Germany have been hit by a number of injury woes ahead of their eagerly anticipated Euro 2016 semi-final clash with hosts France at the Stade Velodrome. The reigning world champions reached the last-four stage of a major international tournament for the sixth time in succession on Saturday (2 July), ending an eight-game winless run in competitive matches against Italy and preserving their formidable penalty record with a dramatic 6-5 shootout victory over the Azzurri in Bordeaux.
Die Mannschaft, deservedly took the lead shortly after the hour mark through Mesut Ozil but later conceded a spot-kick to Leonardo Bonucci after an inexplicable handball from the otherwise impressive Jerome Boateng. The current World Cup holders lost Sami Khedira due to a thigh problem early on and manager Joachim Low was forced to replace the Juventus midfielder with captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. Striker Mario Gomez also limped off the pitch with a pulled hamstring which the German Football Association (DFB) have confirmed will keep him out for the rest of the tournament.
The 30-year-old, who worked his way back into international contention by scoring 26 times during a fruitful loan spell with Turkish champion Besiktas last term, had previously netted the decisive goal in a dominant Group C victory over Northern Ireland and later helped Germany reach the quarter-finals by doubling his tally in the 3-0 defeat of Slovakia in Lille.
"It's bitterly disappointing that important players are becoming unavailable at the business end of the tournament," Low said of his absence.
"Our thoughts are with Mario. He's done well in the tournament and has helped us in a number of ways. We now need to rethink our tactics a bit and try to cope without him. There's enough quality in the squad to do that and I have faith in all of the players. We'll be ready for Thursday."
While Gomez will stay on at the European Championships in a support role, the DFB are hopeful that their other two aforementioned injured players can recover. As confirmed by Low at a subsequent press conference on Monday, Khedira, an unfortunate last-minute absentee from the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina, will definitely miss the France game after being diagnosed with an adductor issue following an MRI scan in Annecy. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger is said to have picked up a lateral collateral ligament strain.
This is the third knee injury to afflict the underwhelming Manchester United midfielder in just a matter of months. After sustaining an initial problem in an FA Cup third-round tie against Sheffield United in January, he managed just four domestic outings before being ruled out for the rest of the 2015/16 campaign with a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament picked up in a training session with Germany. The ex-Bayern Munich stalwart is yet to register much of an impact in English football since being brought to Old Trafford by Louis van Gaal last summer.