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"My grandchildren's classmates ask - Why do you always play so late?"

Hansi Flick seemed relaxed and relaxed, but at the same time motivated and combative.

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"My grandchildren's classmates ask - Why do you always play so late?"

Hansi Flick seemed relaxed and relaxed, but at the same time motivated and combative. The embarrassing preliminary round at the World Cup in Qatar somehow seemed more than 89 days away. At an advertising event for the two European Championships in 2024 in Cologne, the national soccer coach chatted casually with his handball colleague Alfred Gislason on Tuesday and invited him directly to the meeting of the entire coaching team in Frankfurt at the first personal meeting. He posed for photos with fans and even answered questions he didn't really want to comment on.

These should only revolve around the advertising date in Cologne, but when Flick was asked whether Marc-André ter Stegen was the clear number 1 during the injury to regular goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, he answered friendly. And made it clear that the FC Barcelona goalkeeper had nothing to worry about. “We have often spoken out on this topic and made our order very clear,” said Flick.

Even during the casual chat on the previous tram ride through Cologne, Flick had become more concrete than could have been expected at this first major public appearance in 2023. And announced that he will nominate some newcomers for the two internationals against Peru and Belgium at the end of March.

"Every weekend we're looking and looking for something fresh," he said. He is currently exchanging ideas with his coaching team about “what they saw in the game observations and which player came up. We'll see if we have one or two new ones with us. It will be interesting to see a few youngsters.” Fresh blood certainly doesn't hurt after the frustrating World Cup three months ago. Of course, "a certain stability is also necessary," explained Flick: "We have to manage this balancing act."

In any case, he is happy that the next international match is finally due on March 25th. "We want to show what we're made of," said Flick: "I'm sure that we have very good quality and cool guys." The tactical focus is first of all on the defensive: "Obviously, we have to improve there." Above all, however, it is about “calling up the performance at the right moment. It's important to feel that there is a team that fights and that wants to give something back to the spectators. Anyone who wants that is welcome to join us on our way to Euro 24.” The aim is to “show such passion that everyone can identify with the team.”

In this respect, the former Cologne professional Flick admitted that one could, for example, orientate oneself on the Bundesliga club 1. FC Köln. "Steffen Baumgart and his team managed to get the euphoria back in and take the fans with them," said Flick: "That can be a good example for us of how to get the fans behind you with exciting football."

The 58-year-old is also concerned with the often-discussed topic of being close to the people. And so, like DFB President Bernd Neuendorf and Sports Director Rudi Völler, who appear on Wednesday for the World Cup analysis in the Sports Committee of the German Bundestag, he spoke out in favor of earlier kick-off times for international matches. "I already have grandchildren and I'm often asked by their classmates: why do you always play so late?" said the 58-year-old. At least occasionally, earlier kick-off times should be possible. “These are things that we keep bringing up but on which we don't find consensus. We have to make sure that we find a solution, that we may not play every game earlier, but at least have one from time to time that the whole family can watch.”

When asked ironically in social networks what football could learn from handball, Flick replied: “If the referee whistles in handball, it’s over.” The national coach added: “That’s fair. I would like us to be clear about this too: Here is the limit and it's good. That's good in handball. I don't know if that can be implemented in football. But if we could get closer there, that would be good.”

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