LYON: Both the German press and Germany’s Euro 2016 squad poured praise on ‘bloodied-fighter and come-back king’ Bastian Schweinsteiger on Monday following his goalscoring heroics off the bench against Ukraine.
Despite having previous played just 245 minutes of football in 2016 due to a torn knee ligament in March, Germany’s captain dismissed any doubts about his fitness with an electric goal.
After Shkodran Mustafi’s header gave Germany an early lead, Schweinsteiger scored his first international goal for nearly five years to seal a 2-0 win in their Group C opener on Sunday.
“This goal delights the whole of Germany!”, wrote German daily Bild as Joachim ‘Jogi’ Loew’s world champions got off to a winning start.
“Everyone enjoys his success and is pleased for him, especially Jogi’s boys!”
Schweinsteiger scored in the 92nd minute with just his third touch of the ball having been on the pitch for just two minutes.
The 31-year-old’s brief cameo made German football history as his 14th appearance at European championships finals overtook Philipp Lahm’s previous record.
The Manchester United star later admitted he was out of breath from his long sprint towards the German bench to celebrate the goal with his team-mates.
“It’s unbelievable, that something like that happened, you can only dream about it,” he told reporters.
“I only had around 300 playing minutes under my belt this year, and then that happens…
“I still haven’t got the strength for 90 or 120 minutes. I’m okay for a half, but I feel really good.”
German fans are particularly delighted to have their skipper back after Schweinsteiger was left bloodied by a battling display in the 2014 World Cup final to help win the Brazil 2014 title.
“Bloodied fighter and comeback king! Why we’re all behind ‘Schweini’ now,” screamed the Bild headline.
There was also plenty of praise from his teammates.
“It’s super. Crazy. What a story! I’m delighted for him,” said forward Thomas Mueller.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he hopes Schweinsteiger can make a full return to the white shirt soon.
“I hope that he can play from the start as soon as possible and show what a class player he is,” said Germany’s stand-in captain.
“Everyone knows his qualities, he brings order to our game.”
Loew was also delighted for his captain: “I think the goal gives Bastian personally, and all of us, a boost”.
This is not the first time Schweinsteiger has excelled in the comeback role at a major tournament.
He only made his first appearance four years ago in Brazil off the bench late in Germany’s second group game, a 2-2 draw with Ghana, after an ankle injury hampered his World Cup preparations.
It remains to be seen whether the Man Utd star will start Germany’s next crunch game against neighbours Poland at the Stade de France on Thursday.
But Germany’s midfield general is back.
“Too old! Too heavy! Too slow! You’ve exceeded yourself!,” wrote his older brother Tobias Schweinsteiger, a former pro footballer and now Under-17 coach at Bayern Munich, on Twitter.
“Never write B. Schweinsteiger off. Congratulations, brother.”