Bundesliga quartet set for Germany debut against Slovakia

Recent U-21 stars Joshua Kimmich, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt are set to feature in Augsburg on Sunday, with Brandt’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen teammate Bernd Leno in line to make his debut in place of regular number one Manuel Neuer.

Coach Joachim Löw chose Slovakia as Germany’s opponents in the belief that the impending European championship debutants play a similar style to Die Mannschaft’s Group C opponents Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Poland. Although the world champions have lost three of their last five matches, Löw is confident in his youthful Bundesliga contingent.

“They are all able to compete at the required level,” he said of the four, who have an average age of 21. “They are in the extended squad with the idea that they can do the job.”

Kimmich and Weigl were two of the standout performers in the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, with the former enjoying 14 clean sheets at the heart of champions FC Bayern München’s defence after his conversion from midfield, and the latter breaking Bundesliga passing records as Borussia Dortmund finished the season as the best runners up in the league’s history. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both are upbeat and confident.

“We’ve been made to feel very welcome,” said Kimmich. “It’s a great feeling to be here. We’ve played for the youth teams but the national side has always been the dream – now we’re here! When you make it into the preliminary squad, you also want to be included in the final selection. It’s great to be able to compete with the best here.”

“You already think about what it would be like to be there,” concurred Weigl. “I’ve experienced so much this season but being here is undoubtedly the highlight. I’m enjoying every minute in training and am trying to learn from the others as well as showcasing my talent.”

Meanwhile, goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke this week confirmed that Leno would be given his full debut at the WWK ARENA, with Neuer one of a number of first-team regulars set to be rested. Leno missed only one game for Leverkusen, helping Die Werkself finish third with the Bundesliga’s third-tightest defence.

Germany have won all but two of their previous nine meetings with Slovakia, most recently beating the central European country home an away in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008, though Löw is taking nothing for granted. “Slovakia will try to knock us out of our rhythm,” he said.

Germany host Hungary in Gelsenkirchen next Saturday before culling four players from their squad for the UEFA EURO 2016 finals in France next month. If the Bundesliga quartet can parlay their domestic form into these games, then each should make the trip across the border.

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Stuart Telford

Stuart is a long-time admirer of the Bundesliga, having commentated games in Germany's top two divisions for the pan-European sports channel Eurosport since 2009. Now, based in Cologne, Stuart regularly makes the one-hour journey north to commentate Borussia Dortmund's games at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, and is also a football writer and editor for bundesliga.com, the DFL website's official English language version. A UEFA-qualified coach, Stuart also enjoys running the rule over emerging talents in the land of the world champions...when a break from a glass or two of Kölsch allows! You can follow him on Twitter at @StuartTelford.

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