DFB-Elf in the Nations League: sanatorium for cloudy Bavaria


In Winden im Elztal everyone sat in front of the television and crossed their fingers. It was of no use. Bayer Leverkusen also lost the DFB Cup final against Schalke 04 after they had supposedly already captured the championship and had not yet reached the end of their martyrdom: despite intensified intercessions from colleagues from the national team ("Now we all have to keep our fingers crossed", so then Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl) it went wrong a few days later in the third attempt for Bayer.

Real Madrid were victorious in the Champions League and the Vizekusen quintet, fronted by Michael Ballack, arrived as a losing squad at the national team's training camp ahead of the 2002 World Cup. Oliver Bierhoff, who was still active as a striker at the time, gave a recommendation that should come to mind again and again today as an official: the topic should be kept quiet, "otherwise it will get stuck in people's heads".

Twenty years later - the scene of the DFB campus in Frankfurt, the start of preparations for the last Nations League international round before the World Cup in Qatar - Joshua Kimmich has to ask himself how his colleagues feel about him and the other FC Bayern -players was ordered. Kimmich is supposed to explain on the podium whether malice and ridicule and the retribution of the often defeated would be loud, and his answer consists first of irony ("sure, they're all hitting it now") - and then of a somewhat tormented all-clear. Of sympathy for the Bayern faction can probably not directly be the question, and also not of silence. This is ensured by FC Bayern emigrant Niklas Süle, who, according to Kimmich, "is heard from time to time": "He's crawling out now".

The national team as a sanatorium, that's an old postcard motif DFB, Department national team, always liked to be cared for. Players like Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger should have had a doctor prescribe a stay in Jogi Löw's camp at certain stages of their career because they felt better there than at home. Joshua Kimmich did not report any such effects after the first exercise on the DFB's own training ground on Tuesday. Things didn't go well for his team at the training game. The 27-year-old midfielder complained that it was "symbolic" of the current situation, "we lose again because we don't clean things up". Among others, Timo Werner could also feel addressed, Kimmich's training team comrade on Tuesday and currently just as unsuccessful at RB Leipzig as the attackers from Munich.

Behind Qatar, Hansi Flick's next big task is already emerging: the EM 2024 in Germany

However, there have been much more passionate training games than that kick on the new campus, in which the new DFB team player Armel Bella-Kotchap literally stood out. At 1.90 meters tall, he is by no means a lonely giant in the group, but he still attracts attention with his massive appearance. The defender, who didn't always appear positively at VfL Bochum last year because of his overzealousness, has also completed special fitness training at FC Southampton in addition to football. This is said to have balanced his power budget. His new coach Ralph Hasenhüttl now praises the resistance of the defender, who was bought for ten million euros.

DFB-Elf in the Nations League: Debutant in a good mood: Armel Bella-Kotchap (right) is now also part of the national team.

Debutant in a good mood: Armel Bella-Kotchap (right) is now also part of the national team.

(Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

The DFB appointment so shortly before the big tournament came as a surprise to those affected. Hansi Flick was lucky that the 20-year-old answered the phone at all ("I didn't know the number"). He was really "very surprised," said Bella-Kotchap in Frankfurt, but he can be sure that Flick didn't just invite him to tell his success story - as a contrast to the gloomy Bavarian faction, so to speak.

Maybe it's not necessarily about participating in the World Cup for him, but about building a long-term relationship - and ultimately also about winning the recognized rich defender for the German team and not losing to Cameroon's indomitable lions, which he is could also connect. Flick has already done a few such operations. With Jamal Musiala, courted by England, he had success with his influence - at that time still as FC Bayern coach - but not with Salih Özcan. He joined the Turkish team.

Flick's A squad, which has now graced the chic new home of the DFB in Frankfurt for the first time, reflects the near and more distant future of the team, so to speak. The two Nations League games against Hungary on Friday (in Leipzig) and in England on Monday are the last stages on the way to the World Cup in Arabia, but Flick's next big task is already visible in the background: the European Championship in Germany 2024.

But "now it's all about playing well with the national team," said Joshua Kimmich. Incidentally, the Leverkusen team recovered quickly in the Black Forest and returned from the World Cup in Japan and Korea in second place, as befitted their status.



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