Youngest DFB team ever set new records

Manuel Neuer was in a joyous mood. “We may order what we want on the plane”, said Germany’s international goalkeeper with a friendly smile. A female radio reporter had asked the 25-year-old whether champagne would be served. Amazed, Neuer looked at the good-looking woman. Champagne is not generally the favourite drink of footballers, and anyway what was there to celebrate? The 3-1 (2-0) over Azerbaijan in Baku didn’t produce a truly great performance from the German national team, but rather an effective acquittal. You don’t have to drink on that. The only enjoyable fact was that the return flight on a Lufthansa 343 plane from central Asia to Frankfurt meant vacation time could finally begin. Neuer hardly closed his eyes before landing at Rhein Main Airport on Wednesday, June 8, at 0430. The goalkeeper from Gelsenkirchen had, however, to delay his holiday break. He flew on to FC Bayern Munich for a medical at his new club. There, too, he presented himself as a jolly personality.

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Uli Stein, Azerbaijan’s goalkeeping coach, congratulates Manuel Neuer after Germany’s 3-1 victory in Baku. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


The team had achieved something special. “I am really proud of them and thank the players for the way they cooperated fully for a whole year”, said coach Joachim Loew, when the last official trip ended 25 days after the conclusion of the Bundesliga. The DFB team had concluded an impressive season with their third successive victory within 10 days, after two 2-1 wins in a friendly against Uruguay and the European qualifier against Austria. Eight wins, three draws and just one defeat (in a friendly to Australia) reads the record in the year after the 2010 World Cup.

A last show of strength was enough for the final selection by the German Football Association, DFB, to achieve new records: seven successive wins in seven European qualifiers have never before been achieved, not even by the generations of DFB World Cup and European champions. In addition, the youngest ever DFB A national team lined-up in Baku, with an average age of 23.45 years. Neuer, Benedikt Hoewedes (23), Dennis Aogo (24), Mesut Oezil (22) and Mats Hummels all played with the DFB juniors in Sweden at the same time two years ago. Andre Schuerrle (20), Lewis Holtby (20) and Mario Goetze (19) were too young for that event. Holger Badstuber (22) was then in the second ranking of DFB juniors, but in Baku clearly outshone his Dortmund and central defence team-mate Hummels.

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The youngest DFB team ever in Baku: Neuer, Badstuber, Gomez, Kroos, Hummels, Hoewedes (above from left), Lahm, Podolski, Aogo, Mueller, Oezil (below from left). (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


The national team start project “Title Conquest”

“I found out early that there wasn’t much left in the tank. I had thought there would be more power left”, disclosed Hummels, who at first made some crass mistakes in his second competitive international match. Mesut Oezil (30th) and Mario Gomez (41st), with his fourth goal in the last three internationals, opened the scoring for the Germans in front of 35,000 spectators. Murad Huseynov notched the only goal for the outsiders in the 89th minute, while Schuerrle scored his second international goal since his debut against Uruguay in added time (90th+3). The future Leverkusen player is increasingly pushing himself as a competitor to Lukas Podolski. However, Loew was quite happy with all his players. “It was clear that we couldn’t keep up the pace of last autumn following such a punishing season, which in turn came on the heels of a terribly exhausting World Cup, causing many players to have too short a vacation”. The 2-1 (1-0) over Austria four days previously in Vienna had taken its toll on strength. The Germans were lucky to achieve a rather undeserved victory with Mario Gomez scoring both goals (44th, 90th), followed by an own goal by Arne Friedrich (50th). Contrary to the encounter in Baku, the World Cup bronze medallists and European runners-up were never capable of totally controlling the match.

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Mario Gomez’s header in the 90th minute assured Germany’s 2-1 win over Austria in Vienna. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


“We have 98 per cent qualified for the European Championship”, said Loew in Baku. On September 2 against Austria at Gelsenkirchen, his team could be the first among the 51 participating teams to purchase their ticket to the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine starting on June 8, 2012. In order to finish top in their group, Turkey would have to win all their four upcoming matches while the DFB selection lose their qualifiers against Austria, Belgium and Turkey. If this unlikely situation were to come true, there would still remain the relegation matches between the different groups’ runners-up. “Our clear aim is to win the title”, Philipp Lahm disclosed. At the age of 27, the captain was the oldest German player. Against Azerbaijan just he and Lukas Podolski remained from the squad that competed at the 2006 World Cup. The project “Title Conquest” starts from now. They have set their eyes on their first title since 1996, when Berti Vogts led the national team to the European title in England. “I very much like how this young team combine. Germany has never had so many good, young top players”, said Vogts, raving about the “Boy Group”. His days as Azerbaijan’s national coach seem to be numbered. Either it happens very quickly or his contract won’t be extended at the end of the year. “Istefa, Istefa” shouts were heard again and again in the stadium, with the Azerbaijani chorus demanding “resign, resign”. The former German national coach has clearly fallen from grace. Though his build-up work since April 2008 has been fair, he is accused of spending not enough time in Azerbaijan. After Vogts, the DFB’s last title coach, Erich Ribbeck, Rudi Voeller and Juergen Klinsmann were at the helm of the German national team. Since the time of “Bundes-Berti” (Federal Berti) the national team has not been as successful as under the direction of Loew.