England ‘more determined than ever’ to take the knee in defiance of boos

Ilkay Gundogan and Manchester City colleagues looking for Euro glory with Germany and England

DUBAI: Ilkay Gundogan says Germany want to give Joachim Low the perfect send-off by restoring pride and targeting glory at the Euros.

The 61-year-old coach will step down at the end of the tournament after leading the team for 15 years.

Having won the World Cup in 2014, Germany embarrassingly failed to get out of the group stage four years later, and Gundogan says the squad is keen to make amends and ensure Low leaves on a high.

“That’s one of the main things I think about,” said the Manchester City midfielder.

“I’ve worked with him for more than 10 years, know him really well and so I am grateful for all the things he has done for me. I really believe our responsibility as players is to play as good as possible to make this man happy in the end.”

Having suffered disappointment with City in the Champions League final as they were beaten by Chelsea, Gundogan will hope for better fortune with his national team.

Germany are in a tough Group F with world champions France, European champions Portugal and Hungary.

Low has recalled Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller and Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels after a two-year absence from the squad and Gundogan, who has played with the duo since making his debut a decade ago, said: “I know the guys, really good guys, good energy and, football wise, more than enough quality to play with us. I believe they will have a really good impact on us and it’s about proving it.”

“Even though might there are other teams who have a better chance to win it, it’s a tournament, it’s a challenge, about being there on the day,” he added. “Everything is possible. I believe we have a really good team and we can do well, but it’s about showing it and having a good camp, a good start.”

Despite winning the European Championship on three occasions, the last of those was in 1996 and Germany - who will replace Low with Hans-Dieter Flick after the tournament - are not among the favourites this summer.

That is unlike England, who face Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D, and whose captain Harry Kane was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award along with Gundogan.

Four of Gundogan’s City team-mates are also part of Gareth Southgate’s squad, including Phil Foden.

After a campaign where the 21-year-old has established himself as a key player for Pep Guardiola’s league champions, Foden is predicted to be one of the stars of the finals.

“Phil has done brilliantly, played amazing this season. He is one of the main men for us now and I’m incredibly happy for him. I expect him to do the same with England as he has done with us,” Gundogan, 30, told Arab News exclusively. “He’s a great player already, but going to be even better, take more responsibility over the next few years.

“He is the boy for Man City for the future and I’m so happy for him to be in the situation he is. He is going to become an even better player,” he added. “I don’t know anyone at the moment like him and I don’t know if I will see someone like him. Probably yes, he’s unique. But aren’t we all in some ways unique?”

Foden’s style has drawn comparisons with Lionel Messi, and his admiring colleague added: “Messi is the best player I’ve ever seen and I would never compare him to Messi right now.

“But he has these great abilities, which you could probably see from day one,” said Gundogan. “He still has to learn a lot, when to do what, when to find the right pass at the right moment, to get physically stronger. But he has improved so much over the last few years since I have trained with him.

Gundogan says Foden now has the perfect mixability and braveness.

“Probably he doesn’t think a lot when he’s on the pitch, which is a good thing, and he has started to take the right decisions in the right moment, the crucial moment. In the end, this is what counts,” he said. “We must be careful sometimes not to praise him too much, but it’s so exciting to watch his progress. He loves the game more than anyone I probably know. When you see him with the ball, it’s like the perfect fit.”

Gundogan believes Germany may have their own Foden, though, in the shape of 18-year-old Jamal Musiala.

Having spent his childhood in England, the Stuttgart-born Bayern Munich attacker represented the three lions at Under-21 level, but chose to switch allegiance to Die Mannschaft and made his senior debut in March.

“I know people in England might be jealous he’s playing for Germany now, but we are quite happy to have him,” said Gundogan.

“I saw him play for Bayern in the Bundesliga and he played great for them, so already there he competes with the best players. That shows a lot of his quality, that he’s able to get game time there at 17, 18, and it’s probably enough to say how much potential he has,” he added.

“He is similar to Phil. Still looks so skinny, but he’s quite tall,  and on the ball, has great abilities. Hopefully we can support him in the national team and he can help us do well in the Euros.”

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