Germany’s Fast and Somewhat Chaotic World Cup Training Camp – TBEN – 11/17/2022

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After arriving in Oman very late on Monday evening, Germany was gone again on Thursday. A light training session, two chaotic press conferences and a goal from Niclas Füllkrug in the imposing Sultan Qaboos Stadium was all there was time for.

Perhaps Germany deserves credit for squeezing in a training camp ahead of the World Cup, while many other nations have opted to go straight to Qatar.

They had the chance to play in 25 degree heat and 80 percent humidity prior to the tournament against a brave opponent who, accustomed to these conditions, put pressure on Germany. As head coach Hansi Flick told broadcaster RTL after the 1-0 win, the match against Oman “definitely served its purpose”.

Niclas Füllkrug may agree more than anyone. In three days, the 29-year-old Werder Bremen striker has been part of the German selection for the first time in a relaxed but mature manner in Muscat. He admitted he is learning how to play up front 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.

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Germany acclimatised, but certainly did not enchant. They looked like a team that didn’t expect it to be this hard and weren’t sure what to do when it did.

On another night, with a bit more luck, Oman might have drawn or even beat Germany. Spurred on by the momentous opportunity of playing against such a formidable opponent in the week the country celebrates its National Day, Oman showed that FIFA rankings are often misleading.

The world No. 75 team put on a show that matched the enthusiastic support of their fans. Zahir Al Aghbari was the host’s hero, but there was also much cheer for Manuel Neuer and Joshua Kimmich as young Omani fans could hardly believe that Germany’s stars were here. Even the day before the game, Hansi Flick was barely able to leave the media room after his press conference, such was the number of requests for selfies with the head coach.

Cargo management key

Perhaps it is unfair to expect Germany to have done otherwise given the lack of time, the unfamiliar circumstances and the fatigue of the players. Even after the game, Thilo Kehrer (pictured above) admitted that the injury fears were very real.

“It’s hard to fully grasp the thought [of injury] in your head, because it’s the last game before the World Cup,” said Kehrer afterwards.

Acclimatization may have been the purpose of the trip, but fitness management was probably the lesson.

Real Madrid’s Antonio Rüdiger was rested and did not play in Germany’s friendly in OmanImage: Christian Charisius/dpa/photo alliance

In the three days in Muscat, Thomas Müller, Antonio Rüdiger and Mario Götze did not train or play with the team. Lukas Klostermann, a surprising inclusion given his injury history, played just 30 minutes as he continues on his way back to full fitness. It’s clear that Flick knows that controlling its players’ load will be key, but a recently published report from FIFPRO – the international players’ union – underscores how difficult that will be.

The report states that due to such a busy first half of the season, the average preparation and recovery time for players at the World Cup will be about four times shorter than normal, 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 90-minute matches. His absence from Muscat was completely understandable.

Indeed, since the start of the 2022-2023 season, the German squad has cumulatively played the third most minutes (28,956) of any World Cup team.

On and off the field

Tired but running out of time, Germany heads to Qatar where full team training is expected to begin on Saturday.

However, the team will have to brace themselves for more than sunshine, World Cup matches and the comfort of the Zulal Wellness Resort in northern Qatar.

Qatar has been heavily criticized for its human rights violations, mistreatment of migrant workers and treatment of LGBTQ people. Despite reforms and improvements throughout the country since then, protest and criticism have remained.

When Germany lands in Qatar on Thursday morning, the sweat and struggle of Oman will be left behind. Ahead of them is a World Cup that presents challenges both on and off the field.

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