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Neuer cool on captaincy


Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has played down the importance of captaining of his country at Euro 2016 and insists responsibility lies with the whole team.

Neuer may lead the team out in their opening game against Ukraine on Sunday if regular skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger fails to prove his fitness in time to be selected.

Schweinsteiger has been in recovery from a knee injury during Germany’s build-up to the tournament, but Neuer was cool on the possibility of being handed the role.

“Who wears the armband doesn’t play too big a role,” he said.

“Head coach, Joachim Low, didn’t talk in front of the team about that and neither with me personally. But in the end it’s not important for us who will be our captain on the pitch if Bastian Schweinsteiger can’t play from the beginning.

“As a goalkeeper I need to take responsibility anyway. I’m a leading player in the national team for years. My job is also to guide the team, especially young players, so that they are integrated quickly.

“I want everything to be organised on the pitch. I want to be a goalkeeper who talks a lot, not just on the pitch but also besides.

“But the mood is good, we talk a lot. We have a lot of players who take leading roles. Every player has to be alert and take on responsibility, particularly in training so that we get into our rhythm.”

Neuer is confident that he will go into the tournament with a strong defence in front of him and singled out Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes for praise.

He said: “Benedikt Howedes can play in several positions in the defence. After Antonio Rudiger left, it’s good that we have flexible players. Howedes is of course one of them.

“He can fight, he’s good at set-pieces, he’s good at headers.

“We will have a good defence in the game, the coach will have the last word on that. I like all the players who could play there. We will definitely have a functioning defence in the first game.

“We’re excited that the tournament is about to begin. We want to be here for a while.”

Hitzfeld labels Germany ´absolute favourites´

Ottmar Hitzfeld has hailed Germany as “absolute favourites” to win Euro 2016.

Joachim Low’s side, looking to add the continental crown to their 2014 World Cup triumph, are highly fancied to come out on top in France.

And former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach Hitzfeld, who retired after leading Switzerland to the round of 16 in Brazil two years ago, has no doubts over Die Mannschaft’s credentials.

“Germany will be the absolute favourites to win Euro 2016 as world champion,” he told reporters.

“They won the World Cup rightfully. It’s a strong generation with a good coach in Jogi Low. He has experience and will get his team into the right mind-set for the tournament.

“Besides Germany, Spain will be a strong contender as usual. They had a little slump, but came back,” he added, referring to the group-stage exit suffered by Vicente Del Bosque’s team in Brazil.

“Italy might be a contender too. They are picking up the pace at the moment and are tactically very smart.

“As an outsider I would pick Belgium. They have a superb generation like never before. They can provide some surprises.”

Questioned on the importance of Manuel Neuer to Germany’s hopes, Hitzfeld insisted every member of the squad has a key role to play, but acknowledged the considerable quality of the Bayern goalkeeper.

Germany’s Euro 2016 campaign begins with a Group C contest against Ukraine in Lille on Sunday.


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