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Despite Germany injury woes, Boateng and Hummels still frozen out

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Germany may be facing an injury crisis at the back, but that still has not forced Joachim Low’s hand.

After 2018 World Cup disappointment, Low vowed he would never call up Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels again, freezing the two veterans out as part of an overhaul of the national team squad he hoped would turn the country’s fortunes. Now, with a number of injuries to the back line, some wondered if Low would take back his promise and look to the veterans for cover.

With Niklas Sule suffering a torn ACL, Antonio Ruediger struggling with a nagging groin problem, and Thilo Kehrer sidelined with a long-term foot injury, Low stayed the course and kept both Boateng and Hummels out of the team, announcing the squad for upcoming Euro qualifiers against Belarus and Northern Ireland on Friday morning.

Instead, the boss called upon Borussia Monchengladbach captain Mattias Ginter who will partner with a host of young and inexperienced defenders. The squad includes SC Freiburg defender Robin Koch and Hertha center-back Niklas Stark, who between the two share a single international cap – Koch made his Germany debut last month, while Stark has yet to appear in an international match. Also in the squad is 23-year-old Bayer Leverkusen center-back Jonathan Tah, owner of eight international caps for Germany including starts in three of the last five Euro qualifiers.

Finally, a surprise inclusion was Emre Can, despite having been sent off last time out for Germany and is therefore suspended for the Belarus game. Can is capable at center-back, where he was playing at the time of his red card, although his more natural position is defensive midfield.

Keeping Boateng out of the squad is a justifiable decision by Low, especially after the Bayern defender was sent off just 10 minutes into their last match against Eintracht Frankfurt, leading to a heavy 5-1 defeat that left the club three points off the top of the table. Boateng has looked off the pace all season and has been left on the bench by recently fired Bayern boss Nico Kovac six times across all competitions this season.

The Hummels decision is more questionable as Borussia Dortmund is unbeaten in league play since the start of September and has kept three consecutive Bundesliga clean sheets, including one against current leaders Gladbach. Hummels also captained the side in the wild 3-2 comeback win over Inter this week that saw Dortmund completely dominate the second half after falling 2-0 down.

Niklas Sule tears ACL, will miss rest of season and likely Euros

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Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule suffered an ACL tear that will cause him to miss the rest of the club season as well as Euro 2020, the club announced.

“Apparently, the season is over for him, he can forget about the Euros,” said Bayern club president Uli Hoeness.

Sule has become a critical player for both club and country over the past year. He had been on the pitch for every minute of Bayern’s league campaign until his injury in the 12th minute of the 2-2 draw with Augsburg, and Germany manager Joachim Low had tabbed Sule as a long-term solution at center-back after publicly moving on from Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng in the hopes of overhauling the national team squad.

Sule represents a massive loss for Germany, having started and played the full 90 minutes in each of the past 11 matches for the national side. He has been the lone constant in the national team defense while his center-back partnership is a rotating door of players such as Emre Can, Robin Koch, Mattias Ginter, Jonathan Tah, and Antonio Rudiger. It is unclear whether Low would re-consider his stance on Hummels and/or Boateng with his defensive situation thrown into disarray.

At the club level, Bayern has options to replace Sule but almost all of them represent a downgrade. Benjamin Pavard, who played full-back for the French national team during their 2018 World Cup run, has transitioned to center-back and seen significant playing time already this season. Lucas Hernandez is also a relative newcomer to the center-back role like Pavard, while Boateng could potentially find his way back into the starting lineup having made just four appearances so far this season.

Germany’s young players indicate bright future ahead

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s young players did enough in one hour against Argentina to indicate its post-World Cup shakeup is working and that a bright future awaits.

Led by 24-year-old Serge Gnabry, with 20-year-old Kai Havertz driving from midfield, Germany initially overwhelmed the visitors on Wednesday before inexperience showed and substitutes Lucas Alario and Lucas Ocampos salvaged a 2-2 draw for Argentina in a friendly.

“We let our heads drop after they scored the first goal,” Germany coach Joachim Low said. “But I’m taking many positives from the game and have to pay the team a compliment for playing with such courage and heart. They were very, very promising signs. I like that a lot.”

It was the first time Germany started without a World Cup winner since it claimed the trophy in 2014. Low had already signaled a shakeup after the disastrous World Cup in 2018 and forced the likes of Sami Khedira, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels into early retirement.

Low had to improvise against Argentina because of a slew of injuries. Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan remained on the bench with knocks. Defenders Jonathan Tah and Niklas Stark dropped out before the match, joining Toni Kroos, Timo Werner, Jonas Hector, Antonio Rudiger, Leon Goretzka, Kevin Trapp, Nico Schulz, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler and Thilo Kehrer on Low’s list of absentees. Low has been resisting calls to bring Hummels back.

Captained by 24-year-old Joshua Kimmich for the first time, Germany controlled the first half, combining quickly with short passes and constant movement, forcing the bewildered visitors to lose possession and chase the game. Paulo Dybala, who plays for Juventus, was inconspicuous before making way for Alario in the 62nd minute.

“The first half was really good, it was eye-catching. Some players who were there for the first time did really well,” said Low, who handed debuts to Freiburg teammates Luca Waldschmidt and Robin Koch.

“Koch was very stable, confident, he gave a good impression and didn’t show any nervousness,” said Low, who also praised Waldschmidt. “Some took their opportunity very well. I’m happy about that, it gives me more options.”

Gnabry, who scored four goals for Bayern Munich in a 7-2 rout of Tottenham recently, was a constant threat before his substitution in the second half. Gnabry beat three defenders to scorein the 15th, then set up Havertz for the second in the 22nd.

“He’s so fast and he made so many unbelievable runs. He was everywhere and always a danger. He put off the whole Argentine defense,” Low said of the Bayern forward, who now has 10 goals in 11 games for Germany.

Low also handed debuts to Nadiem Amiri and Suat Serdar, though the team was backpedaling by then and neither was able to shine.

“We had to work a lot in defense, but their strengths are going forward,” Low said. “But we can be satisfied. They’re players with promise that we can look forward to.”

Marc-Andre ter Stegen played in goal in place of regular No. 1 Manuel Neuer, but the Bayern goalkeeper will return for the European Championship qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn on Sunday.

“Estonia is a whole other type of opponent,” Low said. “They hold back more and principally focus on defending their goal. So we’ll need another offensive player on the field. I could imagine Marco Reus. And if Ilkay is fit, he’ll play, too.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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Germany coach Loew told to rest after sporting accident

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BERLIN (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew will miss the side’s upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia to recover from a sporting accident.

The German soccer federation says “an artery was squeezed and it is necessary that he remains stationary. The treatment is going well, but the doctor advised the national coach to rest in the coming weeks.”

[ MORE: 3 key battles in UCL Final ]

The DFB does not give details of the accident. German daily BILD reports Loew dropped a dumbbell on his chest while training some weeks ago.

Assistant coach Marcus Sorg is to take charge of the team for the games in Borisov, Belarus on June 8 and against Estonia in Mainz three days later.

Loew says, “I am in constant contact with my coaching staff and we will also be in close contact with each other around the two international matches. Marcus Sorg, (goalkeeping coach) Andy Kopke and (team manager) Oliver Bierhoff have a lot of experience together and together we will bridge this short break well.”

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sane, Low play down injury fears after horror tackle for Germany

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Leroy Sane suffered a tackle so graphic on video that in most cases would have ended up with a broken leg. Thankfully, Sane says he’s just fine.

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Late in Germany’s 1-1 friendly draw with Serbia on Wednesday evening, Serbia’s Milan Pavkov went over the ball and hit Sane’s leg directly with the studs of his cleats. Pavkov was shown a straight red card and Sane limped off the pitch. However, after the match, Sane assured fans that he’s doing all right.

“The foul looked worse than it was, everything is fine with my ankle,” Sane said after the match. “I’m very happy, we had a few good moves. We had good phases where the final pass was lacking, but I think that will come with time. Everyone could see that we got better and better.”

With the start of Euro 2020 qualifiers ahead and the announcement last month that Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Thomas Muller would no longer be with the national team, Joachim Low has started pushing a youth movement in the German National Team. Timo Werner started up top with Sane, 19-year-old Kai Havertz, and 22-year-old Julian Brandt in the three attacking midfield positions.

“It was a vicious foul,” Low said after the match, via Sky Sports. “Sane was lucky and got away with not getting hurt but such fouls can break bones.”

The news about Sane is a huge boost to Manchester City, which is still in the run for the quadruple in England and Europe. Sane will certainly play a big role with Pep Guardiola‘s side down the stretch.