WC 2022: The amazing story of Germany’s Niclas Fullkrug

Journeyman striker Niclas Fullkrug became Germany’s unlikely savior on Sunday – and as his entertaining Wikipedia page suggests, his rise to the global stage has been eventful.

Fullkrug’s long history includes a fondness for the Rocky theme tune, an explanation for his nickname “Gap,” and an alarming story from his youth.

The forward was brought on late on against Spain and rescued a point for Germany, for whom elimination from the group stage at a second consecutive World Cup was starting to look like a real prospect.

Fullkrug’s route to Germany’s World Cup hero is long and improbable. Just 12 months ago he was playing in Germany’s second division, barely playing for the national team.

But he scored 19 goals in the 2021-22 season to help Werder Bremen secure promotion and already has 10 goals in the top flight this season.

That brought him to the attention of coach Hansi Flick and, at the age of 29, he became the oldest outfielder at 20 to make his Germany debut when he featured against Oman in their only pre-World Cup warm-up game.

Bayern Munich striker Thomas Muller, the player he replaced on Sunday, said afterwards: “It was outstanding the way Fullkrug nailed it. It’s a great story.”

Perhaps as incredible as any of this, however, is Fullkrug’s Wikipedia page.

The “Personal Life” section reads:

“Fullkrug’s nickname is ‘Lucke’ (German for ‘gap’) because of his front teeth. He has a wife named Lisa. He listens to Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ for motivation.”

“After an accident at Werder Bremen’s training ground, he once ended up in hospital with his teammate’s tooth wedged in his forehead.”

And it all seems to be true.

Full jug once toldexternal link the Hannover 96 website that ‘Eye of The Tiger’ was “the most motivational song I’ve ever heard”.

Meanwhile, his nickname came via former teammate Marko Arnautovic when he played alongside the former West Ham United and Stoke City striker at Werder Bremen.

And while he was playing for the German club’s youth academy, an accidental head-on collision with a teammate ended with both having to go to hospital and the doctors having to remove a tooth from Fullkrug’s forehead.

according to Bundesliga websiteexternal link he said it was “very dangerous because of a threat of infection due to the bacteria”.

German daily Die Welt couldn’t resist riffing on his nickname, states that Fullkrugexternal link “perfectly filled the gap that existed up front in the German attack”.

How much he figures into Flick’s plans from now on remains to be seen, but Fullkrug and his backstory have provided a fun backdrop for Germany’s grueling start to the World Cup.

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