The first DFB opponent in the Nations League this Saturday is European champions Italy, not really a game for experiments. However, national coach Hansi Flick is still looking for the optimal combination in the German midfield. He undoubtedly shares that with Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.
Leon Goretzka trotted blindly after Thomas Müller, but there was no way of taking shortcuts during the relaxed charity run of the national team to save the world's oceans. "Tough luck!" said Müller with a grin, and animated Goretzka with a definite "Come along!" to the next round over the "Home Ground". On the field, however, Goretzka wants to be the commander himself - and assert himself in the competitive control center. "I'm always disappointed when I'm not on the pitch - it doesn't matter why," he said at the DFB's training camp in Herzogenaurach. But he can no longer be sure of his place in midfield.
The double six with Bayern pros Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka was by no means "set from scratch," said Hansi Flick before the start of the Nations League on Saturday (8:45 p.m. / live on RTL, in the stream on RTL and in the live ticker at ntv.de) with European champions Italy. The competition is too great, although a place became free after Toni Kroos resigned after the European Championship.
It's getting tight in the engine room: Flick sees İlkay Gündoğan or Jamal Musiala as strong alternatives. Gündoğan "can be used anywhere, both defensively and offensively," said the national coach. Musiala, who played against the Netherlands (1-1) in March and again at the family training camp in Marbella last week, could "open up space for every team".
Another candidate in the squad, which currently consists of 25 players - Marco Reus (signs of an infection) is still missing - Mainz's Anton Stach. After all, the U21 European champion outperformed players like Florian Neuhaus, Julian Weigl, Emre Can, Mahmoud Dahoud and Maximilian Arnold, none of whom were considered. In view of the oversupply, Goretzka understands that Flick does not yet want to commit himself to the World Cup (November 21 to December 18). "The whole team is so well staffed that it would be fatal for the coach to give someone a starting eleven guarantee," he said, "I wouldn't put handcuffs on myself either".
Goretzka and Kimmich started four out of five internationals under Flick, in which both were available. But the competition within the team, emphasized Goretzka, is extremely valuable. In training on Tuesday he had a duel with buddy Kimmich "very intensely", "then things went really well. It welds together, Hansi wants to see that," he said, "it makes us all better and will lead us faster to where we want to go". Namely back to the top of the world.
The long way to the fifth star in the desert of Qatar began in Franconia with the 2.3 kilometer run ("Run for the Oceans") alongside several hundred employees of the outfitter. In the following training session, Flick already played with the ball of the Italian association. Italy, then England, Hungary and finally the European champions again: "These are absolute prestige duels" with a lot of "history and tradition", said Goretzka about the games in the Nations League. After that, said Flick, "we'll know where we stand" - and maybe also who will be allowed to do the hard work in the engine room at the World Cup.