Germany could hardly have a tougher test in their opening game of UEFA Euro 2020: a meeting with reigning world champions France. But with Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich and Co. on board, Joachim Löw's team have every reason to believe.
1) The return of Hummels and Müller
Having been there and done that, Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels and Bayern Munich attacker Thomas Müller are major additions to the German squad. Both men won the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany, and both have slotted back into the side after being recalled for this tournament by Löw.
Hummels is certainly in form, having helped Dortmund to lift the DFB Cup and to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League by winning their last eight matches of the season. An outrageous outside-of-the-foot through ball in Germany's final friendly against Latvia showed he has lost none of his quarterback qualities, while the prospect of facing France will not faze him.
The 32-year-old, after all, got the only goal - brilliantly heading home a Toni Kroos free-kick - when his side edged the World Cup quarter-final meeting with France seven years ago. He also kept a close eye on Karim Benzema during that game.
"I want to win the title - that's what we're here for," Hummels, who has five goals in 72 caps, told Kicker ahead of Euro 2020. "We know that we have the ability and the firepower to win every game in this tournament."
Müller, meanwhile, also played in the 2014 match in Brazil as well as scoring in another victory over France in Paris the year before. He netted against Paris Saint-Germain this season as well as getting the better of them with Bayern in the 2019/20 Champions League final, while he has finished as the Bundesliga's leading assist provider in each of the last two campaigns with 21 and 18 respectively.
"I expect myself to play to my limits physically, technically and tactically," the 31-year-old said when discussing his expectations for Euro 2020. "I want to bring the qualities that have made me so strong over the last year and a half. I am confident in that respect."
Watch: Müller's Bundesliga Mixtape!
Like Hummels, the experience and leadership of Müller - who has 39 goals in 102 appearances for his country - will be a key to unlocking France in the opening game of Germany's campaign.
2) Neuer the wall
Ahead of this tournament, outgoing head coach Löw called on his team to show the same mentality that reigned supreme in 2014.
"I'm very optimistic," he said in one of his final media appearances before the France game. "What I have seen and witnessed from the team in terms of energy and desire has been great. The players are very ambitious and they want to be successful. Everyone knows that we need to be ready right from the start, and at any moment."
Manuel Neuer is rarely found wanting in that respect, especially on the biggest stage. The current world Goalkeeper of the Year made huge saves, for example, from both France forward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in last year's Champions League final. And unlike at the 2018 World Cup when he had just recovered from injury, he comes into Euro 2020 looking as sharp as ever.
Watch: Why Manuel Neuer is the World's No.1
By playing in the 7-1 win over Latvia, the 35-year-old became the first Germany keeper to reach 100 caps. A World Cup and nine-time Bundesliga winner, he will be determined to become a European champion too with that title the only one missing from his illustrious career haul so far.
"It won't be easy as we have a tough group, but we're an unpleasant team to play against," he said after becoming a centurion. "I have a good feeling about the tournament."
3) Kimmich right on the money
Watch: How Kimmich bosses games for Bayern
Germany want to pack as much talent into their starting XI as possible, and - given that Kimmich initially starred at right-back for Bayern - the positional switch should be no issue for him. It could be a problem, however, for France left-back Lucas Hernandez. Hernandez is one of four Bayern players who could face Germany, so Löw will have plenty of inside knowledge on him, Benjamin Pavard, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman.
How to curb Kimmich's influence, meanwhile, will be one of the top things on the agenda for France coach Deschamps ahead of their group-stage opener.
"I've been particularly impressed with Joshua Kimmich," former Germany international Steffen Freund wrote in his UEFA column on the eve of Euro 2020.
"He's already world class but he has potential to become one of the best three players around because he offers the complete package. You never see any tiredness or signs of stress with him despite him playing every match. He can chip a ball behind an opposition's defence like no other and has defensive qualities, determination and ambition."
Kimmich's ambition for the European Championship, meanwhile, is pretty clear.
"I think we all agree that we have what it takes to be in with a chance of lifting the trophy," he said.
4) Fortress Munich
Another factor in Germany's favour is that they have home advantage in Munich. A total of 14,000 fans will be permitted inside the ground, with the home team sure to get extra energy from that support. That's an element of the game that most of the French players have not had to deal with for quite some time.
"Football and us players depend on fans," Chelsea's Bayer Leverkusen-honed attacker Kai Havertz said ahead of the game. "Even if there will only be 14,000, it will sound like 80,000."
There were many more spectators inside the Allianz Arena when France last visited in September 2018. Played before a full house, that UEFA Nations League match between the two most recent world champions was the first France had after Didier Deschamps' side won the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It was a game the visitors were fortunate to draw 0-0, since only a series of saves from France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola denied Germany a win.
5) Champions League heroes
Germany's squad features three players who were key to Chelsea's Champions League final win over Manchester City last month. A fired-up Rüdiger was a rock at the back, while the clever movement of Timo Werner paved the way for Havertz to smartly slot home the only goal.
"Of course it gives you confidence," Havertz said of his matchwinning strike. "Confidence always helps you, and I will go into the Euros full of it."
"He has given us so much stability over the last six months," he said of the Chelsea centre-back. "He was very, very important for us defensively, also in terms of his mentality and his communication. On the pitch, he’s a warrior… you want him in your team. Playing against him in training isn't much fun either!"
But it's not only the Chelsea contingent that knows how to win big European games. Eight Bayern players who claimed the Champions League title in 2019/20 are in the squad, while three-time winner Kroos dismantled Liverpool with Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of this season's competition. Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, meanwhile, is also in top form after winning the English Premier League with 13 goals along the way.
"We not only have class, we have mentality," Müller told Bild. "These players know how to win - they've proven it. We're not just anybody - we feel like we can bring it on the field."
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