Emre Can did not like to describe himself as a winner with a loser, although the Dortmund football worker was exactly that. “I care about the team. I tried to do what I might do best: be active and present in tackles and help the team,” said the midfielder.

When the national team lost 3-2 against Belgium on Tuesday evening in Cologne, roughly speaking, there were two games in one: a wild, unresisting game before Can was substituted on. And one after the defensive correction by Hansi Flick, who sent the 29-year-old onto the pitch after half an hour when the score was 2-0 and looked very bleak for the national coach’s overwhelmed and leaderless experimental selection.

With Can, everything came into the team that he had previously missed as a spectator on the substitutes’ bench. “We didn’t intervene, we didn’t resist. We were simply too passive, not present in the duels. Then it will be difficult against a country like Belgium,” was his razor-sharp analysis in front of the ARD camera. Can dive in. Can opposed it. Can straddled. Can gave commands. And the fighter and leader Can, with his physicality, his willpower and above all his fearlessness, gradually tore his team-mates along, even in front of a heavyweight striker like Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku.

“You have to say that Emre showed what defensive quality he has after coming on. He was, if you will, the aggressive leader we needed. He won a lot of duels and shook the team up,” praised Flick. “Emre is a player who always comes out on virtues, on the duel strength. We need that as a team to assert ourselves,” said defender Thilo Kehrer.

Can could not avoid defeat either. But if you cut out the first half hour, Germany even won 2-1 with him. “Then we made a good game, that’s the truth,” Can said of playing time with Can. The 39th international match was his best. And it has never been so valuable. Flick brought him back to the DFB team after almost two years after the World Cup disaster and in view of good performances at the club. And Can is determined to jump on the bandwagon for the home European Championship in 2024.

Dortmund’s coach Edin Terzic will also rely on the aggressive leader when BVB has to defend the lead in the top game against FC Bayern on Saturday (6.30 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker). Can even wants to expand it to four points if possible. He was already hot for the showdown with his former club in the catacombs of the Cologne Arena on Wednesday night.

“It will be extremely difficult in Munich in the Allianz Arena. Nevertheless: We also have qualities. We believe in ourselves. We go there to win. It will be difficult, but we will definitely try,” he announced.