After a long period in the wilderness, Germany finally return to the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals this summer, a first appearance on the world stage for the German Football Association (DFB) juniors since the 1999 tournament in New Zealand. Paul Schomann's side fell short of their target of winning the UEFA U-17 European Championships 2007 in Belgium, but overcame arch-rivals the Netherlands in a play-off to claim fifth place and with it a ticket to the showcase tournament in Korea Republic. The team, shortly to come under the aegis of novice coach Heiko Herrlich, will be seeking to emulate or better the second place recorded by the 1985 generation at the first-ever U-17 World Championship in China PR. The current U-17s will be regarded as contenders in Korea after winning the prestige Algarve Cup back in February with victories over France (2-0) and England (3-1), and a 1-1 draw with hosts Portugal. At the very least, Herrlich's lads are sure to command respect from their wary rivals.
The German U-17s can look back on a successful 2006-7 campaign. The European Championship first qualifying round featured victories over FYR Macedonia (7-1), Georgia (1-0) and reigning champions Russia (3-1), earning a spot in the elite round on home soil. The impressive run continued in a smooth passage to the finals incorporating clear-cut victories over Greece (4-1), Scotland (4-1) and the Republic of Ireland (3-0).
In Belgium, the team opened with a 2-0 success against Ukraine, but that was followed by a 2-1 defeat to France and a goalless draw with eventual champions Spain, a series of results only good enough for third place in Group A. The side coached by Paul Schomann thus went into a play-off for fifth place against the Netherlands. Toni Kroos opened the scoring, before Richard Sukuta-Pasu's brace earned a 3-2 victory and a berth at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007.
Paul Schomann took the U-17 reins throughout the qualifying campaign, but the team will be coached in Korea by Heiko Herrlich. The former Dortmund goal-getter was hired as U-18 coach, and has been tasked with supervising his future squad at the U-17 World Cup in the interests of consistent long-term planning. Former Germany striker Herrlich, who appeared in the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach, boasts an impressive medal collection including the UEFA Champions League, the German championship and the DFB German Cup. After hanging up his boots, Herrlich was awarded his coaching licence in 2005 and took charge of the Borussia Dortmund U-19 side before landing his new position with the German FA.
The goals for the German U-17s have mainly come from strikers such as Sascha Bigalke and Richard Sukuta-Pasu, but at the U-17 European Championships in Belgium, midfielder Toni Kroos contributed three goals en route to a berth at the global tournament in Korea. The FC Bayern Munich playmaker struck in the group phase against Ukraine and France, and then in the play-off against the Netherlands, to finish joint top scorer at the tournament alongside England's Victor Moses. "Kroos is one of the most talented players around. He's a real prodigy, but he's already amassed a great deal of experience," Paul Schomann recently said of his number 10. The blonde 17-year-old is blessed with excellent technique and exceptional vision, and operates as the chief distributor and architect of Germany's attacking play. At club level, Kroos has already featured in training with the Bayern seniors, and the creative goalscoring midfielder is now determined to parade his talents on the global stage at the World Cup in Korea.
FIFA U-17 World Cup record
"I have enormous respect for the work done by Paul Schomann. To come in as his successor, and start my work as a coach with the DFB at a World Cup, is a huge challenge for me personally." (Heiko Herrlich, Germany U-17 coach)