HAMBURG, Germany Germany midfielder Ilkay Guendogan is looking forward to making his international comeback after missing almost a year due to a string of injuries, but he is not yet thinking about the 2018 World Cup.
World champions Germany take on the Czech Republic on Oct. 8 and host Northern Ireland three days later in World Cup qualifiers, with Guendogan hoping to win his first cap since November 2015.
The talented 25-year-old, who signed for Manchester City in the close season and has shed almost four kilos as he returned to fitness, missed the 2014 World Cup as well as Euro 2016 through injury.
"It is great to be here again. I did not realise it was actually such a long time since my last game. But I know the feeling of a comeback well from the past few years," he told reporters on Thursday.
"I just want to enjoy the moment and if I am needed I will be there. I will give it all I can and I cannot ask for more at the moment."
Guendogan is seen as the natural successor to former captain and playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has retired from internationals.
Injuries, however, have frequently set him back.
"It would be great if my career would be similar to that of Bastian Schweinsteiger. We all know what he has done for German football," Guendogan said.
"It is an honour (to be named as his successor) but it is not an issue for me. I play my game which is not necessarily exactly like his game. Everything else is not that important."
He said the 2018 World Cup was not yet on his radar and he was simply hoping to stay fit and keep playing at the top level.
"I have not been successful with tournaments. This is not on purpose that I get injured shortly before," he said.
"It was extremely bitter to miss the past two major tournaments. Maybe that is why I want to be healthier and I am not thinking about Russia. I am just happy to be fit again and reach 100 percent, to stay healthy and enjoy the moment."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)