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'Shattered' Germany set sights on World Cup after Euros exit

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/germany/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Germany;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Germany</a>'s head coach Julian Nagelsmann extended his contract to 2026 before the Euros (Tobias SCHWARZ)
Germany's head coach Julian Nagelsmann extended his contract to 2026 before the Euros (Tobias SCHWARZ)

The hosts may have bowed out of Euro 2024 at the quarter-finals on home soil, but Julian Nagelsmann has given Germany their swagger back after a difficult decade.

Germany came into Euro 2024 after two World Cup group stage exits either side of a meek last 16 loss to England.

But while Friday's extra-time loss to Spain in Stuttgart denied the hosts a chance to celebrate the retiring Toni Kroos with one of the few titles to elude him, the Germans demonstrated they can again mix it with the best.

Germany veteran Manuel Neuer wrote on social media "the dream has been shattered. It's even more bitter, because the team deserved more".

Having spoken through tears pitch side after the game, Nagelsmann sought to shift Germany's focus to the future in the post-match press conference.

"It's sad that I'll probably never be a part of a home Euros in my career again," the coach said.

"That hurts. And having to wait two years to become world champions, that hurts as well."

"You like that statement, don't you?" the coach asked reporters, "it makes your eyes pop, it's crazy.

"What else should I say after we were knocked out? Of course, we want to become world champions."

- 'Again amongst the best' -

Nagelsmann's bullish statements are a far cry from those of his predecessor Hansi Flick after Germany's group stage Qatar World Cup exit.

Flick, who later became the first coach sacked in Germany history, pointed to fundamental problems and called out the country's junior system for failing to produce top players.

After convincing Kroos to return, Nagelsmann swept the broom through Germany's squad, making 11 changes with the Euros in mind.

Several new additions including Robert Andrich and Maximilian Mittelstaedt established themselves in Germany's starting XI, while the coach also found a way to properly play Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz alongside each other.

Germany won just three of 11 games in 2023. Friday's loss to Spain -- with La Roja scoring in the 119th minute -- was Germany's first defeat in 2024, after six wins and two draws.

Kroos, who retired from international football in 2021, was asked by Nagelsmann to return before Euro 2024 and only agreed to come back if he felt Germany had a true shot at winning the tournament.

The 34-year-old signed off after his last game of professional football knowing Germany were in good hands.

"It hurts, particularly in the way it happened. We were absolutely on an equal footing with Spain," said the former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid player.

"But when this initial feeling of sadness is gone, we will realise that we're again amongst the best."

- 'Not extremely young' -

With most of the best managers coaching at domestic level, the 36-year-old Nagelsmann had been tipped for a return to club football but extended his deal to 2026 prior to the tournament.

With the World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada two years away, Nagelsmann has his next major challenge in sight.

Although Musiala and Wirtz are both 21 and striker Kai Havertz is 25, Nagelsmann will need to oversee a partial rebuild, with Germany's squad the oldest at Euro 2024.

Kroos' exit is confirmed, but several other Germany veterans could be headed for the door.

Thomas Mueller, 34, who came off the bench late in search of his first goal at a European championship, told reporters afterwards "realistically speaking, it's possible this was my last international game".

Neuer, 38, who won the World Cup in 2014 alongside Kroos and Mueller, said he will "think about it after the tournament".

Even captain Ilkay Gundogan, 33, said he "needed a few more days to think about it and would then make a decision".

Nagelsmann acknowledged "we have a squad which is not extremely young" and confirmed "we will definitely change a few things.

"We will do something with the squad to deliver a few good games and put together the best team for the 2025 World Cup qualifiers."

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