Ottmar Hitzfeld has hailed Germany as “absolute favourites” to win Euro 2016.
Joachim Low’s side, looking to add the continental crown to their 2014 World Cup triumph, are highly fancied to come out on top in France.
And former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach Hitzfeld, who retired after leading Switzerland to the round of 16 in Brazil two years ago, has no doubts over Die Mannschaft’s credentials.
“Germany will be the absolute favourites to win Euro 2016 as world champion,” he told Omnisport.
“They won the World Cup rightfully. It’s a strong generation with a good coach [in] Jogi Low. He has experience and will get his team into the right mind-set for the tournament.
“Besides Germany, Spain will be a strong contender as usual. They had a little slump, but came back,” he added, referring to the group-stage exit suffered by Vicente Del Bosque’s team in Brazil.
“Italy might be a contender too. They are picking up the pace at the moment and are tactically very smart.
“As an outsider I would pick Belgium. They have a superb generation like never before. They can provide some surprises.”
Questioned on the importance of Manuel Neuer to Germany’s hopes, Hitzfeld insisted every member of the squad has a key role to play, but acknowledged the considerable quality of the Bayern goalkeeper.
“For Germany, every position is important,” he said.
“Everybody needs to be in a top shape and be amongst the best of their respective positions. Otherwise you don’t win the World Cup.
“But Manuel Neuer is a gift for the coach. He is a goalie, but also a defender,” he said in reference to the 30-year-old’s tendency to push high up the pitch when Germany are in possession.
“He is very strong, when it comes to defusing a dangerous situation. There are a lot of close calls, like against [Gonzalo] Higuain in the final, where he was a little late and had luck.
“But this is a part of his game. He is not only strong with the [goalkeeping] skills but also as a passer. He sees where there is room and acts almost like an outfield player.”
Germany’s Euro 2016 campaign begins with a Group C contest against Ukraine in Lille on Sunday.
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