Nagelsmann backs Neuer amid growing Germany goalkeeper debate

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Nagelsmann backs Neuer amid growing Germany goalkeeper debate

Another Manuel Neuer blunder in Germany's final Euro tune-up football match against Greece has sparked a goalkeeper debate. But coach Julian Nagelsmann will have none of it and hopes that the late 2-1 win will boost morale.

The last thing a more fragile than expected Germany team needs in the final days before the Euro 2024 home tournament is a goalkeeper debate.

And so coach Julian Nagelsmann is making big efforts to stop such a discussion in its tracks in the wake of another blunder from once untouchable Manuel Neuer.

Neuer failed to hold on to a Chrstos Tzolis shot in Friday night's tune-up game against Greece, allowing Georgios Masouras to score the opening goal before Germany turned matters around to win 2-1 from Kai Havertz and a late effort from Pascal Gross.

A series of mistakes

It was the latest mistake of the now 38-year-old Neuer who had missed most of last year with a foot fracture and only returned into the national team on Monday in a 0-0 against Ukraine.

Neuer almost gifted Ukraine a late winner, and in previous weeks had helped Real Madrid win the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich while also not looking good in Bayern's defeat at Hoffenheim which cost them second place in the final Bundesliga standings.

Nagelsmann keeps faith in Neuer

Nagelsmann is aware of all this but it sticking to his decision that Neuer will be between the posts at the Euros which Germany open on Friday against Scotland.

"He has my trust. He's made three world-class saves, which undoubtedly not everyone makes. It's not an accumulation of mistakes," Nagelsmann insisted.

"I absolutely don't care what is discussed in the media," he said, adding that they would also internally not "evaluate, analyse, or tinker with" the blunder.

The end of an icon, media wonders

The media was indeed wondering on Saturday about the 2014 World Cup winner Neuer who has been world class more often than not in the past, even more as Germany have an at least adequate back-up in Barcelona's Marc Andre ter Stegen.

"What's wrong with Neuer?" Spain's Mundo Deportivo asked, while England's Daily Mail claimed that "fans have called time on Manuel Neuer's international career."

In Germany, Bild said that "Nagelsmann faces a goalkeeper predicament," and the Süddeutsche Zeitung said that "Neuer's up and down moments alternate with a disturbing frequency."

Neuer was meanwhile supported by team-mates, with full back Maximilian Mittelstädt naming him "the backbone of the team", and Gross saying "I am thrilled how good he is."

Precedent Kahn?

The underlying fear however is that a Neuer mistake at the Euros could prove costly, regardless of how well he saves before. Some may recall the 2002 World Cup where then great Oliver Kahn helped Germany reach the final, only to blunder there which gave Brazil the title.

That German team was far from glorious overall, and the matches against Ukraine and Greece showed that the class of 2024 "knew it wasn't as good as we were made in March" after friendly wins over France and the Netherlands suggested, according to midfielder Toni Kroos.

Looking at the Greek goal, Nagelsmann said in general terms: "That's always the goalkeeper's burden. In the end, it was a chain of mistakes. If the goalkeeper also makes one at the end, then you usually concede a goal."

Neuer said: "My mistake always involves several people, but I'm looking at myself now. I should have palmed the ball away in a better way. I think I performed well in both games. And that's how I'm going into the group stage."

Germany see the positives

Germany showed improvement in the second half of both tune-up games and aim to carry at least some momentum into the Euros where the team has big ambitions.

"In the end, the win was good for the overall mood. And late goals are really cool for a team's psyche," Nagelsmann said.

Added captain Ilkay Gündogan: "It was important that we showed ourselves that we have the ability to react. We still have a week to go, our senses are sharpened and we want to take the momentum with us.

"We start the European Championships with a good feeling, but there is no team that you beat 4-0 or 5-0 anymore."

Closer games, however, also make goalkeeping all the more important, as this debate is set to linger on, with Swiss paper Blick foreseeing "a few turbulent days" in the German camp.


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