Schweinsteiger returns from 3-month lay-off as Germany bounce back from Slovakia defeat

The Manchester United midfielder has been out with a knee injury.

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger being pursued by Hungary's Zoltan Gera in this evening's friendly.
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger being pursued by Hungary's Zoltan Gera in this evening's friendly.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER ADMITS he is unlikely to play Germany’s opening Euro 2016 match in eight days’ time after making his comeback from three months out in tonight’s 2-0 win over Hungary.

A first-half own-goal by Hungary defender Adam Lang and a second from Thomas Mueller in Gelsenkirchen gave the Germans a confidence boost before their opening match against Ukraine a week on Sunday at the European Championships.

The biggest boost for the Germans was the return of Manchester United midfielder Schweinsteiger, who came off the bench for the final 20 minutes to play his first football since tearing the medial ligament in his knee in March.

But Germany’s captain admits he will struggle to play the full 90 minutes against Ukraine in Lille on 12 June, before they face Poland four days later, then finish their Group C campaign against Northern Ireland on 21 June.

“It was good to get the first 25-odd minutes under my belt, but I don’t honestly think I can play the 90 minutes of our first game,” admitted Schweinsteiger after the friendly in Gelsenkirchen.

“That said, I could do much more before this Euros than I could two years ago before the World Cup,” he added, having carried an ankle injury before Brazil 2014 but going on to produce a commanding performance for Germany in the final.

After an experimental side, boasting four new caps, was humbled 3-1 by Slovakia in last Sunday’s friendly, Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew named a full-strength side, starting with seven of the team which finished the 2014 World Cup final.

Germany Soccer Hungary Germany celebrate their opening goal against Hungary. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Having toyed with playing a three-man defence, Loew reverted to the 4-2-3-1 which won Germany the title in Brazil. He started with Cologne’s Jonas Hector at right-back for the first half, then Liverpool’s Emre Can for the second, in the only defensive position still to be decided before the Euros begin.

World Cup winner Mario Goetze put in a lively performance for his 78 minutes, threatening as a striker, then dropping back when Mario Gomez came on for the second half and helped set up Mueller’s goal.

Germany had the ball in the Hungary net after just 59 seconds. Goetze’s pass across the box was drilled home by Julian Draxler, but the goal was ruled offside — although replays showed the Wolfsburg midfielder was onside when the final pass was made. Centre-back Antonio Rudiger then headed wide with ten minutes gone as the Germans hunted the opening goal.

The hosts finally took the lead when the ball deflected off the shin of Lang, who was jostling with Goetze at the near post following a cross from Hector, and flew past Hungary’s 40-year-old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly on 39 minutes.

Germany Soccer Hungary Schweinsteiger applauds the supporters after the game. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Mueller added Germany’s second on 63 minutes after Jerome Boateng floated in a superb cross. Gomez unleashed a powerful header which Kiraly could only parry, but Mueller was on hand to tap in his 32nd goal on his 71st international appearance.

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Lukas Podolski came on for Goetze for the final ten minutes to make his 128th appearance for Germany on his 31st birthday.

Hungary play Austria in their first Group F match on 14 June in Bordeaux, before also facing Portugal and Iceland.

© AFP 2016

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Paul Dollery

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