World champions Germany have been handed a key fitness boost ahead of their Euro 2016 semi-final showdown with hosts France tomorrow (7 July), with confirmation that Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is now back in first-team training.
The 31-year-old captain was sent on after just 16 minutes of the 1-1 last-eight draw against Italy at the Matmut Atlantique on Saturday evening (2 July) after teammate Sami Khedira sustained an abductor problem, and he later skied a dreadful spot-kick as Die Mannschaft progressed through to their sixth consecutive major tournament semi-final with a nervy 6-5 penalty shootout triumph.
Schweinsteiger, who did not appear to be struggling during that quarter-final clash, later attended an MRI scan at a hospital in Annecy and the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed that he was the victim of a "knock to the knee" and had been diagnosed with a lateral collateral ligament strain.
This is the third such problem to plague the former Bayern Munich favourite since January, and he was initially considered a major doubt for the tournament due to a partial MCL tear picked up in training before March's friendly double header against England and Italy that prevented him from featuring in any of United's final 11 matches under Louis van Gaal.
However, he showed excellent powers of recuperation to make Joachim Low's final 27-man squad and registered an immediate impact by scoring a late goal during Germany's opening Group C victory over Ukraine. He also appeared as a second-half substitute in the goalless draw with Poland in addition to defeats of Northern Ireland and Slovakia.
Khedira's confirmed absence placed extra pressure on Schweinsteiger to recover from that latest setback and it appears he will be in contention for the game against France. Schalke skipper Benedikt Howedes also looks to be ready after both players trained individually yesterday, but Low has already stressed that he is not willing to risk anyone "who is not 100% fit".
While Khedira could still make the final should Germany progress that far, Mario Gomez remains with his teammates in a support role only. The experienced Fiorentina striker –who earned a surprise international recall last year amid a fine loan spell with Besiktas in which he notched 26 goals en route to helping them secure their first Super Lig title since 2009 – has been ruled out of the rest of Euro 2016 after pulling his right hamstring against Italy.
Influential Bayern Munich-bound centre-back Mats Hummels is suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament.