(Reuters) - German forward Nils Petersen has built a reputation as a supersub, holding the record for most Bundesliga goals off the bench, and he hopes he can score his way to the World Cup.
With 20 Bundesliga goals as a substitute, the 29-year-old holds the all-time league record but his unexpected nomination in Germany’s preliminary World Cup squad comes on the back of a stellar season for the Freiburg captain.
“I think stats don’t lie and I have always operated well as a joker but it was really good this season to distance myself a bit from that image,” uncapped Petersen, a former youth international who also won silver at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, told reporters on Friday.
This season Petersen was anything but a substitute at Freiburg, scoring 15 goals in the league, almost half of the entire team, to help them stay up and prompt Germany coach Joachim Loew to call him up.
“Obviously my reputation did help a bit to bring me here and I am always ready to grab whatever I can get when I am brought on,” he said, speaking at the team’s training camp in northern Italy.
The tall forward was once considered a major talent, big enough for Bayern Munich to sign him in 2011.
But he struggled to break through in their talent-congested squad, moving on to Werder Bremen before settling at Bundesliga minnows Freiburg in 2015.
“I never regretted going to Bayern,” he said. “Many people have talked about how difficult it is to resist when you get a call from Bayern and when they (Germany) won the World Cup I could say they were all my team mates (from my Bayern time).”
Petersen knows that Loew will need to cut four of the 27 players he invited to the training camp before submitting his final squad for the tournament in Russia by June 4.
The forward has his work cut out, with experienced Mario Gomez and talented Timo Werner ahead of him in the pecking order for Germany’s attack.
“Mario has a strong mentality and presence, a lot of experience. I witnessed this as his backup at Bayern. He can play so well in the box,” Petersen said.
“Timo is fast, you can always send him down the pitch. Maybe I can be that surprise moment that no one expects.”
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge