Thursday, July 20, 2017

Low hails second-choice Gundogan

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Sep 2015

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Joachim Low indicated Ilkay Gundogan will remain behind Sami Khedira in the Germany pecking order, despite a promising showing against Poland.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gundogan came on in the 54th minute of their 3-1 win in Frankfurt on Friday, replacing Karim Bellarabi – with Khedira absent from the Euro 2016 qualifier to injury.

Khedira, who recently switched to Juventus from Real Madrid, has proven himself to be injury-prone, missing the World Cup final in Brazil due to a calf problem – and was in danger of missing the tournament altogether when he tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee seven months out.

Low praised understudy Gundogan, who was still denied a start in Khedira’s absence by Bellarabi – but the Dortmund man is in the mix to appear when Germany travel to Scotland looking to secure their spot at the France showpiece.

“Ilkay came on as a sub and made all the difference in midfield as far as defensive stability is concerned,” Low told a news conference.

“I can see that he was back to form in the two to three training sessions we had pre-match. 

“I think he is back to where he was two years ago when he was outstanding against Holland in Amsterdam and against France in Paris. 

“This is what makes him an extremely valuable player, he’s very agile, he makes smooth runs, is quick on the turn and I’m very glad to have him as an option, especially when Khedira picks up an injury. 

“So he’s definitely going to be one of my men for Euro 2016 and of course the 2018 World Cup, which is just around the corner.”

Low said he was also keen to embrace Germany’s first visit to Hampden Park since a Euro 2004 qualifier in June 2003, which finished 1-1.

Scotland are reeling after a shock loss to Georgia, but Low expects the fourth-placed hosts to respond and continue to challenge for a top-three spot in the group.

“For me, coming to Hamden Park is a first, because neither as a player nor as a coach have I been fortunate enough to play in that stadium,” the 55-year-old said. 

“That’s why I’m personally looking forward to being there with the unique atmosphere, the great pride and the passion of not just the Scottish players, but also the Scottish public. 

“So we’re all looking forward to the clash on Monday night. 

“Scotland lost their away match to Georgia, but I don’t think it will do their fighting spirit and their passion any damage at all. 

“The crowd will get behind the Scottish team as one man, especially because Scotland after fighting for their last chance somewhat because in the table they have fallen behind Poland and Ireland somewhat.”

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