Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze feels 'very, very good' on Germany return
BERLIN -- Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze said he is confident he is "at 100 percent" after making his return to the Germany national team for the first time in a year.
Gotze has returned to Joachim Low's Germany squad for the upcoming friendlies against England and France, having been sidelined for a significant spell earlier in 2017 with metabolic disturbances.
The 25-year-old has returned to regular action for Dortmund this season and, speaking at a news conference in Berlin with the national team on Wednesday, he said: "I feel very, very good. I believe I am at 100 percent.
"It's now important I can consistently perform for my club and hopefully also the national team. I am looking forward to what is coming and to 2018."
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan also returns for Germany, just under a year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligaments, and has said he is around 70 to 80 percent fit.
Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff said: "I am delighted that Gundogan and Gotze are back. Both of them worked hard and with focus for their comebacks. We hope they can gain a foothold again, and show their qualities.
"I believe Gotze feels relieved. He is a meticulous worker, but he is also patient. He knows himself very well."
Germany also face Spain and Brazil as they prepare for World Cup in Russia, where they will seek to defend the title they won in 2014.
"We will go to the tournament as favourites," Bierhoff said. "We are aware of that, but the World Cup won't be a no-brainer. We must be at 100 percent, and we need to sustain our efforts."
In addition to the 2014 World Cup, Germany also hold the Confederations Cup and European Under-21 Championship, but other nations promise to threaten in the future, with Friday's opponents England having enjoyed an exceptional year at youth level, while France boast youngsters including Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele.
"We are being chased, and we see what happens down in the youth teams. England are coming up strong, the youth are getting ready," Bierhoff said, also naming France and Brazil as teams to watch. "But they will all look at us, and try to trip us up."
For now, the focus is on beating Gareth Southgate's England at Wembley in the second meeting between the two nations this year. In March, Germany won 1-0 at the Westfalenstadion, with Lukas Podolski scoring his last goal in his farewell match for the Nationalmannschaft.
England's hopes of a victory have been hit by the loss of Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson to injury, and Germany are expected to field a strong side, although Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus are not in the squad due to injury.
"They have a lot of good players," Germany and Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule said. "Now Harry Kane is out, but there is still Jamie Vardy, who is also not easy to defend against."
Fellow Bayern defender Jerome Boateng is set to miss the England match with muscular problems, but he will remain with the squad and could return when they take on France in Cologne next week.
Germany remain hopeful that Toni Kroos will recover from flu in time to play England, although the Real Madrid midfielder did not join the national team for their training session at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark earlier on Wednesday. Mats Hummels trained individually in the hotel.
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.