Polarising Werner fills the void for Germany

Timo Werner.
Timo Werner.

STUTTGART • With six goals in eight internationals, Timo Werner seems to be the answer to Germany's quest for a world-class striker, yet the fleet-footed forward remains unpopular with some German fans.

The 21-year-old netted twice in Monday's 6-0 thrashing of Norway, but Germany must wait until their next World Cup qualifier, against Northern Ireland in Belfast on Oct 5, to secure their Russia 2018 place.

Werner came off to a standing ovation in Stuttgart, a far cry from the jeers and verbal abuse he suffered at the hands of German fans in Prague last Friday.

"That meant a lot to me, because this is my home town," said Stuttgart-born Werner after his double against Norway. "I grew up here and I am pleased I could score twice to pay back the fans.

"Things were different in terms of the emotion and attitude. Compared to the Czech Republic match, we took it seriously from the first minute today. I believe we have got more used to the system, which the boys have been using for a while.

"I am delighted to have scored so often, it's been a lot of fun. I never thought it would turn out like this for me."

LAY OFF HIM

He made a mistake and recognised that. I now call for the public to treat him like a full-time player of the national team.

JOACHIM LOW, Germany coach, wants the fans to rally around Timo Werner, who looks set to lead the line at Russia 2018.

Werner is finally solving the issue Germany had 12 months ago when midfielder Mario Gotze played up front with limited success. He has filled the void created when the country's all-time top-scorer Miroslav Klose, who netted 71 goals in 137 games, retired after the 2014 World Cup.

Werner was the top German scorer in the Bundesliga last season with 21 goals in 31 games. However, he has a bad reputation among German fans - after being branded a cheat for diving to earn a penalty in a league win against Schalke, which has haunted him since December.

It was the reason a group of German fans jeered him on Friday.

"These insults against Timo are extremely painful. It's not fair and it's not funny," said Germany coach Joachim Low. "He made a mistake and recognised that. I now call for the public to treat him like a full-time player of the national team."

On Monday, Low was delighted with his team's performance in Stuttgart - and Werner's reception.

"It was a great atmosphere and a lot of fun to play in Stuttgart; it showed the beautiful side of football," said Low. "It was the first home game here for a long time and you could see the fans were up for supporting their team. We also contributed our part to the mood with great combinations and goals."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Polarising Werner fills the void for Germany'. Print Edition | Subscribe