DORTMUND – Germany’s first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was included in their preliminary World Cup squad yesterday despite having been out of action since September, but World Cup final scorer Mario Gotze was left out.
The 32-year-old Neuer suffered a broken bone in his foot and only returned to training days ago but Germany coach Joachim Low decided to take four keepers to the training camp in the Italian Alps from May 23-June 5.
“We will see how it goes from day to day,” Low told reporters. “What is clear is that without match practice to go into a World Cup is not possible. He knows that. We will see at the end of the month or early June how things look and then we will have an honest discussion.”
Low left out midfielder Gotze, who scored the winning goal in the final against Argentina four years ago but has had a lacklustre season.
“We saw that it was not his season, not the normal form with his quality,” Loew said. “I think he has immense quality and he has proved this but he was not in that form.”
Fellow Borussia Dortmund player Marco Reus’ hopes of making his first World Cup got a boost after he made the cut.
Reus, who missed half of this season through injury, was ruled out of the 2014 World Cup after being injured in Germany’s last warm-up match. He also missed Euro 2016 through injury.
“Marco is a special weapon, he has special gifts,” Low said of the forward. “He has great intelligence in the game and in the second half of the season he was in really good form. I expect quite a bit from him for the tournament.”
Low also opted to stick with the experienced Mario Gomez as his second-choice striker behind Timo Werner and picked Freiburg’s Nils Petersen ahead of Sandro Wagner. The 30-year-old Wagner has scored four goals in his eight internationals and was part of last year’s Confederations Cup-winning team.
Germany face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in World Cup Group F and will prepare in the Italian Alps from May 23 to June 5 ahead of the tournament in Russia.
Germany play their last warm-up games against Austria a day later and take on Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen on June 8.
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini outlined his plans to take Italy back to the top and recall maverick forward Mario Balotelli to the line-up after he was presented as their new coach yesterday.
The 53-year-old has been handed the daunting task of lifting Italy out of the doldrums after their failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup, the first time they will miss the tournament in 60 years.
The four-time world champions have also slumped to a record low of 20th in the FIFA rankings.
“I would like to be the coach who brings Italy back to the top. It will not be easy but we can do it,” he said, suggesting that he would aim to win Euro 2020. “We have not won the European championship for many years and that is our first big event.”
Remembering that he first walked through the doors of Italy’s Coverciano training camp in 1978 with the under-14 team, Mancini said it was the right moment in his career to take on the challenge of coaching his country.
“Becoming a national team coach is not something trivial. The federation made me understand that they wanted me 100 percent and that made it easy for me to choose,” added the former Inter Milan, Manchester City, Galatasaray and Zenit St Petersburg coach.
“Being here in this role is important, and this was the right moment in my career.”
Although Mancini and Balotelli had several run-ins when the pair were at Manchester City, he suggested the Nice forward would be given another chance.
“We’ll talk, we’ll probably call him. We want to see him play the way he did at the European Championship (in 2012),” he said.
Balotelli has not been called up for Italy since the last World Cup when his attitude was the subject of barely-veiled criticism from some senior players.