"Every day I notice things are getting better," says Pierre-Michelle Lasogga as the Germany striker hopes to cap his return from injury with a starting berth against the Netherlands.
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Coach Rainer Adrion has some tough decisions to make before Germany kick off their UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign against the Netherlands on Thursday. Competition for starting places is fierce, not least up front where Adrion has four very different types of striker at his disposal – among them Pierre-Michelle Lasogga.
The 21-year-old from Hertha BSC Berlin is a classic No9, who does his best work in the opposition box, and he is desperate for a starting role against the Dutch in Petah Tikva as he looks to put recent frustrations behind him. After suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in May last year, Lasogga struggled to get first-team action with Hertha after returning to fitness, playing only seven matches in their 2012/13 second division promotion campaign, six of them as a substitute, and scoring a solitary goal.
"Far from great" is how he sums up his recent club fortunes but this has merely increased his motivation to do well here in Israel. "Personally I am very much looking forward to this EURO, as it is a huge tournament," said Lasogga. "I have returned to fitness at just the right time and it's a good sign. After my injury I am now feeling great again. Every day I notice things are getting better."
Beating the Netherlands would be the perfect start and Lasogga has already had a good view of his team's opening Group B opponents – albeit from a rather unusual perspective. "I was looking from my hotel balcony and saw the Dutch team walking past," he said of his accidental spying mission as Netherlands players took a stroll in Tel Aviv. Lasogga denied he was tempted to shout down to them: "We are on the eighth floor, I would have had to scream pretty loudly. I thought it was best to save my voice, but it was funny to see them walk past."
Actions speak louder than words, of course, and Lasogga is keeping his focus firmly on what happens on the pitch on Thursday. "I am not the only player who is eager and itching to get out there. In every training session you see how focused the team are," he said, underlining their determination to go all the way and repeat Germany's 2009 triumph. "We have a very hungry side, aiming for the title. We are here to win this tournament and you will be able to see that on Thursday."