Before the German national team was announced last Friday, Hansi Flick had already made it clear that there would be some surprise inclusions. He had indicated that younger players would be given the chance to impress ahead of Euro 2024 in Germany.
The idea behind calling up the younger generation was to discover players willing to passionately fight as a team; this is something Flick’s men could have been questioned over after their group stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Therefore, from his recent selection, who is a winner and who may feel unfortunate in missing out?
Malick Thiaw (21) – AC Milan
The first inclusion on the winner’s list is a player that was in line to miss out on a senior call-up. Armel Bella-Kotchap had been selected over Thiaw, however, due to Bella-Kotchap sustaining a shoulder injury, the Milan defender was promoted from the under-21s. Since leaving Schalke in the summer, Thiaw found game time hard to come by for the Rossoneri. However, since his first appearance against Torino at the start of February, Stefano Pioli has not been able to replace him.
His first six games for Milan saw them only concede twice as he oversaw five clean sheets and he was the star man in the Milan defence in both legs as they overcame Tottenham Hotspur to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals. He has proven his quality on Europe’s biggest stage which meant his exclusion at first was a surprise. However, now he has made the squad he will undoubtedly force his way into Flick’s future sides.
Mergim Berisha (24) – Augsburg
The German national team have an abundance of attacking talent. However, this attacking talent is concentrated in the wide areas, as well as, in attacking midfield. A natural goalscoring striker has plagued the side in recent years; this is reflected in their underachievement at the last three international tournaments. Niclas Füllkrug has come to the forefront in this season but at 24, Berisha can stand out as a potential long-term solution to this problem.
With 8 goals so far this campaign, he is Augsburg’s leading goalscorer helping the side stave off a relegation dogfight. He has also managed to score in all four previous meetings against Bayern proving that he can do it on the big stage against the best sides. A call-up that is most definitely deserved, and his place in this side could be for the long term.
Marius Wolf (27) – Borussia Dortmund
While identifying a replacement for Miroslav Klose at striker has troubled the German national side, finding the heir to Philipp Lahm’s throne at right-back has also been a significant issue. Whilst Marius Wolf is no Lahm, he certainly has earned his place in this side. He has been crucial to the defensive turnaround at Borussia Dortmund, which in turn has fired the Black and Yellows to the top of the table.
The natural ability he possesses going forward as well means he is a dynamic threat and a notable boost for Flick’s side. In addition, like the aforementioned Klose, Wolf came into professional football later than most. This has been reflected in that at the age of 27 he has begun to show the player he can be. Therefore, there could still be development in Wolf’s game, meaning he could be a mainstay in this side for the decade to come.
Niklas Süle (27) – Borussia Dortmund
While the omission of Niklas Süle is understandable after the disappointing World Cup he experienced, Flick cannot deny that he has been the most consistent performer at the heart of Borussia Dortmund’s defence. Alongside Wolf and Nico Schlotterbeck, Süle has proved that he has all the ability to be the main man in the German back line, however, he has been overlooked by Flick. This may come down to the decision to give younger players a chance and Süle’s time will come again. Nevertheless, if he is going to be a feature of this side in tournaments to follow, then why not offer him the minutes when an underperforming Thilo Kehrer is opted for instead?
Robin Knoche (30) – Union Berlin
Robin Knoche is not the fanciest name in German football. However, he has been pivotal in the success of Union Berlin this season, displaying himself as a defensive rock in the Union defence. At the age of 30, Flick may consider Knoche to not be young enough to force his way into the side with international tournaments on the horizon. Even more so, when considering the abundance of centre-back options Germany have at their disposal. However, his performances this campaign have warranted a call-up to the national side and there is always something younger players can learn from such an experienced figure. Not a surprising omission, but one that may feel unfortunate to miss out.
Leroy Sané (27) – Bayern Munich
It is no secret that Leroy Sané has been underperforming not just this season, but ever since he joined Bayern. On recent form, there are players more deserving of a call-up and Flick will depend upon Sané again. A break from continuous competitive football may be what he needs. However, he was one of the few players at the World Cup that did display the quality Flick is hoping to find in his youthful squad. Mario Götze has been included over Sané and with both players struggling for form, keeping an integral member of this side in the team would have potentially made more sense. Therefore, Sané may feel as though he should have been included, but he needs to find his form soon to prevent his becoming a regular story.
GGFN | Will Shopland