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Germany's team attends a training session on the eve of the friendly football match against Ukraine in Herzogenaurach on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Hosts Germany will go into Euro 2024 hoping for a deep run in the tournament that will captivate the home crowd and help restore their international reputation after the three-time European champions have gone a decade without any major title. Germany lifted the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for a fourth world crown but have since failed to make any impact at major tournaments.

They crashed out of both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the group phase for their worst record in more than 80 years and were eliminated from the Euros three years ago in the last 16.

When Julian Nagelsmann took over from Hansi Flick in October 2023, the team were already under pressure for immediate improvement, less than a year before the tournament.

A disastrous 2022 World Cup campaign was followed by a string of bad results, including a 4-1 demolition by visitors Japan in September last year.

The results, combined with the prospect of failing at the Euros in front of a home crowd, hastened Flick’s departure.

Nagelsmann suffered a rough start with only one win from his first four matches in charge.

Friendly internationals

In March, however, victories over France and the Netherlands in friendly internationals were seen as the first indicators that the team might be going in the right direction.

They put in two solid performances and conceded just one goal in those games compared to the seven they had conceded in their previous three matches in October and November.

Against France they also scored the second fastest international goal with 21-year-old Florian Wirtz netting after seven seconds.

The victories instantly triggered a rise in expectations from German fans hoping for a repeat of their 2006 World Cup campaign.

The event, nicknamed the ‘summer fairy tale’, unleashed a massive wave of local enthusiasm as Germany reached the semi-finals.

Nagelsmann will count on an efficient Bayer Leverkusen block with defender Jonathan Tah, midfielder Robert Andrich and attacking midfielder Wirtz.

The latter is an integral part of Nagelsmann’s ‘three magicians’ midfield, alongside Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan.

The return to international duty of Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos also improved the team’s spirits.

The 34-year-old midfielder, who had retired from the national team three years ago, brings in an extreme wealth of experience at top level, having played in the 2014 World Cup and enjoyed considerable club success with Real.

Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, in a fullback role, and in-form Champions League finalist Nico Schlotterbeck bolster the backline while Niclas Fuellkrug is expected to lead their attack, as the only out-and-out striker in the squad.

“As a coach I want my team to be exciting, captivating,” Nagelsmann said. “We will try to win the title. But we could be eliminated at some point in the knockout stage and I could still rate it as a good tournament.”