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German right-wing AfD splits in Baden-Württemberg

The populist AfD has split into two groups in the German state parliament of Baden-Württemberg, announced AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen. The decision follows uproar over anti-Semitic remarks by one of its lawmakers. State parliamentary leader Jörg Meuthen, announced the creation of a new parliamentary group called "Alternative for Baden-Württemberg" on Wednesday - splitting off from the state's original Alternative for Germany (AfD) group. Just one day prior, Meuthen held true to his promise to resign if his group could not vote to oust a fellow Baden-Württemberg AfD lawmaker over his anti-Semantic remarks. Along with Meuthen, 12 other AfD state lawmakers out of 23 left the original parliament group. "We are the AfD," emphasized Meuthen on Wednesday, after announcing the creation of "Alternative for Baden-Württemberg." The feud pits the AfD's most public face, Frauke Petry, from the eastern, ex-communist state of Saxony, against AfD co-chief, Meuthen, who leads the party in western, conservative Baden-Württemberg. Petry criticized Fellow AfD co-head Petry stood by the remaining members of the original parliamentary group on Wednesday, cementing the party split. "This is the AfD faction in Baden-Württemberg," Petry said in reference to the state parliament's 10 remaining AfD state parliamentarians. Petry has come under harsh criticism for getting involved in the Baden-Württemberg dispute, with the party's national deputy leader Alexander Gauland calling her decision to intervene a mistake. "Unfortunately, questions of power have eclipsed substantial issues," said Gauland. The original dispute in Baden-Württemberg involved anti-Semitic remarks from the AfD lawmaker Wolfgang Gedeon. In his earlier writings, Gedeon downplayed the Holocaust and described Judaism as a "domestic enemy" to Germany whereas Islam was an "external enemy." After speaking with Petry and following Meuthen's resignation, Gedeon also resigned from the group on Tuesday but remained part of the local parliament as an independent. In his outgoing remarks on Tuesday, Meuthen said that he believed "anti-Semitism cannot and may not have any place in the AfD." Infighting ahead of election In state elections in March, the AfD garnered 15.1 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg and captured 24.3 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt. Founded in 2013 as a protest party focusing mainly on financial neoliberalism, the AfD has seen its polling numbers rise significantly since pivoting towards anti-migrant rhetoric in the wake of Europe's refugee crisis. The internal row casts new doubt on the success of the party ahead of Germany's general elections on 2017.

The populist AfD has split into two groups in the German state parliament of Baden-Württemberg, announced AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen. The decision follows uproar over anti-Semitic remarks by one of its lawmakers. State parliamentary leader Jörg Meuthen, announced the creation of a new parliamentary group called “Alternative for Baden-Württemberg” on Wednesday – splitting off from the state’s original Alternative for ... Read More »

Euro 2016: Takeaways from the quarterfinals

After four games, 15 goals and a few pathetic penalties the quarterfinals are over. There will be a major first tournament semifinal for Wales, who are joined by three of the usual suspects. But what else did we learn? Wales aren’t just a one man team When a huge star plays for a small nation, there’s a tendency to think the main man is the only man. Wales forward Gareth Bale is among the tournament's top scorers but wasn’t among the goals in their impressive 3-1 victory over Belgium on Friday, when the supporting cast stole the show. Aaron Ramsey, suspended for the semifinal, put on another midfield masterclass while captain Ashley Williams – an underrated Premier League stalwart – again cajoled and commanded a defense that has exceeded the sum of its parts. Hal Robson-Kanu, recently released by second-tier Reading, scored a genuine contender for goal of the tournament in a competition packed with spectacular strikes. While Bale will remain critical to his nation’s hopes, it should not be forgotten that with Ramsey, Williams and Liverpool’s Joe Allen (who has also shone in France) Wales have more than one way to win. The suspension format is nonsense Among the many complaints about the format of this year’s tournament, the impact of the extra round on suspensions has also raised hackles. Iceland started their quarterfinal with nine players walking the tightrope, Italy seven. For Germany, Mats Hummels will miss the semifinal thanks partly to an extremely harsh booking against Slovakia. Wales will miss Ramsey and Ben Davies while Portugal will be without William Carvalho. There’s a strong case to be made that the two yellow card system is outdated, with players often entering the book for relatively minor infringements. Even if it is to remain, an extra game on the route to the final tips the disciplinary balance in the wrong direction and deprives the tournament of some of its best players. An appeal system wouldn’t go amiss either. France might be peaking at the right time Played 5, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 0. Goals Scored 11 Goals Against 4. The raw statistics paint a picture of the hosts as a dominant force in their tournament but until Sunday’s win over Iceland they’d impressed only in patches or through individual moments of brilliance. But their control of the Iceland game, where Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet and Olivier Giroud dovetailed beautifully serves notice to a Germany side who have plenty of questions to answer of their own after an unconvincing win over Italy. Griezmann’s performances in particular suggest Atletico Madrid may struggle to hold on to the outrageously talented forward. His wonderful dinked finish for France’s fourth goal on Sunday was worthy of Lionel Messi and moved the 25-year-old to the top of the scoring chart on four goals. With genuine goal scorers few and far between, one of Europe’s wealthier clubs could be tempted to trigger his buyout clause worth a reported 100 million euros. There’s still room for romance in football OK, so there’s to be no fairytale ending but the presence of Iceland in the latter stages of the tournament is refreshing in a sport often criticized as being financially-driven. We’ve all read the numbers but it was on the pitch and in the stands that the tiny island nation really became the story of the tournament. In each of their five fixtures, they played smart, attractive, disciplined football and also brought the long throw back into vogue. What’s not to like? Their win against England wasn’t a fluke, they were the better side in every department and although they were outclassed by the hosts, their future looks bright. Oh, and they had quite a good chant too. A top tactician can transform a team Despite his team exiting the tournament in the last eight, Antonio Conte will be thought of by many as Euro 2016’s most impressive coach. Seemingly short of genuine attacking quality and shorn of starting midfielders Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio before the tournament, then Daniele De Rossi, Thiago Motta and Antonio Candreva during the campaign, Conte found a way to play to Italy’s remaining strengths. His 3-5-2 formation, built on the Juventus central defensive trio of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, was paid the ultimate tribute by Germany coach Joachim Löw, who copied it in the last eight clash between the teams – with mixed results. Without Mario Gomez, who Löw seemed to stumble upon as his striker, Germany will need to adapt. Portugal coach Fernando Santos also deserves credit in this regard. His decision to drop highly-regarded playmaker Joao Moutinho in favor of a second holding midfielder in Adrien Silva after a disappointing group stage may have won Portugal few admirers but it has won them games.

After four games, 15 goals and a few pathetic penalties the quarterfinals are over. There will be a major first tournament semifinal for Wales, who are joined by three of the usual suspects. But what else did we learn? Wales aren’t just a one man team When a huge star plays for a small nation, there’s a tendency to think ... Read More »

UN reinforces Mali mission with 2,500 more troops

The UN Security Council has decided to increase the number of peacekeepers in Mali. The mission will help with a fragile peace process and counter-terrorism operations. The 15-member UN Security Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to increase the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali by some 2,500 troops in a bid to bolster a fragile peace accord and counter Islamist militants. The French resolution will bring the international presence from 11,240 to 13,289 UN peacekeepers and also raise the number of police officers from 1,440 to 1,920 personnel. The resolution authorizes UN forces to "take all necessary means" to fulfill its mandate to support a peace accord in northern Mali that French Ambassador Francois Delattre said was "confronted with a resilient terrorist threat" from groups tied to Al-Qaeda and jihadists. He added "highly-specialized European contingents in terms of special forces, in terms of intelligence" will aid the mission. Germany is set to up its contingent to 650 troops to provide reconnaissance and transport planes. Mali descended into a spiral of instability in early 2012, when ethnic Tuareg rebels look advantage of a power vacuum left by a military coup in the capital Bamako to take over northern Mali in a bid for independence. But the rebellion for Tuareg autonomy was quickly highjacked by Islamist militants, including al-Qaeda aligned groups, who were strengthen by a flood of arms and instability following the international intervention that helped oust Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. The jihadist advances led former colonial power France to intervene in January 2013 and largely push back jihadists. The UN then deployed a peacekeeping mission in July 2013 to help advance a peace process between the Mali government and Tuareg rebels, which have also fought against the jihadists. France also has a larger counterterrorism force in Mali and the Sahel composed of some 3,000 elite troops that can provide support to the UN mission. Al-Qaeda aligned groups, which are not a party to the peace accords, continue to carry out attacks on UN forces, making the mission the most dangerous for the blue helmets. According to the UN, 101 peacekeepers have been killed since the mission deployed. Al-Qaeda affiliated militants in the past year have carried out a number of prominent terrorist attacks, including on a resort in Ivory Coast and hotels in Bamako and Burkina Faso.

The UN Security Council has decided to increase the number of peacekeepers in Mali. The mission will help with a fragile peace process and counter-terrorism operations. The 15-member UN Security Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to increase the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali by some 2,500 troops in a bid to bolster a fragile peace accord and counter Islamist militants. ... Read More »

Could Germans vote to exit the EU?

In the wake of Britain's Brexit vote, many Europeans think their country should also hold a national referendum on EU membership. For Germans, however, the hurdles are high. Britain's historic vote on opting out of EU membership has led to a heightened interest in giving citizens a say. In a pre-Brexit poll of some 6,000 Europeans, 45 percent of the interviewees said their own country should hold a referendum on its EU membership. Far-right French and Danish political leaders are calling for an EU membership referendum in their respective countries. Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party says they will call a vote if they enter parliament in the 2017 national election. "Next year the AfD will enter the German parliament and 'Dexit' will be top on our agenda," Franz Wiese declared, referring to an exit by Germany (Deutschland) from the EU. Germany's Left Party also demands a "new start" in the EU and "a debate and a vote on a European future." Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht urges holding an EU referendum in Germany, too - though not on an exit but only on certain deals. The people should have a say Wagenknecht told Die Welt newspaper her party wants to change Europe so it doesn't fall apart, adding that people should have "the chance to vote on important issues like the planned free trade TTIP deal, or other European agreements." Germany's post-war constitution, however, does not easily allow for a binding nationwide referendum. Heidelberg-based lawyer Uwe Lipinski says Germans could only vote on exiting the EU if they first change their constitution to include such "direct democracy" at the national level. Only then could the Berlin government or parliament call a referendum. Germany's 16 states allow for indirect popular initiatives, but with an eye on the country's Nazi past, the federal constitution only forsees a national vote in two cases: on changes to territory, or in case of constitutional reforms. Theodor Heuss, a German politician and president from 1949 to 1959, called direct democracy a "premium for every demagogue." More than seven decades after the end of WWII, the time has come to think about changing the constitution to include such "direct democracy," Lipiniski told DW, pointing out Switzerland and citizens' initiatives at the German state level as positive models. Germany's More Democracy organization has long called for making possible popular national referendums in the country. On its website, the group argues that the government merely presents "politics without any alternative" which parliament then "nods through." Europe-friendly Germans A German opinion poll just days ahead of Britain's EU membership vote showed that, if there had been a similar vote in Germany, the outcome would have been different. An overwhelming majority of 79 percent would have voted against leaving the EU, the Forsa pollsters found. Only 17 percent would have voted for an exit - and of the latter, 60 percent were AfD supporters. Just a few years ago, at the height of the euro debt crisis in 2012, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Germans would likely have to vote in a referendum on a new constitution - probably rather sooner than later. If the country keeps on handing sovereign decisions to Brussels, he predicted, Germany's constitution will reach its limits. Perhaps that time is inching closer. "The Bundestag is increasingly turning into a tool for the implementation of EU law," lawyer Lipinski warns.

In the wake of Britain’s Brexit vote, many Europeans think their country should also hold a national referendum on EU membership. For Germans, however, the hurdles are high. Britain’s historic vote on opting out of EU membership has led to a heightened interest in giving citizens a say. In a pre-Brexit poll of some 6,000 Europeans, 45 percent of the ... Read More »

Euro 2016: Germany and Poland play to scoreless draw

Call this one the match that refused to believe the hype. Germany and Poland cancel one another out in a less than scintillating 0-0 draw, where the two defenses came up trumps. The result was a yawner. Germany and Poland convened in Paris-St. Denis for the match everyone expected would determine the winner of Group C. The defending World Cup winners were the clear favorites, but they were mindful that Poland had beaten them during Euro 2016 qualifiers. Germany coach Jogi Löw made one change to the starting eleven that beat Ukraine, replacing Shkodran Mustafi with convalescent Mats Hummels at the back. The Poles were forced to go with back-up keeper Lukasz Fabianski after an injury to Wojciech Szczesny. As expected, the Germans took the attacking role. In minute three, Julian Draxler found Mario Götze in space with a cross, but the Bayern player couldn't keep his header down. What followed were 42 minutes of tedium. If Germany had ideas other than lobbing balls in Götze's general direction, they didn't show them. The Germans had almost 70 percent of possession but managed only eight shots on goal, none of them dangerous. For their part, the Poles seemed content with a draw, and the teams headed for the changing rooms with the score nil-nil. Poland almost ripped the games from the doldrums thirty seconds after the restart, but Arkadiusz Milik failed to get to a cross that had both Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer beaten. At the other end, Götze squandered a good look, firing the ball straight at Fabianski. In the quarter of an hour that followed, Poland had the better chances, but Hummels and Boateng were world class. Milik had another look in front of the German goal, but whiffed, while a short time later Mesut Özil couldn't get his equally open shot on target either. The introduction of Mario Gomez and André Schürrle for the final phase of the match did little to alter Germany's fortunes. Nor could Bayern's Robert Lewandowski make an impact for Poland despite playing all 90 minutes. As a result, Euro 2016 now has its first scoreless draw. "We didn't win a single one-on-one up front," a visibly disgruntled Boateng growled after the match. "We can be happy the match ended 0-0. We have to play better, or we're not going to win anything." Lewandowski was in a much better mood. "I think we had too much respect for Germany in the first half," the Polish captain said. "In the second half we pushed forward and started creating chances." Group C remains wide open, with Germany ahead of Poland on goal difference. The final matches next Tuesday (Ukraine-Poland, Northern Ireland-Germany) will determine who wins the group and who progresses. Ukraine will be going home after the group stage.

Call this one the match that refused to believe the hype. Germany and Poland cancel one another out in a less than scintillating 0-0 draw, where the two defenses came up trumps. The result was a yawner. Germany and Poland convened in Paris-St. Denis for the match everyone expected would determine the winner of Group C. The defending World Cup ... Read More »

Apprenticeships go begging in Germany

A third of German businesses are unable to fill all trainee positions available. One reason is that more young Germans are going to university rather than take up apprenticeships after finishing high school. On Tuesday in Berlin, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) released the results of a large survey of 11,269 businesses that asked whether they had managed to fill all the trainee positions they had open last year. The survey also asked about the quality of applicants, and about the willingness of companies to hire refugees. "The situation on Germany's labor market is getting more worrying," said DIHK President Eric Schweitzer during the presentation of the survey's results. 516,200 women and men started apprenticeships in 2015. Yet that left a lot of positions unfilled. For Germany as a whole, nearly a third of businesses surveyed - 31 percent - were unable to recruit enough qualified applicants to fill all their available trainee positions. In eastern Germany, the numbers were even worse, with nearly half - 45 percent - forced to leave apprenticeship positions unfilled. There are two main reasons for the development, according to DIHK. First, there's demography. Germany's birthrate has been significantly lower than the replacement rate for many years. As a result, school populations are relentlessly shrinking. In 2016, about 5,000 fewer young people will reach trainee age than in 2015. The 2016 cohort of school-finishers will be 120,000 smaller than the cohort of 2006, a decade earlier. Second, a much larger percentage of school-leavers is going on to study at university rather than take up apprenticeships in industry or business. According to Schweitzer, "today 7 percent fewer young people apply to an apprenticeship program compared to 10 years ago - while at the same time, the number entering university studies is 40 percent larger." A pillar of German economic power Germany's "dual education system" for apprentices is justifiably renowned. Its basic set-up is simple: Young school-leavers who aren't university-bound enter a three-year apprenticeship program within a particular trade - for example, plumbing, small business administration, or wind-turbine installation and maintenance. They spend half their time getting on-the-job training under the guidance of qualified mentors in their chosen trade, and half their time studying in specialized trade schools. The system is government-subsidized: Trainees get a modest monthly salary, health insurance, and other benefits, such as reduced-fare access to public transit. Companies apply to the relevant trade or professional association to become certified providers of trainee positions with the dual education system. The advantage to companies is that they get to know their apprentices, and their apprentices get to know the procedures and tasks within the company. At the end of the three-year training period, it's common for trainees to be offered regular jobs with the company at which they did their training. Germany's apprenticeship system is one of the pillars of the country's economic strength. Arguably it's the most important pillar, alongside the no-nonsense get-the-job-done attitude that has been characteristic of German culture for centuries - which itself is transmitted to each new generation through the apprenticeship system. It's therefore a serious problem when a third of the country's businesses are unable to find a sufficient number of willing and qualified trainees to take up apprenticeships. "The missing apprentices of today are the missing professionals of tomorrow," Schweitzer warned. Refugees welcome, but not enough Three of four businesses surveyed said they're willing to offer apprenticeships to recently arrived refugees, most of whom are Muslims from the Middle East, South Asia or Africa - provided the refugees had gained adequate German language skills and had been given appropriate residency permits by the government. DIHK said that a crucial first step toward enabling companies to offer trainee positions to refugees was the "3 plus 2 rule" established under the government's new Integration Law. The rule specifies that migrants with temporary residence permits who have found trainee positions cannot be deported during the three-year apprenticeship period, nor can they be deported for two years after they've finished their training, if they've found a job. "That's very, very important for the companies," Schweitzer said, because it sets up sufficient legal certainty that they'll be able to recoup their investment of time and staff effort in training migrants. But the refugees won't be able to solve the problem of a lack of willing and qualified trainees in the short- or medium-run, he said, because "integration takes time" - the DIHK's studies show it takes five to seven years before migrants are ready for full integration into the workforce. And their numbers aren't large enough to solve the long-term problem either. Apprenticeship quality problems In the short run, companies have reacted to the dwindling number of willing applicants by relaxing their hiring standards. School leavers with poor academic records - even dropouts, whose peers in decades past might have had a hard time being accepted into one of the more demanding trade apprenticeship programs - are often given help to catch up in their math or language skills. And they're being offered better deals than apprentices of previous generations, including better salaries and permanent jobs on finishing their training. The DIHK wants the government to make greater efforts to improve the quality of new apprentices. About half the businesses surveyed complained that many trainees were poor at basic math and language skills, and many had poor discipline, a weak ability to cope with work stress, and performed inadequately on the job. The school system must address these problems, Schweitzer argued. But in the medium term, even turning to less-talented applicants won't be enough to turn around the numbers, according to DIHK's analysis. It will be necessary to entice more of the young people now flooding toward university to take up apprenticeships instead. To help with that, DIHK suggested "orientation courses" exposing students to trades and professions should be offered at grammar schools (German: "Gymnasien") - the type of high school attended by academically stronger students - in order to help students get a better appreciation of desirable alternatives to going to university after finishing high school. "A mechatronics technician can easily earn more than many an architect," said Achim Dercks, a DIHK vice-president. That suggests another possible approach to gaining recruits: Offer trade or professional apprenticeships to people after they've completed their Bachelor's degrees at university. Perhaps traditional boundaries between "Akademiker" and "Arbeiter," or college grads and tradespeople, need to be softened up.

A third of German businesses are unable to fill all trainee positions available. One reason is that more young Germans are going to university rather than take up apprenticeships after finishing high school. On Tuesday in Berlin, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) released the results of a large survey of 11,269 businesses that asked whether ... Read More »

Threatening poster at Bielefeld immigration office slammed

A poster threatening to shoot complainers at an immigration office in the western German town of Bielefeld has caused controversy. Rights groups say the text is unacceptable, and authorities have promised to remove it. A poster greeting the refugees has been hung inside the Bielefeld office, reading: "Whoever whines here will be shot." The text, written in German, is visible to the asylum seekers, many of whom have fled war-torn countries, as they stand in line to register. The "Neue Westfälische" newspaper published the photo of the poster on Saturday, saying the place where the poster is hanging is only accessible to employees in the office. The authorities promised that the poster would be removed Monday morning before the office opens to the public. "I am shocked that a poster with this kind of text is visible to every refugee. This is intolerable and must be immediately removed," Gisela Bockermann, spokesperson for the Bielefeld immigration office, told the "Neue Westfälische." Bockermann said the office would investigate who wrote the poster text, and that person would face serious consequences. 'Inhumane and insensitive' Hanna Küsgen of Bielefeld University said she was shocked by the apparent lack of sensitivity of the office staff. "People who seek refuge here come from places where they face life-threatening situations. They need anything but another death threat," Küsgen told the newspaper. Lina Droste from a refugee aid service went a step further and said, "The text is inhumane and reflects the current racist reality in Germany."

A poster threatening to shoot complainers at an immigration office in the western German town of Bielefeld has caused controversy. Rights groups say the text is unacceptable, and authorities have promised to remove it. A poster greeting the refugees has been hung inside the Bielefeld office, reading: “Whoever whines here will be shot.” The text, written in German, is visible ... Read More »

Gao Yu family appeals to Merkel ahead of China trip

The family of Chinese journalist Gao Yu has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressure Beijing to allow the 71-year-old to travel to Germany for medical treatment. Merkel is headed to China for an official visit. Gao Yu's brother Wei expressed hope Saturday that the German chancellor would raise the case in Beijing, "so these problems can be resolved as soon as possible." Gao Yu, who has worked for DW, was convicted in April 2015 of leaking state secrets. The longtime Communist Party critic is currently under house arrest on medical parole. The journalist suffers from heart problems and has no pension or access to long-term support in China. She has a passport and a German visa, but despite multiple offers of aid from Germany, China has rejected pleas to let her leave the country. Chancellor Merkel travels to Beijing later on Saturday with six of her ministers and five permanent secretaries for the fourth Sino-German joint cabinet meeting on Monday. Human rights Ahead of the trip, Michael Brand, the German chair of the parliamentary committee on human rights, urged Merkel to press Beijing on its human rights record. "Dialogue is absolutely important, but dialogue is not an end in itself," Brand said. "When partners like China, Russia or Turkey cross red lines, the German federal government must show a stop sign that will also be understood as such." Beijing refused to issue Brand a visa in May because he had not obeyed a demand from the Chinese ambassador in Berlin to remove articles critical of China from his home page. In her weekly podcast on Saturday, Merkel said she also planned to push for Beijing to soften its stance on NGOs. A Chinese law set to go into effect in 2017 forbids foreign foundations from financing or engaging in "political activities." Merkel said the work of many such groups helped bring China and Germany closer together and should not be hindered by the legislation. German industry in trouble Merkel said the steel production crisis facing many European countries will also be on the agenda. China now produces about 50 percent of the world's steel, creating a difficult situation for EU states who are struggling to compete. Germany's industry is seeking additional protections from dumping and for China to reduce its overcapacity. A large delegation of CEOs from Volkswagen, BMW, Siemens, Lufthansa and Airbus is also expected to accompany the chancellor. German firms have increasingly raised concerns about barriers to foreign companies in China, as well as the implications of a decline in exports to China. Merkel is to dine with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday and President Xi Jinping on Monday. In between, she and Li will attend a meeting with business leaders, where German firms are expected to voice their frustrations with conditions in the Chinese market. On Tuesday, Merkel is due to travel to the northern "rust belt" city of Shenyang to visit a BMW plant.

The family of Chinese journalist Gao Yu has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressure Beijing to allow the 71-year-old to travel to Germany for medical treatment. Merkel is headed to China for an official visit. Gao Yu’s brother Wei expressed hope Saturday that the German chancellor would raise the case in Beijing, “so these problems can be resolved as soon ... Read More »

Is Bastian Schweinsteiger still good enough to play for Germany?

Joachim Löw has an unfit captain who he has to try and squeeze in to this summer's plans. Or does he? DW's Stefan Bienkowski wonders whether the midfielder is still worthy of a spot in the starting lineup. Germany kicks off their Euro 2016 campaign on Sunday with an opening tie against Ukraine. Several players may not be fit for the contest, but there will be a notable absence in Joachim Löw's starting lineup: Bastian Schweinsteiger. Following constant battles with injuries and his general fitness at Manchester United this season, the German captain recently ruled himself out of the first game of the competition. Yet should the senior midfielder walk straight back in to Löw's side? Speaking ahead of the game, Schweinsteiger was quick to point out that he feels as though he's in better shape than he was ahead of the 2014 World Cup campaign, but his fitness record and recent form does not back up his optimistic demeanor. "He doesn’t have any playing rhythm at the moment," lamented his coach after Germany's 2-0 win over Hungary on Saturday, suggesting that the former Bayern Munich midfielder still wasn't ready for the tournament ahead. Even if Schweinsteiger is able to pull his fitness back to an acceptable level, there's still a wealth of options that Löw really should consider before opting to throw his trusted midfield lieutenant back in to the fray. In Schweinsteiger's absence, Toni Kroos has moved into a more pivotal midfield role than before. He pulls the strings at the heart of Germany's midfield and pops up to score important goals when needed. Just weeks after winning his second European Cup, the 26-year-old has quickly established himsef as one of the most compitent midfielders at the biggest club in the world. In many ways, this summer's competition could prove vital in Kroos' international career, for he may finally be in a position to knock Schweinsteiger off his pedestal and take over his role at Germany. The 2014 World Cup will always be remembered through that timeless photo of Löw and Schweinsteiger embracing one another with tears of joy after the final whistle in Rio. However, any success found in France this summer may instead be portrayed through the sight of Löw grinning with an arm around Kroos, his new midfield general. Similarly, Löw has kept his options open by bringing both Julian Weigl and Joshua Kimmich along in his 23-man squad should his midfield need reinforcements later in the competition. Although neither of the fledgling talents is expected to start for Germany this summer, they should be up to the task. As both have proven at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern respectively, they have all the talent and composure to play at the very highest level. Löw is no stranger to throwing young players in when needed as he did with Andre Schürrle and Mario Götze during the previous World Cup. Although neither was ever considered a starter in the competition, they both offered goals and assists off the bench and combined to win the winning goal against Argentina. Rather than relying on a half-fit Schweinsteiger, Löw could get better results ultilizing his young talents and using their enthusiasm at the appropriate times. Germany wouldn't have won the World Cup in 2014 without the determination and leadership of Schweinsteiger, but the midfielder hasn't been vintage Schweini since he returned from Brazil to play for Bayern and then at Manchester United. It's time Löw and Germany turned to the next great German midfielder, beginning with this coming clash with Ukraine.

Joachim Löw has an unfit captain who he has to try and squeeze in to this summer’s plans. Or does he? DW’s Stefan Bienkowski wonders whether the midfielder is still worthy of a spot in the starting lineup. Germany kicks off their Euro 2016 campaign on Sunday with an opening tie against Ukraine. Several players may not be fit for ... Read More »

Euro 2016: Bastian Schweinsteiger say he’s fitter than at 2014 World Cup

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has played less than half an hour of football since March but insists he’s in better shape than he was when Germany won the World Cup two years ago. The Manchester United midfielder came on as a second half substitute in Germany’s 2-0 friendly win win over Hungary on Saturday and said the run out helped. "Twenty-five to 30 minutes has done me good. But 90 minutes is too much for the first game," he said. "I am fitter going into the Euros than I was two years ago going into the World Cup." The national team skipper also admitted that Germany’s tournament opener – against Ukraine on June 12 - would come too soon for him, a sentiment his coach seemed to agree with. "He hasn't got any playing rhythm at the moment, so we'll have to see," said Löw when asked if Schweinsteiger will play in the world champions opening game. Löw’s side has other injury concerns a week out from their opening game, notably first choice center back Mats Hummels. The defender – who recently agreed to join Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund – will miss the Ukraine game and is a doubt for Germany’s second fixture against Poland on June 16 in Paris with Löw saying Germany would have to “see how Hummels gets on." The German coach was pleased with his side’s performance on Saturday after a shock loss to Slovakia in their previous fixture and was particularly happy to keep the team’s first clean sheet in a year. "The victory gives us stability and a good feeling for next week," he said. "It was also important to keep a clean sheet. The team has come together somewhat and went about their job in a very concentrated way, but there are still a couple of things we have to fine-tune." Despite the routine nature of the win, there were a few moments of concern for the World Champions, with key men Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng both receiving treatment. But Löw alleviated any injury concerns. "We took Sami Khedira off at the start of the second half as a precaution, Boateng had a pressed nerve, but was able to play on," he said. Euro 2016 kicks off on Friday night, when hosts France take on Romania in the Stade de France, Paris.

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has played less than half an hour of football since March but insists he’s in better shape than he was when Germany won the World Cup two years ago. The Manchester United midfielder came on as a second half substitute in Germany’s 2-0 friendly win win over Hungary on Saturday and said the run out helped. ... Read More »

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