Neuer ready to skipper Germany for Euro 2016 opener

Evian (France) (AFP) – Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is ready to step up and captain the world champions in their opening Euro 2016 group game against Ukraine on Sunday.

Regular skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger, 31, played the final 23 minutes of last weekend’s 2-0 warm-up win over Hungary but is doubtful for Germany’s opening Euro 2016 Group C clash.

Germany’s midfield talisman tore a medial knee ligament while on national duty in March. 

The Manchester United star has not played 90 minutes of football since January and if, as expected, he fails to start in Lille, either Neuer or Sami Khedira will skipper the world champions.

Head coach Joachim Loew has yet to decide who will wear the captain’s arm-band.

But Neuer has already led the team in friendlies and qualifiers and is braced to step in again for the European Championship finals.

“Basically, as a goalkeeper, I have to take responsibility anyway and I see my role as guiding the younger players,” said Neuer, who has been voted world’s best goalkeeper for the past three years.

“As a goalkeeper, you are expected to talk a lot, both on and off the pitch.”

As well as deciding on his skipper, Loew must also rejuggle his defence after centre-back Antonio Rudiger dropped out with torn knee ligaments on Tuesday. He suffered the injury in training.

Jonas Hector will start at left-back with either Benedikt Hoewedes set to move in from right-back or Shkodran Mustafi to partner Jerome Boateng at centre-back.

Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, 21, could cap his first season in the German senior squad with a start for die Mannschaft at right-back.

But Neuer does not mind who plays in front of him.

“Basically, we will have a very good defence, whoever plays,” said the 30-year-old Neuer, who has been Germany’s first-choice shot-stopper since the 2010 World Cup.

“I get on well with each player and we will have a functioning defence out there.”

The Germans suffered uncustomary defeats in their qualifying campaign, losing away to Poland and the Republic of Ireland. Now the world champions have a point to prove in France.

“We are pleased that it’s finally going to get started. We can barely wait to get on the pitch,” said Neuer.

Germany also face Poland on June 16, then Republic of Ireland on June 21.

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