Bastian Schweinsteiger will lead Germany onto the field for tonight’s Euro 2016 semi-final against France after being passed fit to play.
The Manchester United midfielder was a doubt due to a niggling injury he aggravated in the penalty shoot-out win over Italy in the quarter-finals, but Germany coach Joachim Low confirmed at a press conference yesterday that he is fit and will start.
“I have the team in my head and Bastian Schweinsteiger will definitely start,” Low said in Marseille.
“I always said that if he trains 100% without complaints, then he will play.
“He trained this morning and had no complaints. The injury is cured and he showed against Italy he’s got the strength to play from the start, and I believe he’s very, very important, particularly in such a game — his experience is very valuable.
“We have three players — Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and Mats Hummels — who we have to replace, which is not easy, and this is why it is important that an experienced player like Bastian starts.
“If he’s not strong enough to last the whole game, then we’ve got alternatives to come on later.”
Low is therefore glad to be able to count on Schweinsteiger’s years of international experience for what he expects to be his side’s toughest game of Euro 2016, and also France’s most difficult challenge.
“We’re not playing against a team, we’re playing against an entire country, so I wouldn’t say we’re favourites,” Low said.
“Both teams have good quality and who shows this and makes fewer mistakes and takes their chances will win.
“We’re going to be the toughest opponents France have had to face so far here. We’re going to put everything into reaching the final.”
That said, Germany do have more problems to contend with than their hosts, with the aforementioned absentees and the fact they played 120 minutes and penalties against Italy, while France swept Iceland aside comfortably with a 5-2 win.
There will not be any excuses coming from the Germans in the event of a defeat, though, with the team still confident they are strong enough to add the European Championships crown to their World Cup title.
“If tomorrow night doesn’t go well for us, I’m certainly not going to use the Italy game as an excuse,” said Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos.
“Of course we have a lot of respect for them and I think they’ve got better as the tournament has progressed,” Kroos, who ruled out ever returning to play for a club in his native Germany, said.
“We’ve seen they’ve got plenty of good individuals, but we certainly don’t need to be afraid. Fear is not the right word.”
Instead, Germany are focusing on attacking France’s weaknesses, with Low insisting they do have some.
“They are the team with the best goals-per-chance ratio, they have players like Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi who attack from the midfield, they are in front of their own fans and their own country and they’re going to put everything into it,” he said.
“But every team has some problems — there’s no such thing as a perfect team.
“Of course they dominated against Iceland, but I believe we’ve found some of their weaknesses and we’ve discussed it with our players — I don’t want to reveal what they are, so let’s just try to surprise them.”
Meanwhile, defender Mats Hummels has criticised the new rules on suspensions for Euro 2016 — even though the old system might have seen him banned for the final.
Hummels misses tonight’s gameafter picking up his second yellow card of the competition in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out win over Italy.
A new rule introduced by Uefa for this edition means that all yellow cards are struck off going into the semi-finals, meaning that a player can only be banned for the final now by being sent off in the semi-final.
Previously, players carrying a booking going into the last four would miss the final if they picked up another yellow card and Hummels says he still prefers that method.
“I don’t think it’s right that you are more or less given a fool’s licence in the semi- finals,” Hummels said.
“I think there should still be the risk of being banned in the final.
“I don’t think it’s right that theoretically teams in the semi-finals can commit around 20 tactical fouls combined — that could lead to a team leading in the 80th minute still with plenty of room for these kind of fouls.”
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