World Cup 2022: the amazing story of the German Niclas Fullkrug

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

Fullkrug’s long history includes a love for Rocky’s theme music, an explanation of his “Gap” nickname, and an alarming story from his early life.

The striker was brought on late against Spain and saved a point for Germany, for whom exiting the group stages at a second successive World Cup was starting to look like a real prospect.

Fullkrug’s road to Germany’s World Cup hero is long and unlikely. Barely 12 months ago, he played in the German second division, so little in the running 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.

This caught him the attention of coach Hansi Flick and, at 29, he became the oldest outfield player in 20 years to make his debut for Germany when he played against Oman in their only preparation match before the World Cup.

Bayern Munich striker Thomas Muller, the player he replaced on Sunday, said afterwards: “It was exceptional how Fullkrug managed like that. It’s a great story.”

However, Fullkrug’s Wikipedia page is perhaps just as amazing as all that.

The “personal life” section reads as follows:

“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.

“Following an accident at Werder Bremen’s training ground, he once found himself hospitalized with his team-mate’s tooth stuck in his forehead.”

And everything seems real.

Fullkrug 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 from former team-mate Marko Arnautovic when he played alongside the former West Ham United and Stoke City striker at Werder Bremen.

And while playing for the German club’s youth academy, an accidental head collision with a team-mate ended in him having to go to hospital and doctors having to remove a tooth from his forehead by Fullkrug.

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

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

It remains to be seen how strongly he figures into Flick’s plans now, but Fullkrug and his backstory provided a fun backdrop to Germany’s laborious start to their World Cup.

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