Opinion

Germany can say goodbye to a true great in Toni Kroos

Max Parsons
Toni Kroos: A German legend
Toni Kroos: A German legend / Lars Baron/Getty Images
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Germany's 2-0 defeat to England in the Euro 2020 round of 16 signalled a crossroad for German international football - a crossroad that has been coming for a long time.

That defeat was the final game in Joachim Low's 15-year reign as Die Mannschaft boss. It now falls upon Hansi Flick to take Germany into a new era; a fresh face, some fresh ideas, and maybe a freshening up of the squad.

Joachim Loew, Toni Kroos
Joachim Low with Toni Kroos after the 2014 World Cup final / Julian Finney/Getty Images

It's been reported that Toni Kroos will lead a group of senior players in retiring from international duty following their early exit from Euro 2020. It would bring an end to the midfielder's brilliant career on the international stage - a career that started all the way back in March of 2010.

Kroos left Bayern Munich for a year-long loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen at the start of the 2009/10 campaign, during which he took the Bundesliga by storm. A staggering haul of nine goals and 12 assists in 33 league games from a 19-year old midfielder understandably earned him a call up to Low's squad. The midfielder's first cap came immediately, as he came onto the pitch for a 23-minute stint in a 2-1 loss to Argentina.

Given his more dynamic and attacking style early in his career, there wasn't much space for Kroos in a midfield dominated by the ever-performing Mesut Ozil and ever-reliable Bastian Schweinsteiger at the time. Starts were hard to come by - in fact, only six of his first 16 caps were starts, mostly resulting from squad rotation.

But as Kroos became more and more crucial to Bayern Munich's dominant midfield throughout the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons - in which he recorded 34 goal contributions in 84 Bundesliga appearances, as well as two goals and eight assists in the 2011/12 Champions League - his prominence in the German midfield significantly increased.

Throughout the country's qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup, Kroos featured in seven of the eight games he was available for, starting six, and managed three goals and three assists. It was the beginning of the Kroos that made Low's midfield so terrifyingly commanding, efficient and so destructively clinical and dominant, pushing them to be one of the most feared sides in world football in the mid 2010s.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-WOLFSBURG-BAYERN MUNICH
Toni Kroos with Pep Guardiola / ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

The former Bayern man's most glorious moments in a Germany shirt came as a result of that impressive qualification campaign, of course. The 2014 World Cup was dominated by Germany, who went on to be crowned deserved winners.

Their opening fixture was a sign to come, as Low's men blew Portugal out of the water with a 4-0 thumping, in which Kroos assisted twice. The midfielder played every second of Germany's campaign, although his next direct goal contribution wouldn't be until the quarter final.

A tight and turgid affair with Didier Deschamps' France was ultimately decided by a moment of precise quality. Paul Pogba committed a foul about 35 yards out from goal, allowing Kroos to ominously stand over the ball. The midfielder floated a curling cross perfectly into the box for Mats Hummels to connect with and nod the ball into the back of the net - the only goal in a huge 1-0 quarter-final win.

The following round produced one of the all-time classic World Cup matches, as Germany thrashed hosts Brazil 7-1. Kroos assisted Thomas Muller for the opener before scoring twice in two first half minutes to make it 3-0 and really put the game to bed. It was a man of the match performance in one of the greatest matches in footballing history - that's Kroos.

Toni Kroos, Julio Cesar
Toni Kroos wheels away to celebrate scoring in the World Cup semi final / Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The midfielder would go on to play the full 120 minutes of the final as Germany's Mario Gotze scored the winning goal to give his country a 1-0 victory. Kroos had already won three league titles and one Champions League trophy with Bayern but, in the summer of 2014, the midfielder lifted the greatest honour a player can - and he played a gargantuan role in Die Mannschaft's glorious campaign, earning himself a blockbuster switch to Real Madrid in the process; and we all know how his Los Blancos career has panned out.

Of course, things in a German shirt have not been as rosy since. Kroos was a part of the side that fell to a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final of Euro 2016, the side that left the 2018 World Cup an embarrassment, and the Euro 2020 side that exited the competition at the round of 16 stage to old enemies England.

However, since that World Cup triumph, Kroos has continued to be integral at both club and international level, earning legendary status in the process. He may have only captained his country four times due to the presence of Philipp Lahm and then Manuel Neuer, but he has been a true leader for the German senior side and will leave the scene a World Cup winner and a true great.

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