Leon Goretzka praised Hansi Flick following reports Bayern Munich are looking to unite him with Thomas Tuchel in a new coaching team.

German publication Bild suggested interim boss Flick could be kept on as an assistant at Allianz Arena if the Bundesliga side succeed in prising Tuchel from Paris Saint-Germain.

Flick took charge in a caretaker capacity following Niko Kovac's departure in November and has overseen four wins and a defeat in all competitions.

Chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reaffirmed his support for the 54-year-old following the weekend loss to Bayer Leverkusen, a result midfielder Goretzka insisted was not Flick's fault.

"He told us what we did well and what we did badly," the Germany international told news portal T-Online.

"We knew how we wanted to defend the counter-attack, but in the moment we did not do it well. But that will be different in the next games."

Goretzka added: "He's doing a very good job.

"The coach question is not for me to decide, that's what others do. But he definitely recommended himself [through Bayern's results] in the last few weeks."

Goretzka made his second Bundesliga start of the season in the Leverkusen encounter and will hope for further opportunities to press his case for Euro 2020 selection with Germany.

Joachim Low's men have been dealt a tough draw for the tournament, with holders Portugal and World Cup winners France joining them in Group F.

"What is difficult for me to understand is how such a group can come about," Goretzka said.

"I don't think we will go in as favourites, as we would normally expect at a European Championship.

"Nevertheless, we always have the claim to progress. I do not see any problem either. They are big challenges.

"We will try to spark euphoria in the country with the fans behind us and then continue on our way."

Christoph Kramer has signed a new deal that will keep him at Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach until 2023.

The 28-year-old Germany international joined Gladbach in 2016 from Bayer Leverkusen after enjoying the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons on loan at Borussia-Park.

Kramer's contract was due to run out at the end of the season, but he has agreed fresh terms to stay on for another three-and-a-half years.

Sporting director Max Eberl told the club's official website: "Christoph has become one of the leading figures in our team in recent years. Both as a footballer and as an opinionated character in the dressing room, he's become massively important and we're pleased to be extending his contract."

Midfielder Kramer has appeared 171 times for Gladbach in all competitions, scoring 10 goals.

Marco Rose's side lead the way at the top of Bundesliga after winning nine of their opening 13 matches.

Niklas Sule is determined to prove Uli Hoeness wrong as the injured defender aims to recover full fitness in time for Euro 2020.

The Bayern Munich centre-back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a Bundesliga game in October.

The serious injury was expected to end Sule's season and former Bayern president Hoeness told him to forget about representing Germany at the Euros.

But the 24-year-old said his rehabilitation is going well and could lead to an early comeback.

"The knee's fine, I'm ahead in the healing process. That speaks to the good work of the surgeon," Sule told reporters at a Bayern fan event.

"For me, the European Championship is clearly the goal and I assume that I can and will do it.

"I work for it every day. I hope to return to the team in March or April and then it's absolutely within feasible range. It's a tough journey but I know I can do it."

Asked about the likelihood of achieving his target, Sule added: "For my part, 100 percent."

Sule made his international debut in 2016 and has gone on to win 24 caps for Germany.

Joachim Low's men will face holders Portugal and World Cup winners France in a tough Group F at next year's tournament.

Fernando Santos has claimed defending champions Portugal are outsiders in a Euro 2020 group containing "two favourites" in France and Germany.

The three heavyweights were drawn together in a tough-looking Group F for next year's tournament, with a play-off contestant still to be added.

France and Germany will enter as winners of the past two World Cups, while Portugal are preparing to defend the trophy they unexpectedly won in 2016.

Santos' side were also crowned inaugural Nations League champions in June but the wily 65-year-old coach quickly positioned his team as underdogs.

"It will be a strong group, two favourites and a candidate," Santos told reporters.

"[France and Germany] have a responsibility to win and they have to assume that responsibility. We will believe in our possibilities. We come as candidates and obviously we want to win.

"Two world champions, a European champion and winner of the Nations League – I think this is a group that nobody wanted because each team wanted to avoid the other two.

"Everyone will respect each other and just wait to see who will be the fourth."

Portugal finished second behind Ukraine in their qualifying group, losing once and drawing twice in eight games.

Didier Deschamps accepted France faced a huge test at Euro 2020 as Germany coach Joachim Low had no doubt Group F was the "group of death".

World champions France were drawn alongside Euro 2016 winners Portugal and Germany, plus a play-off winner, in the group on Saturday.

Deschamps acknowledged his team would be challenged in Group F, which will be played in Budapest and Munich.

"It's a difficult group, but I think that Joachim Low and Portugal head coach [Fernando Santos] think the same thing. It's the hardest group, but we have to accept it," he said.

"We will need to be ready at the beginning of the competition because our first game will be against Germany in Munich. They will play at home.

"On paper, it's a tough group. These two teams have many qualities and they recently had good results."

France's first match will be against Germany at the Allianz Arena on June 16 before playing two games in Budapest.

Deschamps said: "It could be better, but what can we do? Germany and Portugal are in our group. We know when we will play and where.

"We still have to wait to know our third opponent. But we already know the quality of two of our opponents. So we can prepare to be ready for the match day."

Low was surprisingly happy about getting the opportunity to play against France and Portugal, but said it was undoubtedly the toughest group.

"At first I feel joy because these are highlight games against France and Portugal. We play against the reigning world champions and European champions," the Germany coach said.

"I think the players are also looking forward to these games. Of course it's a group of death. Everyone in this group has to go to the limit if they want to get ahead.

"But I think that these games will be football festivals. Then we also play in Germany. I'm looking forward to it."

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Holders Portugal will face world champions France and fellow heavyweights Germany in a daunting Group F at Euro 2020.

Saturday's draw in Bucharest pitted Fernando Santos' men and their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo against the winners of the two World Cups either side of their Euro 2016 triumph.

It means Didier Deschamps' Bleus will have an opportunity for revenge after Portugal beat them on home soil at the Stade de France to lift the trophy.

The nation with the dubious pleasure of joining them is still to be determined. Iceland, Bulgaria or Hungary would claim the fourth spot if they progress through their play-off route in Path A.

However, if Romania are victorious in Path A, they will go into Group C with Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria.

In permutations that underline the convoluted and criticised format, one of Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo from play-off Path B would enter Group F if Romania qualify. Otherwise, the winner of Path B goes into Group C.

Italy open the tournament, which will take place across 12 host cities, when they entertain Turkey in Rome on June 12. Wales and Switzerland are also in Group A.

England and Croatia renew acquaintances at Wembley in Group D – Gareth Southgate's men having been sunk by a Mario Mandzukic winner in the semi-finals of Russia 2018 before progressing to the Nations League Finals at the expense of Zlatko Dalic's team.

There is the possibility of an all-British encounter if Scotland prevail from their play-off path alongside Israel, Norway and Serbia, while Czech Republic will meet England again in the finals having traded victories with the Three Lions during qualification.

Group B is the second group not waiting to see how play-off cards fall, with the world's number-one ranked team Belgium lining up alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Spain are aiming to make it three European titles in four attempts after securing glory in 2008 and 2012.

They head up Group C, where the winner of the play-off route including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will round out the line-up alongside Sweden and Poland.

The Euro 2020 play-offs take place during next March's international break.

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Michael O'Neill insisted Northern Ireland's 6-1 thrashing by Germany on Tuesday will have "no bearing" on their Euro 2020 play-off.

Northern Ireland conceded six times in a qualifying match for the first time since 1949 (when they were defeated 9-2 by England) in what was a sobering loss to Joachim Low's team.

Serge Gnabry starred with a hat-trick for Germany, whose place at next year's showpiece tournament was already secured, with Leon Goretzka netting twice before Julian Brandt's injury-time goal.

O'Neill's side, who finished third in Group C, now find themselves in a one-legged play-off semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina in March, with the winner to face either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.

"This game will have no bearing on the play-offs whatsoever," said O'Neill.

"Ultimately we were punished by the quality of the opposition. We are asking League One players to come and play against Champions League players."

It was the biggest competitive loss of his eight-year tenure for O'Neill, who will be in charge for the play-offs despite his appointment at Championship outfit Stoke City.

"You never want to get beaten 6-1 and it was tough in the second half particularly," he added.

O'Neill's team were defeated on both occasions by Bosnia-Herzegovina when the sides met in the Nations League last year, however the boss remains optimistic they can reach a second successive Euros.

"When the Bosnia game comes around in March we have to aim to have our key players fit," he said.

"We know what to expect in terms of the intimidation and it's a tight ground, but we will go into that game knowing that we can win."

O'Neill described Gnabry as "un-defendable" and the Bayern Munich player, who now has 14 goals for club and country this season, admitted he is revelling in his role as a striker having previously played as a winger.

"I have to try to give my best every game," said Gnabry, whose 13 goals in as many Germany games has only been bettered by the legendary Gerd Muller. 

"I am playing as a striker here, which I have enjoyed a lot. Scoring goals came easy to me as a youth player and it continues to work out here for me as well."

Low was pleased to see his team, who finished ahead of Netherlands as group winners and will now play their Euro 2020 group games in Munich, continue to press for more goals.

He said: "We enjoyed it very much. We have played a very consequential game. Even when we were up by two or three goals, we continued attacking. We can be very pleased.

"We did not get nervous after going behind, I have liked what I have seen very much. We were focused for the full 90 minutes and this makes me positive looking forward."

Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick as Germany rallied to humble Northern Ireland 6-1 in Euro 2020 qualifying and secure top spot in Group C.

Michael Smith had given Northern Ireland a shock early lead on Tuesday, however Germany hit back in emphatic fashion with Leon Goretzka also grabbing a brace for the hosts before Julian Brandt's injury-time strike.

Gnabry's treble took his tally for 2019-20 to 14 goals for club and country as his fine start to the campaign continued with another clinical display. 

Having finished third in the group, Northern Ireland - on whom the result was harsh - must now wait for Friday's draw to discover who they will face in the Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs.

Germany were stunned in the seventh minute when Toni Kroos could only head George Saville's cross to the edge of his own area and Smith unleashed a stunning low strike into the bottom-left corner beyond the reach of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Germany were almost level five minutes later after Ilkay Gundogan struck the post and soon they had their goal as Gnabry controlled Jonas Hector's cross from the left before swivelling and firing clinically into the far corner from 12 yards out.

Hector was again the provider two minutes before the interval as Germany turned the contest on its head. 

His cross somehow evaded a crowd of bodies before the onrushing Goretzka made sufficient contact to send the ball agonisingly past Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and in off the post.

Within two minutes of the restart, Germany had a third as Lukas Klostermann found Gnabry, who again rifled home in clinical fashion.

Gnabry was celebrating his hat-trick just on the hour when he held off Tom Flanagan before drilling a low shot inside the far post. 

Germany added further gloss, with Goretzka firing in from the edge of the area in the 72nd minute before Brandt struck from the left side of the box in added time.

 

What does it mean? Germany starting to look their old selves

For Germany, it is starting to look a case of 'Crisis? What crisis?'. Seven wins from a possible eight and top spot in a group including Netherlands, and things appear to be starting to click together again for Joachim Low and his team after last year's World Cup disappointment. There was no shame in this defeat for Northern Ireland. They have every reason to go into the play-offs in buoyant mood after giving the big boys a run for their money.

Gnabry continues deadly form 

In his previous outing against British opponents – when club Bayern Munich faced Tottenham in the Champions League last month – Gnabry scored four times. On this occasion it was three. The former Arsenal man is a player reborn in the Bundesliga and looks one of Europe's hottest properties right now.

Smith's brilliant strike a silver lining for Irish

This was a night the Hearts defender will never forget after scoring the goal which put his team ahead against one of Europe's giants. What a goal it was as he demonstrated textbook technique to send a rasping low drive beyond Germany goalkeeper Ter Stegen. 

What's next?

The play-offs await Northern Ireland in March – they will discover their opponents in Friday's draw in Nyon. Boss Michael O'Neill will be in charge for those matches despite his appointment at Championship outfit Stoke City, yet the search for his successor begins now for the Irish Football Association (IFA). With their place already booked, Germany can now look forward to next year's showpiece tournament.

Joachim Low does not believe Germany can be considered the favourites to win Euro 2020, claiming England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium are all ahead of his side.

Germany booked their place at next year's finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday.

Their qualification follows a disappointing 2018 World Cup, when the defending champions slumped out in the group stage, and only avoiding relegation in the Nations League due to the competition being restructured.

Germany's squad has undergone a reshuffle over the past year, with Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller no longer considered for selection, while Mesut Ozil retired from international football, alleging discrimination and disrespect by the German Football Association.

Low's side have won six out of seven qualifiers for Euro 2020, scoring 24 goals in the process, but the coach believes other sides are ahead in terms of their development heading into the tournament.

"I think, we can be satisfied with the year," Low told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Northern Ireland.

"When it comes to the development as a whole, there are surely other nations who are ahead of us. England, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium - those teams had been forced into a big transformation before, because during the last big tournaments, like England for example, they exited early a few times.

"Therefore, those teams have been playing together for three, four years now. The same goes for Netherlands, who have had a well-adjusted team for three, four years.

"That's not the case for us at the moment, which is why I don't see us as the favourites for this tournament. But one thing is for sure, that we'll try everything, prepare well and that we want to reach the maximum during the tournament."

Low is still largely undecided on the squad he will be selecting for Euro 2020, with two likely candidates - Niklas Sule and Leroy Sane - currently out with long-term injuries.

"No idea. I don't know what it'll be next year," Low said.

"Yesterday some of the injured players were here with us. But then there are more players like Sule and Sane who are doing rehab, where we don't know how they're going to be.

"It's also important for me, in what shape players are in January, February or March. And then during the months to follow, who's able to play, who's in a good rhythm. There are certainly a couple of decisions which I can't answer today."

Toni Kroos believes Germany will have a better idea if they can compete for Euro 2020 glory after next March's international matches.

Joachim Low's side secured their place at next year's finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday, in which Real Madrid star Kroos scored twice.

The midfielder said after the game that Germany could not consider themselves among the favourites to take Portugal's continental crown next year, given the lack of experience of some of their players.

However, speaking ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Northern Ireland, in which a win will ensure Germany finish top of Group C, Kroos claimed they will have a clearer idea of their ability to challenge after the first international break of next year.

"It's no surprise that we want to win the game. Of course, the chance to finish first in the group is a bit of extra motivation," he told reporters on Monday.

"We've got some good players who have had some minutes. In terms of a grade, I'd put the year between a B and a C, because it's nothing special that we've qualified.

"Several of the younger players have improved already. We've made some progress. The international games in March will be important again as we play against big nations.

"We'll have to wait and see how we perform at the Euros, but I have a good feeling about it."

Kroos partnered Joshua Kimmich at the heart of Germany's midfield in the win over Belarus and believes the Bayern Munich star can make a success of such a role for the national team in future.

"Jo can do both: he can make life difficult for our opponents and he's able to make smart decisions with the ball. The fact that we work well together wasn't a surprise to me," he said.

Leonardo Bonucci believes Italy are not yet at the same level as Spain, France, Germany and England, but the defender feels they can reach that standard.

Italy won a record 10th straight match with a 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday and host Armenia on Monday.

Despite their run, Bonucci said Italy – who claimed their only European Championship in 1968 – still had progress to make.

"We will reach the level of the top teams in Europe but we still need to improve to compete against those teams who have achieved something important in recent years," the Juventus defender told a news conference.

"We are not at the level of Spain, France, Germany and England because of our lack of experience.

"They have a lot of world-class players and we don't, but we have all the qualities and the potential to reach that level."

The great Arrigo Sacchi recently hailed Italy's performances under head coach Roberto Mancini, who took over after the nation failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Mancini – whose side have won all nine of their Group J qualifiers ahead of facing Armenia – was thankful for the praise and said he wanted Italy to develop a winning mentality.

"Thanks to Arrigo Sacchi for the compliments, it is such a pleasure to receive nice words from someone like him," he said.

"I was not expecting 10 wins, but of course I was expecting qualification.

"Winning games was not our priority at the beginning. Our main task was to do something new and different to make our fans happy and passionate again.

"Then, we wanted to give our players a winning mentality, because this is the best way to achieve success."

Joachim Low singled out Toni Kroos and Matthias Ginter for praise following Germany's Euro 2020 qualification, highlighting the importance of the midfielder and defender.

Germany crushed Belarus 4-0 on Saturday to secure their place at next year's tournament, with Leon Goretzka, Ginter and two-goal Kroos on the scoresheet.

It has been a difficult period for Die Mannschaft following their early World Cup elimination last year, with Low's selection policy in particular resulting in criticism of the coach, with Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng excluded from the squad.

A home defeat to Netherlands in September had Germany's automatic qualification hopes looking somewhat precarious given the form of the Oranje and Northern Ireland.

But they have since cruised over the line with minimal fuss and Low applauded Kroos not just for his effective display on Saturday, but for his general attitude.

"Toni Kroos played a great game, not just because he scored twice," Low told the German Football Association's (DFB) official website.

"You can pass him the ball at any time and he'll find a way to deal with it, even if he's under pressure. He has a great vision and a sense of where he is on the pitch.

"He's a role model for the rest of the team with the way he approaches his job. He always puts in that extra bit of work before and after training – he's a consummate professional."

Ginter has become a fixture at the heart of the Germany defence in Euro 2020 qualifying, making six starts as Low found his replacement for the banished Hummels.

It marks an impressive rise for the centre-back, who just a couple of years ago seemed to be failing to live up to his early potential when Borussia Dortmund allowed him to leave for Borussia Monchengladbach.

"As a coach, you always know what to expect from him [Ginter]," Low added. "You can trust him and he is able to do what we want him to do, which is to help build the play up from defence.

"He's gotten much better. He has this sense of calmness about him, which is what makes him so solid, serious and reliable. I'm especially happy that he was able to score such a beautiful goal [on Saturday]."

Luca Waldschmidt suffered injuries to his face, knee and ankle in a seven-minute cameo against Belarus and will miss Germany's final Euro 2020 qualifier.

The Freiburg forward was taken to hospital after colliding with Belarus goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor at Borussia Park on Thursday.

Tests confirmed Waldschmidt sustained a concussion among multiple impact injuries, according to a German Football Association (DFB) statement.

"Luca Waldschmidt suffered a midfacial fracture and concussion, as well as an injury to his right knee and ankle during Germany's 4-0 victory over Belarus on Saturday evening," the statement read.

"The DFB and Freiburg's medical departments will carry out further examinations in due course.

"The 23-year-old, who replaced Serge Gnabry in the 84th minute of the game, will travel back to Freiburg from the national team headquarters in Dusseldorf [on Sunday]."

Waldschmidt was taken off in the first minute of added time and will not be involved when Germany entertain Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

The match is effectively a dead rubber for Joachim Low's men, who sealed qualification for Euro 2020 and went top of Group C thanks to their victory over Belarus.

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