The German national team is hardly beset by problems at the moment. The three-time European champions breezed through qualifying for UEFA EURO 2012 and are unbeaten in ten matches spanning almost a year. What is more, they recently overtook 2010 FIFA World Cup™ runners-up the Netherlands to go second in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
The new-found attacking élan instilled by coach Joachim Low into his skilful, rejuvenated team has made waves around the world. However, the silver lining has a cloud in this case, especially if your name happens to be Piotr Trochowski. The midfielder last appeared in his country's colours in the 1-0 semi-final defeat to Spain on the greatest stage of all, the global showdown in South Africa 18 months ago.
“It's a real shame it was my last match,” Trochowski said exclusively to FIFA.com. “Playing at the World Cup was a wonderful experience and a great thing to do. I hope I'll be back in the national team at some point in the future. I know it doesn't look very likely for now, but things can change fast in football, and you never know what might lie ahead."
The 27-year-old has by no means abandoned hope of featuring at this summer's EURO, although Low was last in touch during the 2010/11 campaign when the Polish-born player was still with Hamburg. He upped sticks in the summer to try his luck with Spanish top-flight outfit Sevilla. “Basically, my life here is good, and so is the football," he said, looking back on his first six months away from Germany.
It doesn't matter whether it's a good or a bad season - everyone says the main thing is to beat Betis.
Trochowski has reason to be satisfied, as he has appeared in 22 of his club’s 24 La Liga fixtures this term, and chalked up his maiden Spanish top-flight goal in a 2-0 victory over Osasuna last weekend. The result was Sevilla's first win in nine matches, and a debut success for new boss Michel in his first home game.
“He's authoritarian, but he doesn't want to change too much around at the start," the former Bayern youth player said. “He wants to avoid making the team even less confident. The first step for him is mainly to work on the team's self-belief, so the quality we have here starts to pay off again, and everyone's heads and hearts are totally committed.
“Our target is still a place in the Champions League," Trochowski continued. “There are only two teams no-one can catch, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The others are all taking points off each other, which is why we're not so far off the Champions League places. Previously, we were tantalisingly close to getting back into the top four, so it hurts even more that we didn't make it. Now we have a new coach, and we have to set off on a winning streak. If so, anything can happen."
In his brief spell in Seville so far, Trochowski has taken on board one vital piece of local knowledge, which prompted him to draw parallels with his former club. “It doesn't matter whether it's a good or a bad season - everyone says the main thing is to beat Betis," he explained.
The latest Seville derby in late January ended in a 1-1 draw. “It was a very special match," the midfielder recalled. “The atmosphere was building for weeks beforehand. All in all, it was a terrific game in a fantastic setting, and I really enjoyed it. It was just like the derby in Germany between Hamburg and St Pauli. Hamburg is my home, but I'd rather not talk or think about that for now, because I still have three-and-a-half years left on my contract with Sevilla."
Before he leaves Spain, the 27-year-old has one major personal target: to win back his place in the national team: “That's why I play football, to achieve the maximum. And the maximum is to play for your country and give your best for Germany."
My target was always to play at the EURO in Poland. If it's not to be, it'll be a shame, but I won't finally write off my chances until the squad list comes out.
Only time will tell whether he features in Low’s plans for this summer's European showdown. In the light of the fierce competition for midfield berths, it does seem unlikely, “but it ain't over yet," Trochowski insisted. “I know it won't be easy. My target was always to play at the EURO in Poland. If it's not to be, it'll be a shame, but I won't finally write off my chances until the squad list comes out.”
The tournament would certainly be extra special for Trochowski, as it is co-hosted by his country of birth. He was five when his parents moved to Hamburg, and as a 15-year-old he was lured to Germany's biggest club in Munich. However, the diminutive dynamo was back in his northern home by 2005. He earned his first Germany cap the following year, and his record currently stands at two goals in 34 appearances, before his international career ended for the time being in summer 2010.
“At any tournament, unity, focus on the next match and the determination to extract the best from yourself are the important things," he said. “Spain are one of the favourites, as are Germany. They’re the strongest teams, although you have to say tournaments take on a life of their own, like when Greece won the EURO [in 2004]."
The player's analysis of the forthcoming highlight in Poland and Ukraine is based on first-hand knowledge, as he has played at a EURO and a FIFA World Cup in the past. That level of experience could yet prove Trochowski's trump card, as the three-time world and European champions have often included a surprise name or two in recent tournament squads.
Low will reveal his selection for the summer in early May, before which Trochowski has no intention of resigning himself to his fate. “There's always hope," he concluded.