Comeback of the nation’s shoulder: FC Bayern’s weakness makes Neuer rejoice
Comeback of the nation’s shoulder
Bayern’s weakness makes Neuer rejoice
By Stephan Uersfeld, Berlin
11/06/2022, 8:16 am
In two weeks the football World Cup will start in Qatar. Any small injury can now be crucial. In the Berlin Olympic Stadium, there were various moments of shock when FC Bayern won 3: 2 (3: 2) at Hertha BSC. National coach Hansi Flick is spared, but another World Cup coach is very concerned.
Even Frank Zander came. He wasn’t there for a long time. In his leather jacket, he stood in front of the blue and white Oskturve in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. He sang his anthem about the blue and white Hertha and the absolute game. The scarves rose in front of him. It was a glorious autumn day in Berlin that made the whole country breathe a sigh of relief, at least that’s what Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann assumed after the game.
At 2:52 p.m., a murmur of relief went through the country. Manuel Neuer was back on the field after a good four weeks. For the shoulder of the nation, the warm-up began. It almost got very close. Just like in 2014 and 2018, when first a shoulder injury and then numerous foot injuries worried him. He got fit in time for both tournaments. Probably this time too. New was happy. Because FC Bayern played for him.
His team-mates involved him directly in the game with early turnovers in midfield. Less than five minutes had been played before he was able to distinguish himself and fish a shot from Belgium international striker Dodi Lukebakio out of the top corner. Neuer was immediately “on fire”, as he later said. A little later he defended against Davie Selke and after 28 minutes he was able to distinguish himself against Marco Richter. Bayern made Neuer happy because, unlike under Pep Guardiola, they gave their goalkeeper a few tasks, Neuer explained. “It was important that it wasn’t a game like it used to be under Pep. Sometimes I wasn’t challenged until the 80th minute,” he said.
Hertha fans expect severe bankruptcy
“I didn’t have to wait long before I got the first ball. That’s how I was in the game, I had a good feeling straight away and no problems,” Neuer said after the game, in which Bayern showed off their individual class. They were merciless and broke the defense after Hertha lost the ball in the 12th minute. Jamal Musiala, of course Jamal Musiala, met assists from Sadio Mané and then Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was there twice.
Everything works, absolutely everything. He can do whatever he wants – like his brace in two consecutive minutes (37th/38th). He is always there and Robert Lewandowski has long been forgotten. Choupo-Moting hit the shin, which later drove Hertha veteran Kevin-Prince Boateng to despair. “Kiss my ass,” commented the Berliner on the 3-0. Bayern ran away again after 38 minutes without convincing. Then Hertha almost hit back. Nobody had expected this in advance.
The fans in the hopelessly overcrowded trains to Berlin’s Westend were looking forward to the first sold-out Hertha home game in what felt like an eternity, but not even the most confident of them believed in a win against the record champions. Hertha had recently presented themselves too weak against Schalke and in Bremen, and Bayern were too dominant. They were somewhat surprised that afternoon. Until the last second they hoped for an equaliser, which didn’t want to fall. With the defeat, Hertha remains deep in the table basement.
Wilde eight minutes before the break
“For us it will be important to call up a top defensive performance with aggressiveness and mentality,” Hertha coach Sandro Schwarz had demanded. On the match day, out of the blue, he presented Selke in the starting XI. Since the first day of the game, the 1: 3 in the derby at Union Berlin, he had warmed the bench and made little impression with his minute appearances. The now 27-year-old was once something of a storm hope. That hasn’t been the case for a long time.
He was “hardworking” against Bayern, as Schwarz later noted. With diligence and luck, his penalty kick marked the end of the spectacular eight minutes before the break, in which Bayern first advanced to 3-0 and then lost momentum. 3: 2 for the big favorite, also because Dodi Lukebakio put the ball sharply past Neuer in the 40th minute – three or two minutes after Choupo-Moting scored. He couldn’t get his arm up in time. The bullet swept past him.
However, it stayed with these two goals. Bayern also scored only once from an offside position long after the blue smoke from the Berlin curve cleared early in the second half. The Berlin side was frustrated and angry. Once again, Hertha could not reward themselves, as they did in Leipzig or Mainz, as they did against SC Freiburg. Manuel Neuer couldn’t care less.
Neuer beamed, joked and chatted well after the final whistle. A lot of pressure must have fallen off him, even if he denied it. The World Cup was never in danger, but of course you still have to ask Hansi Flick if he really makes it into the squad, he said and that he was able to choose his entry himself. Because Sven Ulreich is such a strong substitute and probably also because he is Manuel Neuer.
World Cup out for Bayern star?
Neuer back, but the interpreter of space still in the balance. Stars like Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sané sat on the bench, but there was still no sign of Thomas Müller. It’s getting very tight for the fun guy from Upper Bavaria, the offensive life insurance of the national team in so many tournaments. He only has two weeks left to reach World Cup fitness. There will be a dress rehearsal in Gelsenkirchen next weekend.
There, at the bottom of the table FC Schalke 04, Bayern say goodbye to the league break. Probably also with Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, who both fell to the ground in the 74th minute and had to be treated. A small moment of shock for national coach Hansi Flick. But although at least Goretzka left the pitch shortly afterwards, the worries were unfounded. The situation was different for the Canadian Alphonso Davies. He left the pitch towards the middle of the second half with a muscle injury. The World Cup is in great danger for the 22-year-old. It can go that fast.
Nagelsmann is happy for all of Germany
After a home game against Bremen during the week, Bayern will face an opponent who is just as motivated in Gelsenkirchen next weekend, but probably much weaker than this afternoon in Berlin. The last game of the year, mid-November. These are strange times. In his old home, Gelsenkirchen, Neuer recalled, he had already achieved something in the B youth that he now repeated towards the end of his career. In the 89th minute he conquered the ball outside the penalty area against Hertha striker Wilfried Kanga and lobbed over the attacker into his own penalty area. “He’s still the best keeper in the world,” said coach Nagelsmann. According to the Bayern coach, he was delighted with the return of the 36-year-old, as was the whole of Germany.
But that must still be doubted after Saturday. Not only from a sporting point of view is the World Cup in Qatar, which starts in two weeks, but also from a sporting political point of view. Both fan groups in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium protested against the most controversial tournament. They had painted posters, lots of posters. At the level of the center line, the protests united in a “Boycott Qatar” banner. Everything is really good in Qatar in these November days, but little.