Germany boss focused on Jamal not Yamal in QF

Sports

STUTTGART, Germany — Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said his focus is “not so much on Yamal but Jamal” ahead of Friday’s Euro 2024 quarterfinal against Spain, which pits two of the tournament’s young stars against each other.

Germany forward Jamal Musiala, 21, has impressed in the hosts’ run so far, scoring three goals in four games, including one in the round of 16 win over Denmark in Dortmund last weekend.

Lamine Yamal, meanwhile, became the youngest-ever player to feature at the Euros aged 16 years 338 days old in Spain’s opening game against Croatia and his wing play, along with teammate Nico Williams, has been one of the prominent features of La Roja‘s progress.

“My focus is not so much on Yamal but Jamal,” Nagelsmann said in a news conference at the Stuttgart Arena, where Friday’s mouthwatering tie will be played.

“We have a lot of quality ourselves and many approaches to fight a team who likes ball possession. We have variants. Spain will have difficulties to adapt as well. It is also our approach to have the ball.

“Spain try to press very high. When they lose the ball, but also when they have the ball they try to get the ball as high as possible. They are good in transition now when they win the ball as well.

“It’s not so much tiki-taka anymore. It’s how they create more chances, more than in the past, but they also take risks and we can find solutions in these situations in a football way — and I think we will do that tomorrow.”

Pressed on the threat carried by Lamine Yamal, Nagelsmann was complimentary towards the Barcelona player, although he feels Germany could capitalise on his inexperience.

“He is a big talent,” the German coach added. “He was really consistent this season, not many players are at his age, but his challenge now is to deliver that for many years.

“He has good qualities, he is very good one-on-one. You can’t always defend him, he is so variable, he goes inside and outside. His left foot is strong but he can use his right.

“We have to be prepared, but on the other hand, he does not have so much experience when things don’t go his way or opponents tackle stronger, but it’s not our plan to hit him in the socks.”

That perceived youthfulness and inexperience was also highlighted earlier in the week by former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, with Lamine Yamal replying on Thursday by saying Spain will respond to his remarks on the pitch.

There has also been a playful back-and-forth between former Real Madrid teammates Joselu and Toni Kroos, with the former saying he hopes Friday will be the latter’s last game as he will retire after Euro 2024.

It has helped build the atmosphere ahead of the game.

“It’s a quarterfinal at a European Championship, of course it’s spicy,” Nagelsmann joked. “But I don’t think anything bad has been said, it’s all been with humour.”

Germany have underachieved at recent major tournaments, failing to reach a semifinal at a Euros or World Cup since 2016, and came into the finals under pressure to deliver in front of their home support.

Midfielder Ilkay Gündogan feels they have achieved the minimum expected from them by reaching the quarterfinal and they can now look forward to the possibility of going even further in the competition.

“The pressure was very high [at the start] because people want us to do well and recent history shows in tournaments we have not been good enough,” Gündogan said in a news conference.

“We have since played good football and got good results. Now we are in the quarterfinal facing an amazing opponent. It’s do or die and both teams will play the game like it’s a final.

“We are looking forward to a challenge we are facing with a smile because we have done the minimum we had to do and expected from ourselves.

“From now on, it’s the icing on the topping — I think that is the saying. We are feeling super prepared for a very difficult game. There is no reason to not be confident.”

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