Bastian Schweinsteiger says he feels “deep gratitude” for the 120 times he pulled on a Germany shirt as he prepares to represent his country for the 121st and last time in a friendly with Finland tonight.
The 32-year-old will bring an end to his international playing career after participating in seven major tournaments and winning the 2014 World Cup with Germany.
He would have been the most-capped Germany international of all time had injury not prevented him from appearing in what could have been 175 games for his country since he made his debut back in 2004, but he says he nevertheless looks back on an outstanding international career.
“I’m still very, very happy with the number of games I played for Germany,” he said at a press conference. “I’m pleased to have been given the opportunity to play a testimonial.
“When the coach told me, I was delighted and of course emotional about it. I had great years here and feel deep gratitude for the games I was allowed to play for Germany.
“There has been such camaraderie, a family feeling at the DFB and then the 2014 World Cup, and then to be captain.
“As a little kid, you dream of such things so I’m pleased that I achieved it. I’m really happy and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Schweinsteiger announced his decision to retire from international football several weeks after Germany’s elimination from Euro 2016.
He said he had never considered retiring before then, unlike his former Bayern Munich team-mate Philipp Lahm who left him the captain’s armband when he called it a day after the 2014 World Cup.
“That thought never crossed my mind,” he said. “I always wanted to play at Euro 2016 and that was my aim, and then during my holidays I asked myself if I could keep the same passion of the 2014 World Cup at another World Cup.
“I was honest with myself and answered ‘no’. You need to be a bit consequential and I decided this way.”
He nevertheless said it was a difficult decision to take since football remains a huge part of his life.
“Maybe the day after the Champions League final defeat (with Bayern to Chelsea in 2012) I wanted nothing to do with football, but every other day I love playing football and I never had a day where I wanted to stop,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to this last game now. I’m sure there will be a great atmosphere.”
Germany’s clash with Finland in Moenchengladbach tonight is a warm-up for their opening World Cup qualifier against Norway in Oslo at the weekend.
Schweinsteiger will not feature in that game, nor will a host of other players Germany coach Joachim Loew is planning to take a look at today, including Max Meyer, Julian Brandt and Niklas Sule.
That trio, who won a silver medal for Germany at the Olympics, will be released to go back to their clubs tomorrow since they have not yet had a break since the Brazil Games.
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