In the evening, the DFB-Elf will play against Belgium. Both teams are looking for a new start after the disaster World Cup. In the “Red Devils” new coach Domenico Tedesco also relies on attacker Dodi Lukebakio. In the European Championship qualifier, he shines against Sweden – although Hertha BSC has not done much in the Bundesliga lately.
“He put his trust in me and told me to go out and have fun.” This quote from Dodi Lukebakio about Domenico Tedesco leads to the flippant question: what do you tell him about Hertha BSC? When Belgium’s new national coach tells the attacking man to “have fun”, Lukebakio sets up the opening two goals in Romelu Lukaku’s 3-0 win against Sweden. So it can be that easy?
That will be shown in the game against Germany on Tuesday. In Cologne there is a duel between two teams that failed in the World Cup preliminary round (8.45 p.m. / RTL and in the ntv.de live ticker). Both are better than the hard World Cup stats would suggest. Nevertheless, Belgium in fourth place in the FIFA world rankings is far ahead of the DFB team, which only occupies 14th place.
Those responsible at Hertha BSC will be watching with interest and will still be happy about the first game of the European Championship qualifier. Your attacker played well and was voted player of the game by the fans. He also prevailed against Lukaku, who also made an outstanding game with his hat-trick (35th/49th/82nd).
Tedesco praises the player of the game
A nickname was quickly found for the duo: “Lu-Lu” delighted Belgium. Lukebakio always won his duels, was the one on the right who played the game offensively. The first goal came after his cross from the right side, with the second goal Lukebakio provided some preparatory work worth seeing: After a corner by captain Kevin De Bruyne, he ran down the right towards the penalty area, gave Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg no chance in the sprint duel and passed on in front of the gate. Lukaku just had to push in there.
“I wanted a player who is strong in one-on-ones. Lukebakio is fast, dynamic, sure of the ball and strong on the outside, works for the team. He pressed well,” Tedesco was full of praise for the 25-year-old. It should be a booster for the attacker’s self-confidence.
In the end, there was no reason for the Berliners to do so. The Belgian was not the first choice for coach Sandro Schwarz. Unlike the national team, where Tedesco was happy with him, Hertha has repeatedly criticized the 25-year-old. At times he seems phlegmatic on the pitch, not involved in the game – that has been the case since he started at the club in 2019. In autumn 2020, ex-coach Bruno Labbadia articulated his frustration in training: “Dodi, that’s not enough! And that won’t be enough in the game either. If you just dabble a little bit, that’s not enough.” His attitude is one reason why he was loaned out to VfL Wolfsburg last season. He couldn’t really assert himself either in Berlin or in Lower Saxony.
Lost the starting eleven at Hertha
“It’s a game between a long and a short leash. But this short leash sometimes has to be extremely short. We found the feeling for each other how to deal with each other. He knows what he gets from me. And I know what I get from him. And I have to say: He gives a lot back,” Schwarz said to the “Berliner Kurier” in November 2022. But in the last games Lukebakio had to give way.
Because he became the victim of a system change – and because he was no longer convincing. His attractive form from the first half of the season was dampened during the winter break. The disappointment should play a big role. Until November he had hopes of a World Cup nomination. But then Martinez did not call him for Qatar, the frustration was great. Apparently the form suffered, and Black also changed the game system, since the beginning of February he has been playing with a back four instead of a back four. Since then, Marco Richter, who is also actively involved in defensive work, has been given preference on the outside. Instead, Lukebakio is used in a double lead in the storm – but not in the starting eleven.
Will Lukebakio make his seventh international match?
Since then he has only scored three times, most recently scoring the consolation goal in the 4-1 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen. With ten goals and two assists, he is Hertha’s top scorer and scorer, but that’s not enough in the relegation battle at the moment. Hertha is on the relegation place, level on points with 17th, Schalke, and just one point ahead of VfB Stuttgart. On the upcoming Bundesliga matchday on Saturday, Hertha will be in Freiburg – certainly not a game for a guarantee of points.
Before that, there’s another chance for Lukebakio to shine. After Tedesco’s praise, it is quite possible that Lukebakio, unlike Hertha, will be in the starting line-up again against the DFB-Elf. He would play direct duels against DFB left-back David Raum, presumably a much more difficult task than against Sweden’s Ludwig Augustinsson, who is currently on loan from Werder Bremen to RCD Mallorca. It would be just the third start for Lukebakio in the Belgian team – he has only played six games. The 25-year-old is one of the new players Tedesco is testing in the team.
Tedesco assembles “his” team
Because the coach is just getting to know the Belgians. The game against Sweden was his first as national coach. He had taken office as the successor to Roberto Martinez, who had to go after the preliminary round at the World Cup in Qatar. Leading players like Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld are also no longer there, Tedesco has to rebuild. “We are already in a state of upheaval, some very deserving players are no longer there, but that also makes the task very exciting, I’m confident,” he tells the sports information service. A dream job for the former Bundesliga coach, as he told the German Press Agency with an amusing anecdote: In December he was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room when he read about Martinez’s resignation. “I sent a screenshot directly to a friend and wrote: ‘Whoa, that would be a cool job. Good team, good players.'” But he didn’t advertise it. “I didn’t think at the moment that it would ultimately happen like that.”
The fact that his job will probably mean that he can experience his personal home EM at the European Championships in Germany is a positive by-catch for the former Leipzig and Schalke player. “It’s not like I said: There’s a European Championship coming up in Germany, so I have to make sure that I become a national coach somewhere,” he continues: “Not at all. It’s a nice story, but until then there’s still a long way to go.” One that he denies together with Lukebakio.
It is quite likely that the attacker will no longer wear the Hertha BSC jersey at the 2024 European Championships, which will also be played in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. There are always rumors about its sale. The club is said to have rejected offers from FC Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and even top club Paris St. Germain in winter. A loan to Olympique Lyon should also have been discussed. But then Black still relied on Lukebakio.
That has changed and the club’s financial situation hasn’t improved. Many of the ensemble are (too) highly paid. Lukebakio’s contract runs until 2024, in the summer he would still bring money. He came in 2019 for 20 million euros and was given a well-endowed contract. The club has to save, according to “Kicker” Lukebakio is the number 1 candidate for sale. So it’s quite possible that he will play for Belgium for a long time, but only a few more games for Hertha BSC. Maybe Black should give him a go for the “Having Fun”.