Friday , July 12 2024

Jens Lehmann gives his verdict on Germany’s chances of winning the Euros on home soil, names England’s one key weakness – and predicts who will make the final in Berlin

  • Former Schalke goalkeeper spent 11 years in the German city of Gelsenkirchen 
  • Gelsenkirchen will play host to the first game of England’s Euro 2024 campaign 
  • LISTEN to It’s All Kicking Off! Ian Ladyman, Chris Sutton and the Mail Sport team give their tournament predictions

Jens Lehmann is fresh from a morning of cold water swimming down the River Isar in Munich when he meets Mail Sport for breakfast at a nearby cafe.

It is 18 years since Germany last hosted a major tournament and back then, Lehmann was the goalkeeper for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side who reached the World Cup semi-final.

Germany would go on to reach at least the semi-finals in the next five major tournaments, including winning the 2014 World Cup but Lehmann is frank about the host nation’s chances this time around.

‘We had that era where we were always expected to reach at least the semi-final or the final but we’ve never been there since. That says a lot and that’s why I don’t expect a lot to be honest,’ he says. Not even in front of their own fans, Jens?

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‘It will help but you still have to be a good football team and the fact is that teams like France and England are a lot better. 

Jens Lehmann has shared his thoughts on Germany's fate at their home Euros this summer

Jens Lehmann has shared his thoughts on Germany’s fate at their home Euros this summer

For 11 years of his career, the former goalkeeper played for Schalke - in Gelsenkirchen, which plays host to England's first match

For 11 years of his career, the former goalkeeper played for Schalke – in Gelsenkirchen, which plays host to England’s first match

Gelsenkirchen's Arena AufSchalke welcomes both Euro 2024 and the Eras Tour this summer

Gelsenkirchen’s Arena AufSchalke welcomes both Euro 2024 and the Eras Tour this summer

‘Though with tournaments, it’s never about the team who is better than the rest. You just have to better than the opponent on the day,’ Lehmann adds.

For the former Arsenal goalkeeper who was part of The Invincibles, England are genuine contenders but he insists they have one key weakness.

‘Gareth (Southgate) is a good coach and England have some incredibly talented players but the keeping position concerns me. When your goalkeeper is not playing in the Champions League, it is a weakness when it comes to these tournaments. You need that big game experience. I predict a France v England final and I hope for England to win because of my Premier League connections,’ he says. ‘But I can’t see it because England have mentality problems when it comes to those big games in tournaments, like against Italy. They should have won the last Euros.’

Jens Lehmann’s guide to Gelsenkirchen 

Jens Lehmann spent the first 11 years of his professional career playing for Schalke 04, who are based in Gelsenkirchen – where England begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on Sunday. Here’s his guide to the city.

What must England fans do in Gelsenkirchen?

I played for Schalke for 11 years. Apart from drinking, if you want to explore then it’s worth seeing the old coal mines and going down to see how they worked. When I played for Schalke, we went down frequently to show the players what hard work was and we’d crawl through the tiny corridors. It was crazy.

What must England fans not do in Gelsenkirchen?

Get arrested. Behave yourself!

Tourist trap to avoid in Gelsenkirchen?

None. Because there are no tourists.

One food you have to try in Gelsenkirchen?

Currywurst, without a doubt.

One drink you have to try in Gelsenkirchen?

Proper beer. We call it Pilsner (though England fans inside the ground in Gelsenkirchen will have to make do with low-alcohol beers as stronger lager has been banned in order to reduce risk).

One phrase to know in Gelsenkirchen?

I loved the one written on a bridge: ‘Nobody can get past God.’ And then someone wrote below: ‘Expect for Stan.’ Because Reinhard ‘Stan’ Libuda was one of the great dribblers.

That said, Lehmann admits that he has been impressed by Jordan Pickford in penalty shootouts. Lehmann famously saved two penalties and used an infamous cheat sheet when Germany beat Argentina in a World Cup quarter-final shootout back in 2006.

‘It’s a different art to the game, knowing how to win a penalty shootout and Pickford made some great saves in the 2018 World Cup and in the Euros final,’ Lehmann says. 

‘You can prepare however you want but it’s all about the split second when you move as a keeper, which must be the exact moment the penalty taker is about to strike and can’t change his mind. That’s a small corridor of a tenth of a second and if you hit that window, you will be successful.’

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