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International return for Neuer in Austria friendly

Berlin, Tuesday @PeopleSports11

Germany’s captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will return to international action in Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match against Austria after more than eight months on the sidelines because of a fractured foot.

“Manuel will play, there’s nothing against that,” said goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke from Germany’s training base in Eppan, Italy.

He added: “These are matches he needs, it’s a real test. Afterwards, it will be up to us to decide if it’s all OK.”

Germany coach Joachim Loew has already said that Neuer would only travel to Russia for the June 14-July 15 World Cup as the number one goalkeeper.

Loew has taken 27 players with him for their training camp, including four ‘keepers, with four to be cut before the list of the official 23-man squad is delivered to FIFA on Monday.

Neuer, 32, took to the field for the first time since his injury on Monday, playing 30 minutes in a friendly against the German under-20 side. He was to repeat that against the same opposition on Wednesday.

“Manuel needs these matches to once again be on 100 percent top form. They’ll help him to refind his confidence,” said Koepke.

Should Neuer come back, Barcelona ‘keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will find himself relegated to the bench after a year of filling in at number one.

“He knows the situation. Manu is our captain, a world champion. We’re trying everything so it works out for him. Obviously Marc-Andre would love to play, but he can manage the situation,” Koepke said of Ter Stegen, with whom he and Loew have had talks over potential selection issues.

Meanwhile, AC Milan striker Andre Silva hit a landmark 1000th goal for the hosts but there was little to celebrate as Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal were held 2-2 by Tunisia in a pre-World Cup friendly on Monday.

Still smarting from a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Geneva last March, Portugal fans were hoping for a morale-boosting win less than two weeks before they head to Russia.

But the defending European champions, who face Spain, Morocco and Iran in Group B, largely flattered to deceive.

Elsewhere, Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill believes France are quite capable of winning the World Cup after seeing them get the better of his team in a friendly on Monday evening.

France won 2-0 on a wet night, with Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir scoring the goals in the first half, and Ireland struggled to get near the ball at the Stade de France. -AFP

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