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Rejuvenated Germany can win Euros, says World Cup winner Thon

GERMAN fans welcomed the start of Euro 2024 on home soil more in hope than expectation, but their performances have surprised many and they are now serious contenders to win the title, German World Cup winner Olaf Thon told Reuters.

The 58-year-old, who scored a memorable goal against Denmark in his home town of Gelsenkirchen in the 1988 European Championship, has remained in the game through his punditry work for Sport1, where he provides expert analysis on the Bundesliga and the German national team.

“Last year, I would have predicted that Germany would not make it very far, but based on the group stage games and the performances of other good teams such as Spain and France, I’d say we can definitely keep up with them,” Thon said in an interview.

“We have a home advantage, with the fans as 12th player … and now, I believe that everything is possible for Germany. We can win the title,” he added.

The modest pre-tournament expectations of Thon and many German fans were heavily influenced by a run of bad results in 2023, during which Germany drew two and lost six of their 11 friendlies.

They made a fast start at Euro 2024, however, with a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland and a comfortable 2-0 win over Hungary ensured the Germans were the first team through to the knockout stage, leaving coach Julian Nagelsmann with tough calls to make for their final group game against Switzerland.

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EARLY LEADS

“It is the dream of every head coach to send the same starting XI out onto the pitch. However, ‘never change a winning team’ has its perils. As we led very early in the group stage games so far, it was possible to rest some players, make several changes and give five to six players the opportunity to get involved,” Thon said.

“I expect Nagelsmann to start the same players again if no one gets injured. However, it is the group stage where you have to manage the workloads and act strategically.

“Therefore, I believe that we won’t see a big game against Switzerland and that it ends in a draw.”

Thon said his goal in Germany’s 2-0 win over Denmark was one of his fondest memories from his playing days.

“It was simply the best, to score the decisive second goal at my former home ground as a Schalke player, which helped us to advance to the semi-final,” he said.

For Thon, who coached for a brief period before pivoting to his media career with Sport1, the current German team is reminiscent of the one that was taken over by Franz Beckenbauer in 1984 and won the World Cup in 1990.

“In 1988 the Euros on home soil, Germany lost against the Netherlands in the semis, who then went on to win the tournament. In 1990, there was revenge – Germany beat the Netherlands and won the title confidently,” Thon recalls.

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“It is therefore possible that Julian Nagelsmann first starts with this attempt and doesn’t win the title right away, but instead builds up something to win in 2026.”

Although he still believes that Spain and France are the big favourites to win Euro 2024, Thon placed Germany third in the list of teams he thinks could be victorious in the Berlin final on July 14.

“It would be a milestone, and very surprising,” he said.

By PHILIP O'CONNOR

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