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Flick seeks improvement against ‘extraordinary’ English

BERLIN — Germany’s coach Hansi Flick said on Monday that his team would need to improve against England’s ‘extraordinary players’ in a Nations League clash in Munich on Tuesday.

Flick praised the English Premier League at his pre-match press conference saying “the quality is very high”. 

“They have six or seven clubs of almost equal level,” said Flick, a former Bayern Munich coach.

Flick said German players who move to the Premier League “take a step up”.

Flick’s squad contains four players who played for English clubs last season, including three under German coach Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.

Flick singled out Kai Havertz “who grew up under the influence of Thomas Tuchel.” 

Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who scored twice on the final day of the Premier League season to seal the title for Manchester City, praised England’s strength in depth.

“They could form three national teams,” he said. 

Flick said he was disappointed with a 1-1 draw with Italy in Bologna on Saturday, on the same evening that England lost their goup opener 1-0 in Hungary.

“It is obvious that we must do better” against England, said Flick.

“They have extraordinary players and their game is very physical. [Harry] Kane is a world-class striker, he has a huge quality,” Flick said.

“It will be a big game for us and it will be important to implement our plan well,” said Flick, still undefeated after ten games as Germany coach.

Gundogan, who has been at City since 2016, insisted the historic rivalry between England and Germany was “no longer an issue.” 

“The respect is there, and in the end it is about sport,” he said. 

“We have had several German players who succeeded in England, and it has become very friendly, even if sometimes we banter a little”. 

Germany benchmark

Southgate said Germany remain the benchmark for England as a result of their trophy-winning pedigree as he prepared his side for Tuesday’s Nations League clash in Munich.

England will look to bounce back from their surprise Nations League defeat to Hungary when they face the four-time World Cup winners in Munich.

Southgate’s men beat their old rivals in the last 16 of Euro 2020 last year and will be hoping to repeat the feat on Tuesday.

But Germany have won every match under new boss Hansi Flick, who took over from Joachim Loew after the European Championship.

The England boss told his pre-match press conference on Monday that the game would be a “brilliant test” for his side, who lost in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and were beaten by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

“For me, Germany and Brazil are still the benchmark in terms of countries who’ve regularly, consistently won tournaments,” Southgate said.

“Even when everyone will talk about the 5-1 [England win in 2001] here, they ended up in the World Cup final on the back of that qualifying campaign.

“So you have to respect what they’ve been as a country and what they are as a country in footballing terms, and that mentality is what we’re trying to create. 

“We’ve got to keep getting to the latter stages of competitions and games like tomorrow are brilliant for us — that’s exactly the sort of test we need.”

Southgate hailed the decision of both teams to take the knee before the match as a statement against racism.

England players were barracked by some sections of the crowd when they made the gesture before Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Hungary in Budapest.

Southgate said: “We’re two nations with huge numbers of mixed-heritage nationals and I think it’s an important sign for everybody, so we welcome that... We are united in our beliefs.”