Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest Germany coach for almost a century, has turned to veterans as he hopes to rebuild the fallen giants nine months out from hosting Euro 2024.
Hansi Flick became the first coach in Germany history to be sacked in September, having overseen a run of five matches without a win after a second-straight group stage exit at the World Cup in Qatar.
Germany will take on the United States in Connecticut on Saturday evening German time and Mexico in Philadelphia early on Wednesday morning.
Stepping into the role in October, Nagelsmann said his selections would be guided by form, rather than reputation or potential.
Nagelsmann named World Cup winners Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels, both 34, in the squad, the latter last played for Germany at the Euros in 2021.
With 12 members of the 26-man squad aged 30 or over, Nagelsmann — who himself is only contracted with the German FA until the end of next summer’s tournament — has clearly gone with experience in the hope of winning now.
In leaving Hummels out of his Qatar World Cup squad in 2022 for 20-year-old centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap, Flick said his decision was “not against Mats, but in favour of younger players”.
Bella-Kotchap did not see a minute of action in Qatar, sitting on the bench as Germany crashed out.
Nagelsmann on the other hand said Hummels was selected “due to his experience”.
“He’s also a good coach (and can) lead the other guys with his tactical understanding.”
Even Nagelsmann’s debutants have been picked with the present in mind.
Alongside in-form midfielder Chris Fuehrich, 25, Nagelsmann picked journeyman striker Kevin Behrens, 32, and midfield enforcer Robert Andrich, 29.
‘The best players’
The manager also stuck with Flick’s decision to give the captain’s armband to Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, 32, rather than Joshua Kimmich, 28, who Nagelsmann made captain at Bayern Munich.
Jonas Hofmann, 31, who has impressed with four goals and four assists in seven league matches since moving from Borussia Moenchengladbach to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, said age should not be a factor.
“For me, there’s only good and better, not old or young. The best players should be on the pitch.
“Experience is good for a team and can give a lot,” Hofmann said. “But we can also learn something from the younger ones, be a little freer in our heads and more enthusiastic.”
Normally accustomed to meticulous control, German fans have seen their side become prone to lapses of concentration, throwing away good work with clumsy errors and making repeated mistakes.
Gundogan, fresh from winning the treble with Manchester City last season, said experienced players bring “a little calm, a little patience”.
“I know that when you’re young, you might not have a feel for certain situations on the pitch, then sometimes you make decisions that aren’t well thought out.”
The reigning German player of the year warned of “the danger, if you are younger and have not been in these situations so often, that you will make the wrong decision”.
Hosting the tournament next summer brings extra pressure, Nagelsmann told ESPN on Thursday.
“I feel a lot of responsibility because you have to be good,” he said, adding victory would be the only way to revive the German public’s passion for the national team, after almost a decade of sub-par performances.
“We have to win to get the special mood,” Nagelsmann told ESPN.
“It’s always like that in football. When you win the game everything is good and well, when you lose, everything is shit.”
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