Germany’s rebuilding hurt by Havertz, Schlotterbeck absences

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Germany coach Hansi Flick’s quest to rebuild has been hampered once again, this time by injuries to Kai Havertz and Nico Schlotterbeck.

Flick had been hoping to establish some continuity among his key players to create a strong foundation for more important games to come, but Havertz and Schlotterbeck have dropped out of the squad for Tuesday’s friendly against Belgium after playing in the 2-0 win over Peru on Saturday.

Schlotterbeck has muscular problems in his left thigh. West Ham defender Thilo Kehrer came on for the Borussia Dortmund defender toward the end of the game against Peru and Flick said Monday he’ll start against Belgium in Cologne.

AC Milan defender Malick Thiaw was the only other potential option in Flick’s squad because the Germany coach did not call up Real Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger or Dortmund center back Niklas Süle for the two friendlies. Southampton defender Armel Bella-Kotchap is out with a shoulder injury.

Havertz, who is out with a cold, had played well against Peru behind the front two of Niclas Füllkrug and Timo Werner. Serge Gnabry will take Havertz’s place against Belgium, Flick said.

“Otherwise there may be one change, maybe two,” said Flick, who wanted to use the games against Peru and Belgium to learn about his players’ capabilities and build confidence after years of disappointment at major tournaments.

“We want to take the next step,” the Germany coach said. “We tried (against Peru) to have a good defensive setup, compact in length and breadth, and it worked well at times. Sometimes there’s still potential for improvement. And that’s what we want to achieve against Belgium.”

Germany will host next year’s European Championship.

Belgium, which started Euro 2024 qualifying with a 3-0 win at Sweden last week, will be without regular goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Read Madrid player was allowed to return to his club as a precaution because of “a minor strain in the adductor,” the team said.

Like Germany, Belgium is going through a rebuilding process under coach Domenico Tedesco following its World Cup exit in the group stage. Several members of the “Golden Generation” of Belgian players — Eden Hazard, Toby Alderweireld and Simon Mignolet — announced their retirement from international soccer after the tournament in Qatar.

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