Germany’s golden oldies leading push for Euro 2024 glory

Germany’s golden oldies leading push for Euro 2024 glory

HERZOGENAURACH – With a combined age of 106, Germany’s three remaining 2014 World Cup winners Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos are leading the hosts’ charge for Euro 2024 glory.

Friends off the pitch, they are the only players in the 26-man squad to have each played over 100 international games.

The Germans are hoping their blend of youth and experience can sustain a title challenge when they take on Hungary in Stuttgart on June 19, with the Hungarians eager to bounce back from a 3-1 loss to Switzerland.

Since a semi-final elimination to France at Euro 2016, Germany have struggled in major tournaments, with two World Cup group-stage exits bookending a last-16 elimination by England at Euro 2020.

But after a 5-1 romp against Scotland in the Group A tournament opener, the veteran trio will be hoping for a successful last dance on home soil.

Neuer, 38, is two years older than coach Julian Nagelsmann. Kroos and Muller are both 34.

When announcing his Euro 2024 squad, Nagelsmann named Muller as “a connector” who “can link the rappers with the yodellers” in the squad.

The forward seems to be doing his part at Germany’s camp in Herzogenaurach, as Neuer lauded the “mood and the atmosphere within the camp”, saying “there’s just a really good, colourful mix in our team”.

Neuer also said he was “happy to hang out” with the younger squad members, joking that he can “hear conversations that are perhaps a little different to those with Toni Kroos or Thomas Muller”.

While the exploits of Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, both 21, stationed either side of the 25-year-old Kai Havertz, have dominated highlights reels, Germany will still bank on the experience they have.

With an average age of 28.5, their squad is the oldest at the tournament, with 10 of the 26 members aged 30 or older.

Their starting XI against Scotland on June 14 was the oldest they have fielded at a tournament since Euro 2000, when Lothar Matthaeus led them onto the pitch against Romania.

Speaking on June 17, Neuer said the trio “bring a very good perspective” to the squad.

“We’ve already experienced a lot together. We’ve had times with good or bad first games and at the beginning you don’t always know where you stand,” the goalkeeper said.

And because of that, he said they would make sure his younger teammates “keep our feet on the ground” despite blowing Scotland off the park.

“I think the relationship between us is simply very good and has been over the years too,” he added. “But we don’t just get on well off the pitch, we’re also fine characters on the pitch who always give everything to the team.”

Neuer’s first Germany cap was in June 2009, while Muller and Kroos made their debuts in the same match nine months later.

Despite being under fire for some pre-tournament mistakes, Neuer remains a calming presence between the sticks and is still an excellent distributor of the ball.

Kroos, who has confirmed he will end his career at the end of the tournament, had retired from international duty in 2021 but came back with a Euro 2024 win in mind.

And the six-time Champions League winner has undoubtedly been the most impressive of the three, showcasing his calmness and control against Scotland.

Muller’s playing peak may be behind him but few are better at bringing a diverse cohort together, as he has shown with his “connector” role in the squad.

In the other Group A match on June 19, tens of thousands of kilt-wearing Scotland fans will take part in a pre-match march to Cologne Stadium ahead of the clash with Switzerland.

The Tartan Army were also present in massive numbers in Munich when they faced Germany, but were left drowning their sorrows after the 5-1 thrashing and will hope for a better performance this time from Steve Clarke’s men. AFP

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