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(From left) Germany's midfielder Robert Andrich, midfielder Florian Wirtz, forward Thomas Mueller and midfielder Toni Kroos take part in a MD-1 training session at the team's base camp in Herzogenaurach, on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Herzogenaurach, Germany: Host nation Germany face Spain in Friday’s Euro 2024 quarter-final in Stuttgart riding a wave of belief not seen in the proud football nation for almost a decade.

After a series of poor performances at major tournaments, the most decorated nation in European football history are again confident of a deep run.

Germany veteran and 2014 World Cup winner Toni Kroos said Wednesday “the goal is to win the tournament”.

“We want to go a lot further and in the dressing room we are very convinced we will achieve that.”

The bold stance is a far cry from nine months ago, when Hansi Flick became the first coach sacked in Germany history after a 4-1 demolition by Japan in Wolfsburg.

His replacement Julian Nagelsmann only won one of his first four games in charge, but in March laid the groundwork for a successful Euro run.

Nagelsmann made 11 changes to the squad, bringing in players from eventual Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen and surprise runners-up Stuttgart, while axing several big names.

But Nagelsmann’s most crucial step was bringing back Kroos, who had stepped down from international football in 2021.

The midfielder has excelled in what will be his final tournament before retiring from football completely.

‘Won games we would have lost’

The clash between the tournament’s two most impressive teams — and the only sides to have won three Euros titles — would be a marquee matchup for the final in Berlin.

But with other pre-tournament favourites like France, England and Portugal stuttering, whoever emerges victorious on Friday will be favoured to go all the way to the German capital.

With four wins in four, Spain are the only side to have tasted victory each of their matches at Euro 2024 and have scored nine goals while conceding just once.

Germany have won three and drawn one but have faced challenges along the way.

A player with an unblemished record of success, six-time Champions League winner Kroos believes the will to win comes “only through experience”.

“You can have a winning mentality or belief, you can live it, but it’s hard to convey it in conversations.

“You have to go through experiences and that’s how your belief grows more and more.”

Kroos pointed to the “difficult situations” which have honed Germany’s tenacity.

“Against Hungary we had difficult moments, against Switzerland we were behind. Versus Denmark things did not go so smoothly,” Kroos said, explaining “something like that helps you get through tough phases, stay calm and believe in yourself”.

“We now have a different belief. We are now winning games or at least not losing games that we were clearly losing in the past.”

‘Eventually, they all understand’

Kroos will do battle against Spain, the country he has lived in for the past decade.

He said his knowledge of the Spanish players from his time at Real was no clear advantage, saying “they’re all pretty well known.

“I don’t think we’re expecting any big surprises.”

The 34-year-old felt underappreciated in Germany, which motivated his decision to leave Bayern Munich for the Spanish capital in 2014.

Bayern powerbroker Uli Hoeness was particularly critical of Kroos, calling him “sideways pass Toni” and saying in 2021 “Toni Kroos has no place in modern football anymore”.

Hoeness, the man who built Bayern into a global powerhouse, clearly understands football, which made the criticism even more bizarre.

Asked on Wednesday if the Spanish were quicker to see his value faster than the Germans, the midfielder said cooly “I’ll say it like this, some of them understand quickly, and some others need a bit more time.”

“But eventually, they all understand.”