Tuesday 27 June 2017, 16:14

Ter Stegen, heir to Germany’s goalkeeping throne

  • Marc Andre ter Stegen retained in goal

  • Strong performance against Cameroon

  • Criticised for the African side’s goal

By Steffen Potter with Germany

How it all began Manuel Neuer is the world champions’ undisputed first-choice goalkeeper, and this situation is not expected to change before the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. What Germany have lacked until now is a clear backup keeper. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (25), Bernd Leno (25) and Kevin Trapp (27) have all recently been called up to the national squad without there being a clear pecking order after Neuer.

Ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup, the intention was to operate a rotation system in goal.

Rotation rules – or does it? As expected, Leno took his place between the posts for the first match against Australia, after Trapp featured in the friendly against Denmark and Ter Stegen played the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in the weeks leading up to the tournament.

While Ter Stegen impressed after being given the nod against Chile, it was widely assumed that the rotation policy would continue and Trapp would be picked against Cameroon. Yet on the eve of the match, head coach Joachim Low announced that he planned to stick with the Barcelona keeper, prompting journalists to frantically rewrite their predicted line-ups.

What went well for Ter Stegen Barcelona’s first-choice custodian will remain in goal for the rest of the tournament, particularly if Germany make it to the final. Only if they end up contesting the Match for Third Place would one of his rivals – perhaps Trapp – be called up in his place.

While the decision to retain the former Borussia Monchengladbach keeper strongly suggests that he has won the race to become Neuer’s number two, those within the Germany camp are remaining tight-lipped about the situation. "A decision will be made at some point," said goalkeeping coach and UEFA EURO 1996 champion Andreas Kopke, adding, "Marc has developed further at Barcelona."

Ter Stegen demonstrated this against Cameroon by making several fantastic saves before the break while the scores were still 0-0 and once again showed off his prowess with the ball at his feet – a skill as highly prized in Germany’s ranks as it is at Barça.

What did not go so well It would have been a perfect evening for the 2015 UEFA Champions League winner had Vincent Aboubakar not scored a near-post header to halve Germany’s lead to 2-1 late in the game. Although German media outlets immediately began discussing whether or not Ter Stegen was at fault for the goal, Kopke made his position very clear. "He couldn’t be expected to save that. There’s normally a defender there, but this time it was an opponent and it’s tough to hold on to the ball from close range."

When asked whether the latest debate was bothering him ahead of training on Tuesday, Ter Stegen answered: "No, but I know when I’ve made a mistake and when I haven’t." While this suggests that he does not believe he was at fault for the goal, he is not afraid to take a critical look at himself. "You can and must always keep improving and working on your game – not just your weaknesses, but also your strengths."

What it means Ter Stegen is now the clear heir to Neuer’s goalkeeping throne – and past experience shows players in this role regularly go on to become the first name on the team sheet.