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Toni Kroos, a vital cog in Germany’s engine

Berlin (AFP) – Germany host France on Tuesday in a key friendly to prepare for next year’s World Cup with Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos poised to return to the world champions’ engine room.

The 27-year-old missed Friday’s goalless draw against England at Wembley with illness, but is back fit and ready to partner Juventus star Sami Khedira in the heart of Germany’s midfield.

The Germans are on a 20-match unbeaten run, dating back to their 2-0 defeat by the French in Marseille in the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championship.

Germany head coach Joachim Loew will use the friendly against the French in Cologne to experiment and says the result is not important, a notion that Kroos refutes.

“Of course we want to win, the German Football Association has been trying to get us such high-quality opponents on purpose,” Kroos said on Monday.

“It’s only effective if we treat it like a competitive game.”

Kroos left Bayern Munich for Real after helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup, returning from Brazil with an enhanced reputation after a stunning tournament.

He was the man of the match in the astonishing 7-1 semi-final battering of hosts Brazil after scoring two goals in Belo Horizonte and running the attack to devastating effect.

Kroos has the mentality of a winner after lifting the Champions League trophy three times — with Bayern in 2013, and Real Madrid in 2016 and 2017.

– Midfield options –

Only injury will stop him being part of Germany’s 23-man squad at the World Cup and Loew has already said he is one of his lieutenants assured of a place.

“It’s him who gives us tempo, he is one of the most important players of the team,” said Germany centre-back Jerome Boateng.

Kroos will line up against the French alongside Khedira, but Germany have an embarrassment of riches in defensive midfield with Bayern’s Sebastian Rudy and Ilkay Gundogan of Manchester City also vying for a place.

“We’re well stocked in that department. The list is long,” said Kroos.

“It has often worked really well with Khedira, but Rudy and Gundogan are perhaps more creative.

“The only goal has to be to play well, I don’t see anyone in the current squad who is selfish.

“We get on well and the best case scenario is that the head coach has a big problem next year when he choses the team and we should be happy to have alternatives.”

Loew is a big fan of Kroos, adding: “I have never seen such a cool player,” while the midfielder claims he does not get tense.

“I don’t know what stress is. I think it is my secret and the reason I can play at my level,” Kroos said during Euro 2016, and his self-confidence is unshakeable.

Kroos gave a clear answer when asked about Tuesday’s friendly which comes two years after the Paris terror attacks.

On November 13, 2015, suicide bombers set off explosive devices outside the Stade de France during Germany’s match with France that was the start of a series of terror attacks across the city that left 130 dead.

The stunned Germany squad were forced to spend the night at the stadium in Paris during a security crackdown, but Kroos is unfazed about the return match.

“I wasn’t there that night, but I think the last few games have shown how secure matches are and I’m not worried,” he said.

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