 in a 3-0 win over Slovakia.
Known for his tactical flexibility, Nagelsmann wants to understand his options at the back, saying his side “need to become more variable defensively.”
Nagelsmann brought back 2014 World Cup winner Mats Hummels, who has had an impressive season at Borussia Dortmund, while regulars Antonio Ruediger, Niklas Suele and Jonathan Tah have also been selected.
- ‘Too many goals’ -
The defensive lynchpin of undefeated league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, Tah recognised Germany’s problem but said on Thursday everyone on the field needed to pitch in.
“We’re definitely conceding too many goals. That’s something that we need to fix tactically as a team.”
Tah has been in career-best form under manager Xabi Alonso as his Leverkusen side have won 16 and drawn one of their 17 matches in all competitions this season.
Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross, 32, handed a national team debut as part of Flick’s last Germany squad, echoed Tah’s sentiments, saying on Thursday defensive stability should not only be left to the defenders.
“(In the midfield) you are on the ball and can give the team stability, security with the ball, against the ball.
“You can put the attackers in good positions, but also take care that there’s a good balance in both directions.”
While Flick’s gung-ho approach tended to leave his side open at the back, Nagelsmann has his side focusing on the minutiae of top defending.
“That’s what we’re working on here. Better processes, details” Tah told reporters on Thursday.
“We will try and implement that in the next two games.”
Tah, 27, said “it is important that you communicate a lot” when trying to defend.
“Narrow distances, a good connection to each other, in order to offer the opponent as few dangerous spaces as possible.”
Ilkay Gundogan, the first Germany captain with a Turkish background, will play the nation of his parents for the first time on Saturday.
Despite missing Germany-born captain Hakan Calhanoglu and winger Cengiz Under for Saturday’s match in Berlin, Turkey come into the game in top form.
Turkey have lost just one of their seven Euro 2024 qualifiers, scoring 13 goals in the process. The Crescent Stars sit top of their group, with their progress to the tournament guaranteed.
Saturday’s match in Berlin might be a friendly but the German capital’s huge Turkish population is likely to turn out in force in the hope of a big performance.
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