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Injuries and doubts blight the big guns

sports Updated: Jun 09, 2016 10:23 IST

PARIS: The German side setting their sights on Euro 2016, 20 years after their last continental trophy, may be completely different from the one that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Although coach Joachim Loew has kept a core of the players who won the country’s fourth World Cup, he will need to mould them back into a tournament team if they are to knock holders Spain off the champions’ pedestal after eight years.

The Bundestrainer will also need to quickly integrate a group of younger players, including the talented but uncapped Joshua Kimmich and Julian Weigl among others, to deliver a competitive unit.

“We are confident but not arrogant. We are strong but not invincible,” Loew said ahead of a training camp in Italy.

The manager’s biggest headache is his back line where the qualifiers exposed an alarming lack of consistency. Germany conceded five goals in their last four games and left it unexpectedly late to top their group.

Loew has another headache in front of the defence, with captain Bastian Schweinsteiger racing to overcome an injury while fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan had to be ruled out of selection entirely.

“These injuries are a bit of a concern for me,” Loew said. “You have such problems before every tournament but I really hope that we now can all remain healthy and those injured at the moment can come back.”

ITALY ALSO DISRUPTED

Italy coach Antonio Conte goes into the European Championship with questions hanging over his team after injuries disrupted his selection plans and a lack of punch was exposed up front.

Adding to the frustrations of only-occasional get-togethers with his players has been the distraction of his impending move back to club football with Chelsea.

However, the former Juventus coach was relieved to be cleared of any role in a 2011 match-fixing scandal while in charge of Serie B side Siena a month before the tournament’s June 10 kickoff.

The passionate Conte showed his frustration with managing a national team when he graphically described his displeasure with the long spells “in the garage” and far from the track.

That will not lessen his desire to bow out in glory in France and he has the tactical nous and motivational powers to succeed.

Injuries have disrupted Conte’s midfield plans with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio of Juventus both out of the tournament.

He is sure to turn to PSG’s Thiago Motta, whose only appearances under Conte were in the two March friendlies.

NO FAVOURITES: HENRY

France legend Thierry Henry says there are no favourites this time as there has been no team which has dominated European football recently.

“It’s one of the first times where you don’t have a strong favourite, where it’s obvious. Apart from what you might say Spain because obviously they are the holders, but I don’t see a team that has been that dominant in Europe recently,” Henry was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Germany obviously, but they have struggled. I saw their game against Scotland; I saw their game against a lot of teams where I was like, ‘hmm’. I think, for me, they’re missing a striker. They used to have an amazing number 9 for a very long time and they don’t have one — that’s why they called back Mario Gomez (who) was playing in Turkey,” he said.