Germany fans paid tribute to Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller, and Jerome Boateng on Wednesday during the national team’s friendly with Serbia after the Bayern Munich trio were axed ahead of the latest round of international fixtures.
Following Germany’s dismal World Cup campaign last summer, when they entered the tournament as reigning champions but suffered a shock group-stage exit, and then poor results in the UEFA Nations League last autumn, head coach Joachim Low took the decision to bring through younger players into the national team ahead of the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
As part of the change in approach, Low told the veteran trio, who had been national team stalwarts since before the 2014 World Cup triumph, that they would no longer be considered for selection.
Muller, 29, and Boateng, 30, have both played in three World Cups for Germany, making their debuts in 2010 when Germany finished as the third-placed team, while 30-year-old Hummels appeared in two tournaments.
Wednesday’s friendly was the first game Germany were playing since the three players were informed by Low of his decision, and given their distinguished service the fans in attendance put together a moving tribute.
At the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, fans at one entire end of the stadium displayed a message that said “Danke, 5-13-17”, a thank you followed by the three players’ kit numbers for the national team.
Ryan Giggs explained he had no choice but to disappoint Wales fans by leaving Gareth Bale out of the side that beat Trinidad & Tobago at Wrexham.
Wales had not played at the Racecourse Ground since 2008 and much had been made of the national team’s return to the north for the first time for 11 years.
But Real Madrid striker Bale was among those missing as manager Giggs fielded a shadow side just four days before Wales’ opening European Championship qualifier against Slovakia in Cardiff.
“Gareth got his first 90 minutes in three months and took part in a little bit of training on Monday,” Giggs said after 19-year-old Ben Woodburn’s stoppage-time strike gave Wales a 1-0 win over the Soca Warriors.
“He trained this morning really well, but it was just too much of a risk with Sunday in mind. That was the case with a few of the players.
“We have the advantage in this first game. Slovakia play Thursday then Sunday, it’s a two-and-a-half-day turnaround.
“I wanted to make sure that we made that advantage count this week, both physically and mentally.
“Of course it’s disappointing for the fans. They want to see the likes of Gareth, but it’s my job to make sure we are ready for Sunday.”
George Thomas went close with a stinging second-half shot and saw his header midway through the second half ruled out for offside.
But Wales had made little headway until Liverpool teenager Woodburn sent the 10,326-capacity crowd home happy with his second international goal, chesting home debutant Will Vaulks’ cross from a few inches out.
“The performance, first half especially, I was really pleased with,” said Giggs, whose side had been upset in their previous game by Albania.
“We had a couple of days to work on a few things and felt we did that first half without that final-third composure, making the right decisions and having a bit of quality.
“I was pleased with the first half. Trinidad and Tobago didn’t have anything.
“But I reminded the players at half-time about Albania. It was exactly the same in Albania, so we had to keep that clean sheet.
“We rode our luck a bit in the second half, Trinidad and Tobago made it difficult for us. We just had to be patient.”
Trinidad & Tobago manager Dennis Lawrence felt his side were unfortunate to lose.
“We were very unlucky, I don’t think the boys deserved that,” Lawrence said.
“It was a good workout for us, but they were very comfortable on the ball.
“I was a bit surprised Gareth didn’t play.
“I thought they would have wanted the fans to get the opportunity to see him, but they made the decision that was best for Wales and for Gareth.”
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Leon Goretzka came off the bench to equalise as Germany snatched a 1-1 draw with Serbia in their international friendly in Wolfsburg.
Joachim Low’s new-look side, who begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against the Netherlands this weekend, needed time to warm up after falling behind to a 12th-minute Luka Jovic header.
It was not until the second half that Germany began to threaten regularly and Goretzka levelled on 69 minutes after combining with fellow substitute Marco Reus.
Serbia lost their discipline in the closing minutes and Milan Pavkov was shown a straight red card in stoppage-time for a horrendous challenge on Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.
Germany had an early chance as Lukas Klostermann dragged a shot wide inside the first minute and Kai Havertz also got into a good position only to shoot at goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.
The hosts were made to rue those misses when Jovic headed Serbia ahead following a corner. Joshua Kimmich’s attempted clearance hit Nemanja Maksimovic and looped towards Jovic, who powered a header past Manuel Neuer.
Serbia were well organised but Germany almost seized a chance to level when they broke from deep but Dmitrovic denied Timo Werner with his feet.
The visitors carved out another good chance when Darko Lazovic played in Jovic but Klostermann thwarted him with a fine tackle.
Klostermann then did well at the other end to get behind the defence and his pull back worked its way to Werner, sliding in at the far post, but again Dmitrovic saved.
Serbia should have doubled the lead before the break when a swift break led to Lazovic teeing up Adem Ljajic but he scooped the ball over. Jonathan Tah also got a foot in to deny Nikola Milenkovic.
Germany improved considerably after the interval and Reus showed brilliant control to take the ball on his chest and jink through the area to test Dmitrovic.
Sane also began to threaten and he headed at Dmitrovic before playing in City team-mate Ilkay Gundogan with a neat flick. Gundogan looked certain to score as he rounded Dmitrovic but Maksimovic slid in to clear off the line.
The equaliser came as Reus picked out fellow substitute Goretzka and the Bayern Munich midfielder took a touch to wrong foot a defender and blast home. Germany sought more with Sane forcing two more saves from Dmitrovic.
The closing stages became fractious and Sane responded to a poor challenge from Branko Jovicic by pushing his opponent in the chest. Sane was then the victim of a terrible lunge from Pavkov and the referee had no hesitation in showing the red card.
There were fears Sane may have suffered serious injury to his ankle, but he eventually got to his feet and was immediately substituted.
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