Germany’s swift and somewhat chaotic World Cup training camp – DW – 11/17/2022

After arriving in Oman very late on Monday night, Germany were gone again by Thursday. One light training session, two chaotic press conferences and a Niclas Füllkrug goal in the impressive Sultan Qaboos Stadium was all there was time for. 

Perhaps Germany deserve praise for squeezing in a pre-World Cup training camp when many other nations have opted to head straight to Qatar.  

They had the chance to play in 25 degrees Celcius heat and 80% humidity ahead of the tournament, and against a brave opponent who, being used to these conditions, pushed Germany. As head coach Hansi Flick told broadcaster RTL after the 1-0 win, the game against Oman “absolutely served its purpose.”

Niclas Füllkrug might agree more than anyone else. In three days in Muscat, the 29-year-old Werder Bremen striker has given off a relaxed yet mature approach to being involved in the Germany squad for the first time. He admitted he is learning how to play upfront on his own rather than with a striker partner, as is the case for Bremen, but in his first 45 minutes for Germany, Füllkrug showed the value of a number nine with box presence.

Germany acclimatized, but they certainly didn’t mesmerize. They looked a team that wasn’t expecting it to be this difficult and were unsure what to do when it was. 

On another night, with a bit more luck, Oman might have drawn or even beaten Germany. Spurred on by the momentous occasion of playing such a big opponent in the week the country celebrates its national day, Oman showed that FIFA rankings are often misleading. 

The number 75 team in the world put on a show that matched the rousing support of their fans. Zahir Al Aghbari was the host’s hero, but there were also plenty of cheers for Manuel Neuer and Joshua Kimmich as young Omani fans could hardly believe Germany’s stars were here. Even the day before the game, Hansi Flick could barely get out of the media room after his press conference, such were the number of requests for selfies with the head coach.

Load management key 

Perhaps it’s unfair to expect Germany to have done anything differently given the lack of time, the unfamiliar conditions and the players’ fatigue. Indeed, Thilo Kehrer (pictured above) even admitted after the game that the fear of injury was very real. 

“It is difficult to completely get the thought [of injury] out of your head because it’s the last game before the World Cup,” Kehrer said afterwards. 

Acclimatization might have been the purpose of the trip, but fitness management has likely been the lesson. 

Real Madrid’s Antonio Rüdiger was rested, not playing in Germany’s friendly in OmanImage: Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

During the three days in Muscat, Thomas Müller, Antonio Rüdiger and Mario Götze didn’t train or play with the team. Lukas Klostermann, a surprise inclusion given his injury history, played just 30 minutes as he continues his way back to full fitness. Clearly, Flick knows managing his players’ load will be key, but a recently-published report by FIFPRO — the international players union – reinforces just how difficult a task that will be. 

The report states that as a result of such a congested first half of the season, the average preparation and recovery time for players at the World Cup will be about four times less than usual, increasing the risk of muscle injuries and mental stress. 

Rüdiger is also referenced, stating that between July 12, 2021 and October 24, 2022, the Real Madrid man has played the equivalent of 80 games of 90 minutes. His absence in Muscat was completely understandable.  

Indeed, since the start of the 2022-23 season, Germany’s squad has cumulatively played the third most minutes (28,956) of all World Cup teams. 

On and off the field 

Tired, but with no time to spare, Germany head to Qatar with full-team training expected to begin on Saturday. 

The team will have to brace for more than sunshine, World Cup games and the comfort of the Zulal Wellness Resort in the north of Qatar. 

Qatar has come under enormous criticism for its human rights abuses, mistreatment of migrant workers and treatment of LGBTQ people. Despite reforms and improvements since made by the country, protest and criticism has continued. 

As Germany touch down in Qatar on Thursday morning, the sweat and struggle of Oman is left behind. In front of them lies a World Cup that poses challenges on and off the field. 

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