Despite the 25-year-old goalkeeper’s not yet outstanding season with FC bayern munchen, national goalkeeper coach andreas kopke has already selected germany’s soccer player of the year four months before the german national team’s opening game against portugal on 9. June proclaimed as the undisputed regular. Bremen’s tim wiese (30) and hannover 96’s 23-year-old ron-robert russell, as of sunday, are the first contenders for the two other goalkeeper spots going into the european championship year – however, they will be bested by gladbach’s marc-andre ter stegen.
Kopke expected no doubts about neuer’s leadership position in the ZDF sports studio. "Basically, manuel has established himself as number 1 through the really good world championship that he has played. He also did very, very well in the qualifying games after that. That’s why there are no two opinions at the moment," said joachim low’s assistant. "The national coach has the last word," kopke said, commenting on all nomination issues.
In the first national match of the year on 29. February in bremen, however, local hero wiese could stand in goal instead of neuer. "The game is in bremen. So there’s already a chance that tim might play," kopke announced. It is already clear that only two goalkeepers will be nominated for the friendly match.
Even gross mistakes like the one at the start of the second round in gladbach would not change neuer’s leadership status, kopke emphasized. At bayern, the 25-year-old "had to change his game a bit". At schalke, he was "given a lot more to do," kopke described: "I don’t think he’s gotten worse by any means."
Neuer had risen to number 1 after leverkusen’s rene adler was forced out due to injury before the 2010 world cup. He conceded only three goals in his six appearances at the sud african tournament. In 25 international matches so far, germany’s reigning soccer player of the year has won 21 games and lost just two. "He’ll have a bit more to do at the european championship," predicted kopke, looking ahead to the difficult preliminary round group with portugal, holland and denmark.
Behind the newcomers, the competition has become "tighter," kopke explained. In particular, ter stegen, who is only 19 years old, has been doing "really well" since he became number 1 at gladbach. The highly praised ter stegen is ahead in the bundesliga in several statistics, such as balls saved. "If these statistics or opinion polls are anything to go by, we have two other goalkeepers at almost every international match," kopke remarked.
"At the moment we have committed ourselves to our torhuter. We also trust these guys," said the national goalkeeper coach about the trio neuer, weise, and sausage, adding: "they can also have a wobble or make a mistake once in a while."
The sporting management around national coach low will continue to "observe the whole situation" until the european championship squad is nominated at the beginning of may, kopke announced. "It can also happen relatively quickly if someone gets injured," he said, referring to 2010. Before the world championship, rene adler from leverkusen, who had been declared number 1, was injured; neuer bounced back and stood in goal in sudafrica. "That shows how quickly it can happen," kopke remarked.