DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Another World Cup failure, another rebuild for Germany. This time there’s even more at stake.
Germany will host next year’s European Championship and is desperate to avoid another debacle at home.
The Germans once took pride in having a “tournament team,” one that could put distractions aside to perform when it mattered. Following group-stage exits at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and a round-of-16 loss at the last European Championship, however, Germany has not won a knockout game since the now-defunct Confederations Cup in 2017.
The current rebuild — with Germany able to skip qualifying as Euro 2024 host — starts with friendlies against Peru on Saturday and Belgium on Tuesday.
Germany coach Hansi Flick’s squad is a mix of regulars like Emre Can, Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich, and some more experimental picks. The six players getting their first call-ups include two right backs, Josha Vagnoman and Marius Wolf. There is also AC Milan defender Malick Thiaw and 21-year-old winger Kevin Schade, who is a bench player for Brentford in the Premier League.
Just like predecessor Joachim Löw after the 2018 World Cup, Flick has left out Bayern Munich forward Thomas Müller. The 33-year-old Müller signaled his international career might be over in an emotional interview at the World Cup in Qatar, but then changed tack to say he was still available for selection.
Müller has been here before. After Löw dropped him in 2018, he ended up being recalled in 2021 in the aftermath of a 6-0 loss to Spain.
“We appreciate each other and will continue to be in good contact,” Müller posted on Instagram last week after it was confirmed Flick would not select him.
Some other big names are out of the squad temporarily, whether because of injury (goalkeeper Manuel Neuer broke his leg while skiing) or personal reasons (midfielder Ilkay Gündogan became a father last week). The reasons for dropping Real Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger and Bayern forward Leroy Sané are less clear-cut, but seem to be part of Flick’s experiments in the rebuild.
Flick already bet on youth in his World Cup squad by selecting forwards Jamal Musiala, Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko, which made the latter the youngest player to ever play for Germany at the tournament at 18. All three will be missing from the upcoming games with injuries.
Another promising youngster, Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz, will return after missing the World Cup with injury.
Löw spent 2019 and 2020 working on his own failed rebuild. That means there is already a large pool of players who have been tried in the Germany team and discarded, especially at problem positions like left back, where Flick seems to have settled on Leipzig defender David Raum over other potential candidates like Inter Milan’s Robin Gosens.