By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Matriciani earns call-up to Germany U21s

Germany U21 head-coach Antonio di Salvo has revealed his latest selection for the country's highest youth level. 

A player causing quite the stir in German footballing circles is the one newcomer in the latest DFB Juniors selection. 
Germany U21 head-coach Antonio di Salvo's DFB Juniors are currently preparing for a pair of friendlies (Japan on March 24th and Romania on March 28th) before they get set to defend their European crown in this coming summer's U21 European Championship. German U21 Bundestrainer Antonio di Salvo had to move a few things around after Bundestrainer Hansi Flick called up three of his regulars, Stuttgart right-back Josha Vagnoman, Wolfsburg midfielder Felix Nmecha and Brentford winger Kevin Schade.

"We've been in constant contact with the players that Hansi has now nominated for the national team over the past few days," di Salvo noted in a statement accompanying his own selection, "It's a great honor for the boys to arrive at the highest possible level. There they are challenged and can gain important experience, which they then bring to the EM."

Di Salvo also commented on the recent allegiance switch of former Leipzig man Lazar Samardzic. The choice of the 21-year-old to represent Serbia - like Malik Tillman's decision to opt for the USA and Josip Stanisic's choice of Croatia - constitute significant losses for the German youth program over the last few years.

"We regret Lazar's decision and it surprised us because, until recently, he had clearly committed himself to the DFB and the U21s," di Salvo also noted, "We encouraged him as a younger player and placed a lot of trust in him and game practice that Lazar has repaid with performance."

Despite the three promotions and one switch, di Salvo was mostly able to rely on returners to fill his roster. Five players not present on the November roster are back on the team after breaks. Ansgar Knauff and Fride Alidou (both Eintracht Frankfurt) return alongside Jamie Leweling (1. FC Union Berlin), and Patrick Osterhage (VfL Bochum).

A fairly big story concerns the return of Hertha striker Jessic Ngankam. The 22-year-old had been called up before, but has yet to make his debut for the U21s following his unfortunate ACL/Meniscus injury. An even bigger story - least insofar as German football diehards are concerned - is the first-time call up of Schalke surprise star Henning Matriciani.

The 23-year-old Matriciani has suddenly popped up on the German footballing radar with a series of strong performances for the suddenly reinvigorated FC Schalke 04. As a makeshift left-back, Matriciani was instrumental for his club in the recent draw with fierce regional rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Matriciani worked his way up through his hometown club of FC Lippstadt in the German fourth and fifth divisions before joining the Knappenschmiede on a free in the summer of 2020. To date, he's still only made 26 senior appearances for Schalke over the last three years. His performances in recent weeks have led to him being one of the biggest talking points in German footballing circles.

Di Salvo's full squad:

Goalkeepers:
Nico Mantl, AaB Fodbold
Christian Früchtl, Austria Wien
Noah Atubolu, SC Freiburg

Defenders:
Kilian Fischer, VfL Wolfsburg
Noahb Katterbach, Hamburger SV
Malick Thiaw, AC Milan
Maximilian Bauer, FC Augsburg
Henning Matriciani, FC Schalke 04
Yann Aurel Bisseck, AGF Aarhus
Jordan Beyer, Burnley
Luca Netz, Borussia Mönchengladbach

Midfielders/Forwards:
Tom Krauß, FC Schalke 04
Ansgar Knauff, Eintracht Frankfurt
Yannik Keitel, SC Freiburg
Jessic Ngankam, Hertha BSC
Angelo Stiller, TSG 1889 Hoffenheim
Maurice Malone, Wolfsberger AC
Patrick Osterhage, VfL Bochum
Eric Martel, 1. FC Köln
Noah Weißhaupt, SC Freiburg
Denis Huseinbasic, 1. FC Köln
Jamie Leweling, 1. FC Union Berlin
Faride Alidou, Eintracht Frankfurt

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