Old heads Young and Gotze eye Russia spot

LONDON • With both squads beset by injuries, today's Wembley friendly between England and Germany represents an opportunity for untested youngsters to stake claims for a spot at the World Cup.

But two familiar faces will also be looking to restart their international careers.

Mario Gotze wrote himself into German footballing folklore by volleying home the extra-time winner for a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final.

Since his magic moment at the Maracana, the 25-year-old has struggled with injury and a debilitating metabolic disorder which sidelined him for seven months this year.

Gotze, who last played for Germany in November last year, earned a recall with a string of good performances for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. And with Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller out injured, he has a good chance of starting in the attacking midfield role.

"I am really looking forward to it," he said of the Wembley clash, which will take place without regular Germany starters Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Jonas Hector. "I'm feeling really, really good and I hope I can play."

Like Gotze, Ashley Young is looking to force himself into contention for the World Cup in Russia next summer after ending a four-year exile from the England squad.

Young was limited to eight Premier League starts at Manchester United last season and missed out on the club's Europa League triumph against Ajax.

But he has returned to the starting XI in recent weeks, in a new left wing-back role, and his displays have earned him a first England call-up since 2013.

"I think there did come a point last season where I wasn't in the squad, wasn't even making the 18," the 32-year-old, who has also played as a winger and a No. 10, told reporters at England's St George's Park training centre.

"It was disappointing, but I have never thought about leaving the club. I've always got that determination to get back in the squad and playing again."

With the likes of Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane ruled out, England manager Gareth Southgate has promised to field an experimental line-up against Germany and Brazil four days later.

"This period between qualification and the Finals has to have an element of experimentation," he told a news conference yesterday. "If we don't try things in these games, when are we going to try things?

"We'll take more from these games than any of the qualification games."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is set to make his senior England debut while Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez and Jack Cork are also looking to make their senior international bow.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

ENGLAND V GERMANY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Old heads Young and Gotze eye Russia spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe