German national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer talks about the European Championship and calls winning the title the natural aim. But the “usual suspects”, the co-favourites, would particularly like to beat the World champions.The 30-year-old also describes his own part in the team in which he has become a key player since the 2010 World Cup.
Mr Neuer, the training for the European Championship has been going on for two weeks. How is it for you to train, mostly twice a day, without diversions, apart from the friendly against Hungary?
“I don’t mind that. I like being on the pitch. I love football. I really do like my job.”
What shape are you in?
“I am in a very positive mood. Prior to the 2014 World Cup I had shoulder problems. I was injured and couldn’t train properly for quite some time. This time I was with the squad that was fully focussed in training at Ascona and now at Evian. I am fully fit”.
How do you evaluate the current state of the team, particularly in comparison with the situation before the 2014 World Cup?
„Ich finde, wir haben Philipp Lahm, Miro Klose und Per Mertesacker, die aufgehört haben, gut ersetzt. Es sind noch immer sehr viele erfahrene Spieler im Team, die Weltmeister wurden und auf dem Platz die Entscheidungen treffen, wenn es wichtig ist. Dazu sind junge Spieler gekommen, die richtig was können.“
The atmosphere is good two days before the first EURO group match against the Ukraine, according to Joachim Loew and Oliver Bierhoff. Can you confirm that from the player’s viewpoint?
“I sample the atmosphere very positively. We understand each other well, the younger players have integrated well. But nevertheless we train very aggressively. I have a very good feeling”.
How do you and your colleagues manage to motivate yourselves anew after winning the World title?
“Our aim? We should set ourselves the highest possible aims. Of course you can ask yourself when we can decide whether or not it is a successful European Championship. That’s right, despite our recent results. How do we appear? How do we want to represent German football? If we do our very best then you might possibly be content if you are ousted by strong opponents. That’s how I accepted Bayern Munich’s defeat by Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of the Champions League. It was a good match and the defeat was no disgrace for us”.
When would you say the European Championship will become a sporting success for you?
“Of course it is our aim to win the title. We have a refreshing, strong team after all.”
But during the European Championship qualification and the subsequent friendly matches there were some problems in defence.
“We do not have to work exclusively on our defence, but also on how to put the opponents under pressure. It is important to approach the opponent intelligently and make sensible inroads. We must work on all areas”.
Who do you think is your hottest contender for the title?
“As always the usual suspects: Spain, Italy, hosts France, the strong Belgians, and England should not be forgotten this time. I think a European Championship is no easier than a World Cup. You meet only well-trained teams who can adapt themselves to us, even in the group matches. They all know German football, and in addition everybody desperately wants to beat the World Cup champions”.
At the age of 30 you are one of the most experienced players. You are competing at your fourth major tournament. How has your role changed between the 2010 World Cup and EURO 2016?
“As goalkeeper I automatically have a certain responsibility. I have to lead others playing in front of me. And because I have tournament experience it is one of my tasks to also play a part off the pitch.You develop a sixth sense for when the young players need your support”.
Perhaps you will have one of the young guys as right defender in front of you against the Ukraine. Would you credit Joshua Kimmich with that task?
“I think it is impressive how Joshua has accepted the roles given him. He is self-confident, courageous, is not scared and at the same time very down-to-earth, despite all the hype about him. He has integrated himself with flying colours at Bayern and also performed very well in major international matches. I trust him one hundred per-cent and have a good feeling when I play together with him.”
On Sunday the waiting is over. Are you happy that the long days of waiting will then be over?
“It can happen that sometimes time drags and the days simply won’t end. After all we can’t train all day. But after the first match everything will speed up. We want it to start now, and to end as late as possible”.