Team Germany HC Jordan Neuman looking for ‘diamonds in the rough’ on his quest for a European Championship

The champagne is barely dry on the European Championship trophy following Team Italy’s feat of historic dominance last weekend, but preparations are already well underway for the 2023 version of the event.

With qualifications are on the horizon, teams across Europe are getting ready, including a familiar contender absent from the last two events. 2022 will mark the return of Team Germany to the European tournament for the first time since 2017 and there is no doubt that other nations will be taking notice. Before slipping off the international stage due to political disagreements, the Germans were back-to-back European champions and had won three of the last five, appearing in every final over that span.

Home to Europe’s best league, it was hard to imagine European competition without the Germanic juggernaut, but France and now Italy have claimed the last two titles without having to contend with the continental power. A pair of tryouts last week, one in Braunschweig and one in Schwäbisch Hall, mark the end of that respite.

Roughly 230 players from 54 different teams took part in the two centralized events. making their case for national team inclusion under the watchful eyes of head coach Jordan Neuman and his staff. That is a much larger number of candidates than have typically been in the running for Team Germany, but after their extended absence, Neuman wasn’t about to leave any stone unturned.

“My vision for it was I wanted to open the national team back up to the entire country. It wasn’t going to be something where we felt like we had a hundred guys picked out that we could send invites to and we would keep it kind of tight,” the two-time German Bowl winning coach of the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns explained. “I wanted to involve the coaches, get in contact with a lot of them, see who they think they wanted to send and who could possibly be national team players.”

In his first stint at the helm of the national program, Neuman got that buy in from fellow coaches across Germany in record numbers. Players flocked from across the GFL, but there were candidates present from every team in the upstart ELF as well, making the national team a rare neutral ground for the rival organizations. Those two top leagues will provide much of the bulk of Team Germany, including many recognizable names that Neuman admits could be considered shoe-ins before the try-out process began, but it is the players from elsewhere that are most intriguing to the coaching staff.

“I’ll stay away from naming individuals because there is probably 20 or 25 guys and I don’t want to single anyone out at this moment, but what I will say is that they’re still really good football players playing even in the lower leagues here in Germany,” Neuman said of the camps’ biggest surprises.

“I think that we saw some guys who I felt like could play that are from a lower league or guys who have come from other countries who’ve looked really good. That’s one of the main things that stood out to me, just that there’s a lot of German talent all over the place and if we end up with one or two diamonds in the rough that we find from lower leagues that nobody expected, I think that would be a success story.”

It is unlikely to make his job any easier however. Neuman expects to cut the number of participants down by half ahead of their next tryout, tentatively scheduled for April, and there will be a lot of film to get through in the meantime. There will be few easy choices, including in areas that have rarely been up for grabs in the past.

Team Germany has always excelled along the offensive and defensive lines, a trend that will continue, but the increased emphasis on the passing game across Europe in recent years has sparked a new strength as well.

“After the camps, I was really impressed with how many receivers we have now compared to 2014, when we won the European championship. I think it was relatively clear back then who our top eight wide receivers were going to be, because I don’t think we had a ton of them,” Neuman pointed out. “Obviously, the ones that we had I thought were very good, but this time that kind of stuck out to me. If I was pinpointing one position group, just how many talented receivers there are with very good skill and athleticism across Germany right now.”

A wave of young pass catchers should change the face of the German offensive attack, but Neuman will also need to decide who will be throwing them the ball. There is no long time starter like Marco Ehrenfried for this group to hang their hat on and much could change over the next few months.

“I couldn’t tell you right now who is the guy. We’ve got a couple of young guys who are really talented, but they haven’t played a lot,” Neuman admitted. “For the German national team, you certainly hope one of these German kids is going to get the opportunity to be the starting quarterback for his team.”

For whoever gets that shot, pulling on the jersey of Team Germany will be the honor of a lifetime. Every player who attended last week’s tryouts understands the unique chance they have in front of them, but after the long gap between opportunities for it, Neuman felt the need to emphasize that anyway.

“That was one of my main messages to both the Braunschweig and the Schwabisch Hall camps, how special it is to play for this team,” Neuman said.

“There’s a lot of different teams represented and I told them I look around and there’s guys in this group who have been able to win a championship in whatever league and all that kind of stuff. Those are really special and those are great things, but winning the European Championship, that’s a really special thing to win. I tried to get the point across that this team matters, that this team’s important.”

For each of the 230 players vying for a spot, a chance to return the European title to Germany is at the front of their minds. To do so, they’ll no doubt have to go through an Italian program that has blossomed in their absence and Neuman will have to find the horses to do it, though he is taking nothing for granted.

“There is no question that Italy is a legit top notch, top level national team. There should be zero countries underestimating the amount of firepower and level that these guys can play at,” he drove home. “I’m certainly aware of it and if we ever come up against them here in the future, there’s no question it’s going to be a tough test.”

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.