Sochi: Lars Stindl is undoubtedly the winner in regards to Joachim Loew's decision to leave Germany's World Cup winning stars at home and blood fringe players at the Confederations Cup.
After the first two rounds of matches, Borussia Moenchengladbach's captain is the tournament's unlikely top-scorer in Russia.
Stindl netted in both Monday's 3-2 opening win over Australia and Thursday's 1-1 draw with Chile — a good return from his four shots on goal from both Group B games.
"No, I haven't taken a glance at it," he modestly admitted when asked if he had looked at the list of top-scorers — with his name ahead of goal kings Cristiano Ronaldo and Javier Hernandez.
Had Germany boss Loew decided to bring his full strength team to Russia, it is unlikely Stindl would be here.
In the last few years, the 28-year-old was always overlooked by Loew despite eye-catching performances for Hanover 96, then Gladbach, whom he joined in 2015.
However, Stindl's chance came when Loew announced he was not taking his established stars to the Confed Cup.
Stindl pushed his way into Loew's plans with a series of strong performances, netting 18 goals for Gladbach, including two against Celtic in the Champions League last season.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Stindl has seized his chance to impress at an international tournament with both hands.
His rise is exactly what Loew wanted to see in Russia: new names stepping up so established stars, like Toni Kroos or Mesut Ozil, must fight for places at next year's World Cup.
Against Chile on Thursday, Stindl put in a strong performance in Kazan.
He worked tirelessly to offer a platform on attack and calmed German nerves when Alexis Sanchez gave Chile an early lead.
With half-time approaching, he timed his run into the area so when Jonas Hector put in a low, hard cross it was Stindl's out-stretched boot which claimed a classic centre forward's goal to equalise.
"He is a very refined player with incredible game intelligence and good orientation in space," said Germany boss Loew.
"He has absolutely convinced us of his qualities.
"He is quiet and self-assured, shows no signs of nervousness, is a very good personality and a very good player," added Loew.
Normally a box-to-box midfielder, Stindl has been a revelation in his new role up front for the Germans.
"I put him right up front, because he's great at defending the ball and passing it on and he often broke through the defensive lines," explained Loew.
Unlike Germany's motor-mouth star Thomas Mueller, another big name missing in Russia, Stindl is not a talker.
"It worked quite well," was Stindl's modest appraisal after his goal against Chile dug the Germans out of a sizeable hole.
Likewise, he was far from gushing after scoring the opener against Australia in Monday's 3-2 win in Sochi.
"I cannot complain at the moment and I am happy that I can help the squad," said Stindl, who is locked under contract at Gladbach until 2021.
His humble approach is understandable given that Stindl only made his debut in the 1-1 friendly draw with Denmark, just over a fortnight ago.
His flicked pass against the Danes led to Joshua Kimmich's bicycle kick to score Germany's goal and seal the draw.
"Everything that has happened, after the season just gone, is a bonus for me. I was very happy just to have been called up," Stindl said.
Germany play Cameroon in Sochi on Sunday, vying to knock Chile, who play Australia in Moscow, off top spot in Group B and book their place in the semi-finals.
If he keeps hitting the net, Stindl could land the trophy as the Confed Cups top-scorer, then finding himself heading back to Russia next year to defend the World Cup.
Published Date: Jun 24, 2017 15:32 PM | Updated Date: Jun 24, 2017 15:32 PM