Weigl surprised by Germany recall but desperate to silence doubters after five-years absence

By Sports Desk March 24, 2022

Julian Weigl was taken aback by his recall to the Germany squad after a five-year absence, having previously been considered a potential future superstar.

Weigl rose to prominence at Borussia Dortmund, earning his first senior Germany cap 14 months after moving to BVB from 1860 Munich in 2015 as a 19-year-old.

His form during his first couple of seasons in the Bundesliga drew links with some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Manchester City apparently particularly keen on the talented deep-lying playmaker.

But he struggled to maintain that level after Thomas Tuchel's exit and was frustrated by untimely injuries, ultimately falling out of favour and being sold to Benfica for a reported €20million in January 2020.

The move was indicative of the decline in Weigl's reputation and he was being linked with another move less than a year after joining Benfica due to early struggles with Jorge Jesus.

But this season he has become a key figure and played in seven of Benfica's eight matches en route to the Champions League quarter-finals, helping him back into the Germany setup.

"When the coach called me, I was with my team-mate Soualiho Meite. I couldn't believe that Hansi [Flick] had called me and that I'd missed it," he told reporters.

"I knew I had to call him back. I was absolutely thrilled, we chatted for a short while and then I immediately rang my parents and my wife. They were some emotional phone calls. My family and my wife were also over the moon.

"I was extremely pleased when I got the call from Hansi. I wasn't expecting it. When you're putting in good performances for your club, you do get your hopes up a little bit, but it still came as a surprise.

"I was looking forward to seeing the lads again, and so I arrive here with a really positive energy. I've always looked out for when the national squad gets announced, and I'm more than aware that you have to be performing at the top level at your club week-in, week-out to earn your selection.

"But I never once said to myself at any time that my performances deserved to be rewarded with a call-up – I simply tried to keep concentration on myself and my game. Because of that, the eventual call-up was even more of a pleasant surprise."

Despite the promise he showed early on at Dortmund, Weigl only ever featured five times for Germany.

His most recent outing was 66 minutes in a friendly with England way back in March 2017 – now 26, Weigl does not think his playing style has changed significantly, but leaving Germany helped him grow and he feels better physically.

"Generally speaking, I'm still the same player," he continued. "What's changed is that I've become more mature and more experienced – playing abroad has certainly helped me in this regard, as well as becoming a father.

"My daughter helps me to relax, as my life is so fast-paced. I've improved from a physical perspective, too."

Weigl's recall comes at a potentially critical moment as well. With the World Cup starting in less than eight months, the midfielder surely has a genuine opportunity of being in the selection that travels to Qatar.

He is now focused on proving to Flick that he is worthy of consideration.

"I'm trying to show off what I can do every day that I'm here, as well as take on board the ideas of the head coach and work them into my game," he said.

"I'm asking for the ball a lot in the sessions and I'm not afraid to do so, because that's how I'm going to prove to the head coach that I'm a serious option for the World Cup squad, because I can be relied upon at any time and that I can put in a solid performance when needed."

Germany, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will face Israel and the Netherlands in friendlies during this international window.

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    Turkiye

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    Didier Deschamps is the most successful French coach in terms of wins - indeed, Les Bleus' victory over Austria on matchday one meant he brought up a century of victories.

    But it is fair to say France, World Cup runners-up in 2022, did not impress in Germany. Indeed, it was not until the semi-finals that one of their players even managed to score a goal from open play, with their strikes before then having come via two own goals and a Kylian Mbappe penalty.

    Mbappe did break his Euros duck with that successfully converted spot-kick against Poland, but the broken nose he suffered in the opening game seemed to knock France's focus, and they never got back on track.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo

    The Euros' record goalscorer could not add to his tally, not that it was down to a lack of trying. Indeed, Ronaldo had 23 shots without scoring at Euro 2024, with only another Portuguese great, Deco, having more attempts without registering at least one goal in a single edition of the Euros (24 at Euro 2004).

    This was surely Ronaldo's final Euros. He has played at six of them, becoming the only player to do so, but it is time to bow out.

    Portugal flattered to deceive the whole way through, one emphatic win over Turkiye aside, and never got back on track after losing 2-0 to Georgia at the end of the group stage. Roberto Martinez's team staggered past Slovenia on penalties, before ultimately losing by the same method to France.

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    Harry Kane

    Unlike Ronaldo, Kane did score. Indeed, the England captain ended up sharing the Golden Boot, as one of six players with three goals to his name.

    However, that does not wholly tell the story of what was a frustrating tournament for the 30-year-old.

    Kane was taken off 60 minutes into the final, having also gone off in the semi-final and quarter-final when England were level.

    Across his seven appearances, he had just 27 touches in the opposition box (3.8 per game). Indeed, a startling statistic for England fans is that, across the last two Euros finals, Kane had just one touch in the opponents' area.

    Scotland

    Going up against the hosts in the opening game was never going to be easy, but that 5-1 hammering in Munich set the tone for a dismal tournament for Scotland.

    Steve Clarke's team had peaked in qualifying, and though an admirable performance in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland gave them some hope, they came unstuck at the death against Hungary.

    They exited the competition having had just 17 shots, nine fewer than any other team, and mustering an xG of just 0.95, the lowest figure in the competition.

    Romelu Lukaku

    It was another tournament to forget for Belgium, and one has to wonder why Domenico Tedesco's team were so lacklustre against Ukraine in their final group game, when a win could have ensured they would fall into the easier half of the draw (albeit they would have faced the Netherlands, rather than France, in the last 16).

    But matters might have been different had Lukaku had his shooting boots on, too.

    It is quite extraordinary that Lukaku did not manage to find the net. VAR was the bane of his existence in Belgium's shock loss to Slovakia.

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