Borussia Dortmund's Niclas Füllkrug boasts an excellent scoring record for Germany off the bench, but should he start in the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 on his home ground? - © IMAGO/Bai Xuefei
Borussia Dortmund's Niclas Füllkrug boasts an excellent scoring record for Germany off the bench, but should he start in the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 on his home ground? - © IMAGO/Bai Xuefei

Record man Niclas Füllkrug to lead Germany attack in last 16 in Dortmund?


There was much talk ahead of UEFA Euro 2024 about one big issue in the Germany team. Where was the world-class striker? For a footballing nation that grew up basking in the glory of the likes of Gerd Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Jürgen Klinsmann and later Miroslav Klose, this team felt it was lacking. But is it really? Niclas Füllkrug is making his case to lead the line in the round of 16 on home turf in Dortmund.

German hearts were in mouths for what felt an eternity as Füllkrug leapt into the air to meet David Raum’s cross in the 92nd minute of the final group game against Switzerland before powering his header back across goal and past a helpless Yann Sommer.

It was a moment that sparked wild celebrations on the pitch, in the stands and across the country as the hosts snatched top spot in Group A to set up a round of 16 tie against the runners-up of Group C in Dortmund.

Füllkrug demonstrated his goalscoring prowess with a late equaliser against Switzerland. - IMAGO/Matt West/Shutterstock

For many of a certain age, it was reminiscent of Oliver Neuville’s added-time finish against Poland in the 2006 FIFA World Cup that got the country truly behind the hosts. That tournament became known in Germany as the summer fairy tale. Could another moment of fantastic Füllkrug finishing be the moment needed this year at the Euros?

The 31-year-old has shown his value to the national team time and time again since his somewhat belated international debut in November 2022. He adds something different to the squad, earning the nickname “heading monster” for his aerial prowess.

Out of the 26 players in Julian Nagelsmann’s squad, he was undoubtedly the man everyone wanted on the end of the cross in added time against the Swiss. “It was a great goal. It wasn’t easy,” the coach said in praise of his striker, who has come off the bench in all three group games and scored twice in the process.

In fact, Füllkrug has developed a reputation as Germany’s super sub. He has played six games at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), coming off the bench each time but still boasting four goals. That is a record tally for a European player at international tournaments.

Watch: The best of Füllkrug in the Bundesliga

The Hanover native has only started six of his 19 Germany appearances, but still boasts an excellent return of 13 goals. It works out at a rate of 0.68 goals per game, which places him behind only Gerd Müller (1.1), Max Morlock (0.81) and Klaus Fischer (0.71) for players with at least 15 caps for Germany since the Second World War.

It’s impressive company, but the current BVB striker leaves even Der Bomber behind when it comes to numbers in terms of playing time. Müller struck on average every 81 minutes for the national team. Füllkrug smashes that with a goal every 58 minutes he’s on the pitch for his country – the best return of any German in the last 80 years.

It all presents Nagelsmann with a bit of a dilemma. “He’s provided arguments for both things, so continuing as a substitute because he’s doing a great job or playing from the start,” explained the youngest coach at Euro 2024. “It’s both joy and sorrow for him that he does the role so well.”

Only captain İlkay Gündoğan and centre-back pairing Jonathan Tah and Antonio Rüdiger have played more minutes in Nagelsmann’s 11 games at the helm than apparent first-choice striker Kai Havertz, who has four goals – second only to Füllkrug’s six.

Watch: The matchday experience in Dortmund

So, what will the Bundestrainer do in Dortmund?

There’s no doubt that Füllkrug will feature at home ground when Germany play their round of 16 game. The only doubt is what his role will be on Saturday, and even deeper into the Euros.

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