Update: Füllkrug returns!
Well that was fast. After playing against Oman on Wednesday, coming down with the flu and missing Saturday, Germany striker Niclas Füllkrug is already back training with the team on Sunday. Hope he’s fully recovered!
Will Germany play with a traditional number nine at this year’s Men’s World Cup, and if so, who will that be? These are the questions facing German national team coach Hansi Flick, and with his side’s opener against Japan just days away now, the topic is increasingly in focus.
29-year-old Werder Bremen striker Niclas Füllkrug turned in a compelling audition tape in the second half of Germany’s preparatory friendly against Oman last week — but he was the only player to miss out on the national team’s first day of training in Qatar:
22 outfield players and 3 goalkeepers are taking part in Germany's first training session in Qatar. Only Niclas Füllkrug (flu) is out pic.twitter.com/Y8lWb1KmcH— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) November 19, 2022
This is rotten timing, as both of Germany’s first two games of the World Cup Group Stages occur roughly within the week (November 23 against Japan; November 27 against Spain). But where does that leave Germany’s alternatives?
Chelsea FC’s Kai Havertz hasn't had a great season — nor the Blues — but he’s showed a few times the kind of goal-scoring skills he has in his locker lately for both club and country. Fans of Germany will be familiar with this finish he had in the Champions League against RB Salzburg:
Meanwhile, there’s 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund product Youssoufa Moukoko, who got the start against Oman but was frustrated for an entire half — and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller, who has played sparingly over the past month.
Füllkrug may not be able to go, and indeed, may not be Flick’s first choice at all. And so the intrigue continues. Havertz looks an early favorite, but likes to drift and is a lot less nine than Moukoko — so don’t count the teenage starlet out for a surprise start against Japan.