Germany celebrates its new Philipp Lahm
Paris, June 25 (IANS) Facts couldn't have been more convincing: 87.5 per cent of his passes in Germany's last group match against Norther Ireland found their man, he won nearly 60 per cent of his man-on-man duels, touched the ball 104 ball times and he ruled the right flank.
We are talking about a 21-year-old and the possible long-term solution for German head coach Joachim Loew's search for a right back. Joshua Kimmich could well help Germany win the Euro football championship. The next challenge for the intelligent midfielder could be Germany's first knock-out game at Euro 2016 against Slovakia in Lille this Sunday.
German media and fans are celebrating Kimmich's performance when winning only his second cap. Hermann Gerland, recently appointed by Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti as his future assistant at the 2016 German champion, expressed what most pundits in Germany and in the rest of football Europe are thinking: "Kimmich will be ready to step into Lahm's shoes at right back. When Lahm retires in about two years, we don't have to worry," Gerland said.
"But of course Kimmich at the moment can't be at the same level as a Lahm. But he has all the abilities needed to have a great future."
For Loew, Kimmich's star already seems to have risen. Despite the fact that Northern Ireland is not regarded as one of the big guns of Europe's football, the youngster is on his way to solving all the problems Germany has suffered ever since Lahm quit international football after the 2014 World Cup.
Up until the Northern Ireland game, Benedikt Hoewedes (FC Schalke 04) was Loew's compromise solution as right back. It was one Loew was never entirely happy about as Hoewedes, an out and out central defender, wasn't a great help when the team was going forward, reports Xinhua.
Kimmich could solve Loew's expectations is that he is not only able to close all doors at the back but also drive Germany's game along the flanks. Against Northern Ireland, Kimmich, along with Jonas Hector (1. FC Cologne) down the left, gave the German game the balance it had been lacking.
Who then is the young Kimmich who seems to be ready to take over the hard job of an all time great in Lahm (113 caps for Germany). Kimmich's career was far from what you call a rocket like one. Leaving the club of his childhood and early youth, VfB Stuttgart, he joined RB Leipzig in the third division and was part of a team that was promoted to the second Bundesliga.
After he joined Bayern Munich in 2015, meeting a coach like Pep Guardiola gave Kimmich's career a substantial boost. Guardiola had to solve problems in his defense after key figures suffered serious injuries. Like Loew he found Kimmich, who even played as a central defender and right back in important games such as in the Champions League and Bayern Munich's 2015/2016 Bundesliga campaign.
Kimmich's advantage is his versatility as he can play successfully in midfield and several positions in defense. That in the end convinced German coach Loew to open a new chapter for his team. Before Euro 2016, Kimmich had only played one friendly for his country's senior team. It was curiously the 1-3 defeat against Slovakia, Germany's opponent in the first game of the Euro 2016 knock-out stage, just before the tournament started.
"Looking at him before the Northern Ireland game it was obvious for me, that was not nervousness at all," Loew said.
For German central defender Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Kimmich is "another great option for the rest of the tournament". Despite the firework of positive statements, many see Kimmich making his first steps as a right back and expect more problems for him when meeting powerful left coming at him -- not the case in the Northern Ireland game.
Despite the few doubts that Kimmich has already reached the peak of his development regarding his defensive ability, his performance in his first Euro game will give the young footballer additional confidence for the next games. Kimmich has always expressed his desire to take a close look at his fellow team-mates to learn and get better every day.