Friday, August 18, 2017

Podolski vows to keep place despite Kroos pressure

Germany forward Lukas Podolski said on Monday that he intends to hold onto his starting place in the national team, despite Toni Kroos’s stated ambition to displace him.

“I know that when I’ve rediscovered my optimal form, it will be difficult to get in front of me,” Podolski said during a press conference.

“A starting place is never guaranteed and I know that there are good players behind me, but I’m convinced that as long as I’m at my best level, it’ll be hard to get in front of me.

“I’m aware that against Belgium it wasn’t that great,” Podolski added in reference to his subdued performance in Germany’s 1-0 win in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier in Brussels last Friday.

Podolski put his under-par recent performances down to the long period of rest that followed the World Cup and national coach Joachim Loew spoke out in support of the Cologne star.

“I’ve spoken to Lukas and we looked at two or three chances,” said Loew.

“When he’s at 100 percent he’s really brilliant and I’m convinced he’ll play a great game at home (against Azerbaijan on Tuesday).”

Attacking midfielder Kroos had announced his intention to take Podolski’s place on the German left flank in an interview with sport magazine Kicker published earlier on Monday

“All the players that play in positions where I can play are my rivals,” the Bayern Munich youngster said.

“It’s not news to anyone that I can play on the left-hand side of midfield.

“It’s normal to show that you’re ambitious.”

Cologne forward Podolski, a former Bayern team-mate of Kroos’s, is currently Loew’s preferred option on the left side of the attack in Germany’s 4-2-3-1 system and played there throughout the recent World Cup.

“Lukas has earned his place in the side,” continued Kroos.

“He’s played 80 international matches, with impressive statistics in front of goal, and has played in big tournaments. It’s up to me to try and achieve as much in the next five or six years.”

Kroos took Podolski’s place in the 70th minute of Germany’s win in Belgium.

Podolski, 25, has scored an impressive 40 goals in 80 games for Germany and shone at the World Cup despite a below-par season with Cologne.

He began his career at Cologne and rejoined the club in 2009 after a largely underwhelming three-year stint at Bayern.

The Polish-born forward is expected to start in Germany’s second qualifying match against Azerbaijan on Tuesday, in the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne where he plays his club football.

Kroos, 20, is one of the brightest talents to have graduated from the Bayern academy in recent years and enjoyed a successful loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen last season.

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