Germany coach Joachim Loew says the battle for places in the world champions’ squad for Euro 2016 starts in earnest with their high-profile friendlies at home to England and Italy.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions play Germany at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium this Saturday before Italy face the world champions at Munich’s Allianz Arena on Tuesday.
Last Friday, Loew named a bumper squad to face England and Italy as the quest begins to add the European crown to their world title.
“These games are a prelude to what awaits us in the European championships,” Loew told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
“Both opponents are top teams and amongst the favorites. These are good test matches. The battle for places gets serious now.”
“There are eight weeks left until the end of the season and we have chosen a big squad to talk to the players about what is expected.”
The Germany boss has already shown his teeth by dropping Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse for off-pitch indiscretions after the player got into an argument with a female reporter and in another incident left 75,000 euros ($84,000) in cash in a taxi.
Security around the Germany team has been raised in the aftermath of the Brussels terror attacks and 30 police officers oversaw Tuesday’s first training session in Berlin.
“We are sure the situation is under control,” said Germany’s assistant coach Thomas Schneider.
Loew’s captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger has been ruled out of both games after re-injuring his right knee during Tuesday’s first training session with the Germany squad in Berlin.
But Loew is backing the Manchester United star to prove himself at the European championships, as he did two years ago at the 2014 World Cup, putting in superb displays in Brazil on the back of an ankle injury before the tournament.
“Of course he needs to catch up physically and at the moment he is not at 100 percent,” said Loew.
“But there is still a relatively long way to the European championships.
“He hardly put in a full session at the training camp for the 2014 World Cup, but he was there for the important games.
“His ambition is undiminished and extremely high.”
– Decade at the helm –
Loew will celebrate a decade in charge after Euro 2016, which runs from June 10 to July 10.
Under his stewardship, the Germans have reached at least the semi-finals of every World Cup or European championships since.
“Each of us knows that the team is capable of extraordinary achievements, when the focus is on the big tournament,” said Loew.
“When we go into camp, the exertion from the players is at it’s maximum.
“The players often switch between playing for their clubs, the national team, in the Champions League and in the different leagues.
“But when the European championships begin, I know that we are able to switch up another gear.”
Security for Saturday’s match against England in Berlin will be high, especially after Germany’s final friendlies of 2015 coincided with the November Paris terror attacks.
Their defeat to France at the Stade de France was overshadowed by the terrible scenes across the French capital on November 13.
Then Germany’s home friendly against the Netherlands four days later in Hanover was called off on police advice amidst threats of a terror attack.
“What happened in Paris, and in the weeks thereafter, was not easy to deal with, but we have worked through that,” said Loew.
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