MAINZ: Two goals from Niclas Fuellkrug helped Germany blow away their World Cup blues with a 2-0 win in a friendly against Peru on Saturday.
Fuellkrug struck twice in the first half to give Hansi Flick's side a welcome victory in their first game since a catastrophic World Cup campaign in Qatar last year which ended with a group stage exit.
“It was all about getting a good start to the year today,“ said Fuellkrug.
“After what happened at the World Cup, it was important that we started well in 2023, so I’m happy we managed to do that,“ added Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who deputised in place of the injured Manuel Neuer.
With his side automatically qualifying for Euro 2024 as hosts, Flick had made clear his desire to experiment with younger players in friendlies against Peru and Belgium.
The Germany coach named a squad which contained five uncapped players and left out big-name stars such as Thomas Mueller, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan.
But it was 30-year-old Bundesliga journeyman Fuellkrug who made the difference as Germany eased past a toothless Peru side.
Germany dominated the first half and deserved to take the lead on 12 minutes.
Kai Havertz brought down a long ball from Nico Schlotterbeck in the box, allowing an unmarked Fuellkrug to smash in the opener from close range.
Debutant Marius Wolf fizzed a low cross into the box to set up Fuellkrug for a first-time, close-range finish to double the lead just after the half-hour mark.
“We could have scored more in the first half,“ said Joshua Kimmich, who captained the side in his 75th international game.
Fuellkrug has now scored five goals in as many games for his country, and is well on the way to establishing himself as a regular for Germany.
“I’m getting my opportunities and I’m really happy that I’m linking up so well with the others, so let’s hope it continues,“ he told broadcaster ZDF.
Flick, meanwhile, heaped praise on his in-form striker.
“Niclas is a very special player. He’s confident and he is the sort of guy who can bring other players along with him and bring a positive energy to the group,“ said the Germany coach.
Germany could have had a third goal. After a foul on Schlotterbeck in the box, Havertz smashed a penalty against the post before illegally burying the rebound himself.
Italian referee Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi ruled out the goal, with Havertz's rebound counting as a second touch from the penalty taker.
Fuellkrug, who has become something of a fan favourite since his two goals in Qatar, was brought off to wild applause alongside Havertz on 75 minutes.
In their place, Flick handed both Brentford's Kevin Schade and Augsburg's Mergim Berisha their international debuts. - AFP