It says a degree about Joshua Kimmich’s ambition and confidence that in a recent Q&A with the German Football Association, he declared the team he is looking more forward to facing at Euro 2016 is France while then claiming Les Bleus, and Spain, are his favourites for the tournament.
It’s no wonder the 21-year-old is dreaming big, as 12 months ago he had just 55 professional appearances to his name – all in the German second and third tiers – and was something of a long-term project for Bayern Munich.
Yet Tuesday’s performance at right-back in only his second cap may have helped relieve Joachim Low of a telling selection burden.
Since the retirement of Philipp Lahm in the wake of the 2014 World Cup triumph, no position has vexed Low more. In Germany’s 22 games in the post-Lahm era, Low has started seven different right-backs – Kimmich, Benedikt Howedes, Emre Can, Antonio Rudiger, Sebastian Rudy, Kevin Grosskreutz and Matthias Ginter – plus experimented with a three-man defence.
Joshua Kimmich has been very impressive up to now. Looks a good call by Joachim Low to select him at right back.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) June 21, 2016
To emphasise his dissatisfaction, Rudy was the most used with four appearances followed by Rudiger and Can with three. It’s also telling that of that group, none can be considered specialist right-backs with Ginter only recently converted into the role by Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund.
The seventh strand of the debate is Kimmich, who equally cannot be described as a right-back by trade but against Northern Ireland he offered plenty of optimism that he can help exorcise Die Mannschaft’s ghost in the machine; that is, the legacy of Lahm.
Against Northern Ireland, only Toni Kroos (145) had more touches than Kimmich’s 104, displaying just how involved and integral he was to Germany’s play. His crossing was inconsistent, with only two of nine reaching a team-mate, but no player sent in as many passes from a wide area, again displaying how willing he was to get on the ball and how comfortable his team-mates were passing to him.
Calm, assured but with an energy the more defensive Howedes and Can – the only other members of the aforementioned septet to have made Low’s 23-man squad – rarely exhibit; there was more than a touch of Lahm about his display.
His willingness to drive forward also allowed Thomas Muller to attack the penalty area from a more central position, where he is at his potent best; and it was no surprise to see the 26-year-old enjoy his best attacking display of the championships so far.
So obvious was Kimmich’s impact, the DFB’s official Twitter account was tweeting Lahm for his reaction. Wisely, he remained silent. The caveat is, he was given total freedom to advance by a Northern Ireland side looking to contain; Michael O’Neill’s side having just 24.4 per cent possession, were out-passed 719-196 and produced two shots, one of which was blocked.
Greater tests lie ahead and Kimmich’s inexperience is sure to make him a target of opposition teams. Especially in the latter rounds – should Germany get there – with the likes of France and Belgium possessing such quality in offensive wide positions.
The pressure he’ll be under in possession will be infinitely more intense. A defensive midfielder by trade, 14 of his 25 starts for the Bavarians were at centre-back while he played just one game at full-back. For a time, he was more known for being screamed at by Pep Guardiola on the pitch following a goalless draw against Dortmund.
What Guardiola told his protege: “I told him that he’s perhaps one of the best centre-backs in the world. He’s got the desire, the will, the passion. He’s got everything.”
Low has a habit of stumbling on the right formula in major tournaments and, with the knockouts awaiting, he may have found the answer to a burning questioning bothering him since July 14, 2014.
Turkey beat Czech Republic 2-0 in Lens on Tuesday night to give themselves a fighting chance of a place in the Last 16 of Euro 2016.
Goals from Burat Yilmaz and Ozan Tufan helped Fatih Terim’s side gain a crucial victory, in the process eliminating their opponents from the competition.
Sport360 rounds-up the best of the post-match reaction.
“Yesterday we were down but now we are very optimistic. There are big sides like Italy, Spain and Germany but probably we will face Wales if we advance.
“Our only focus was to progress and I believed we could do it. If we get through probably we will play against Wales, but let’s see what happens first as it’s not decided yet.
“I can say that I made some mistakes in the first two games. But tonight was better. As I’ve always thought, tonight was the right moment for us to give a reaction and to stand up. We gave a big reaction. We even had the chance to score more goals and to secure qualification.
“We were criticised a lot and mentally it’s been tough for us. Now we’ve got the confidence boost of this win, after the boys did a great job. We shouldn’t forget that the Czechs came from two down against Croatia and they are difficult opponents. But we didn’t give them too many chances and our formation, 3-4-3, worked very well.
“We’ve got a good side and now we’ve got our team spirit back. I’d be really frustrated if we don’t get through now.”
0 - Turkey have kept a clean sheet at the Euros for the first time since a 2-0 win over Belgium at Euro 2000. Closed.— OptaCan (@OptaCan) June 21, 2016
“The difference between the first two games and tonight is that we have many inexperienced players and I think that told in the early matches. Also Turkish players like things to be difficult. Now we are really optimistic about progressing to the last 16.
“Emre Mor is our flower and I hope we look after him. I did not really know him until this tournament, but seeing him in training you can tell what quality he has.”
1 - Turkey have made only one touch in Czech Republic box in the first half and it was Burak Yilmaz's goal. Shortcut pic.twitter.com/WiEZQCA1TY— OptaCan (@OptaCan) June 21, 2016
“We know Turkey very well having met them in qualifying, winning away and losing at home. Unfortunately we lost again. Because this was a decisive match, it was always going to be tough against Turkey.
“I think we were OK in the first half and we could have scored a few times. But the first goal was always going to be pivotal.
“Second half we tried to simplify the game with two forwards but then we lost the midfield. Still, there were three or four situations we might have equalised from. Then they got their second and we just had no comeback to that.
“Our goal was to qualify from the group, which unfortunately we haven’t managed. All three matches have shown that international football is very different – on a different level – from the Czech league. This has been a great lesson for our young players and I hope they use it in the next qualifiers.”
A late Ivan Perisic goal saw Croatia beat Spain 2-1 in Bordeaux in the final round of Group Stage games at Euro 2016, leaving the reigning champions to face Italy in the Last 16.
Sport360 rounds-up the best of the post-match quotes from the South-West of France.
“This was an important result for us. We beat the European champions, a really strong team, but it isn’t about this one match. We are a very strong team, we can play anyone and try to be successful.
“Today I was able to change five players as I wanted to play the next round with fresh players and test some young players. That makes this result even more important. We wanted to win the group and we have achieved that.
“What has especially pleased me is that we were really aggressive. We played to win every single match, but this couldn’t have happened without such great supporters. We play and fight for Croatians all over the world. This team is like our nation and our players show how you represent your country, how you have to act.”
The good news keeps coming for Croatia. Cacic says he's hopeful Modric and Mandzukic will be fit for the next round #CRO— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) June 21, 2016
“What matters is the success of Croatia and I hope we can go a long way. We have a great group of guys here and we showed that tonight. There were some minor mistakes tonight and that is something we need to fix for the next match. We hope to be successful in fixing these, and I’m really proud to be a part of this team.
“Each player here deserves to be here. Those guys made it clear today that we can count on them and that they are the future of this team. Our comeback after that early goal is a testament to the character of this team, because not many teams could make that comeback after such an early lead by a team as strong as Spain.”
“The players were sat in silence. They don’t enjoy losing. We had the game under control, I’m not going to defend our performance excessively. We played quite well but just one slip of concentration at the end; I don’t have any complaints about the players.
“We have time to analyse what the game against Italy means. It wasn’t the path we wanted to take but that’s football! [This was] a game it looked like we had under control but we will try and recover as well as possible from this setback and be in as good a condition as possible on Monday. We didn’t play badly but this is the result and we need to prepare to play against Italy.”
“They’re a really good side. It was quite a strange game. They are a very strong team. We dominated the game and created chances. I missed a penalty when I could have put us in front, but it wasn’t to be.
“Although it’s a bad result, the aim was to get through the group stage and we’ve managed that. We would have liked to have finished first in order to possibly avoid some of the stronger sides, but if you want to be champions, you have to be able to beat everyone, from the favourites to the smaller teams.”