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Who is Niclas Fullkrug? Germany star's incredible rise from unheralded second tier star to World Cup hero

02:19 GMT+4 28/11/2022
Niclas Fullkrug World Cup
Niclas Fullkrug came off the bench to rescue a vital point for Germany against Spain at World Cup 2022 on Sunday.

Germany's World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread after Hansi Flick's side went 1-0 down to Spain on Sunday, but an unlikely hero emerged off the bench in the shape of Werder Bremen's 29-year-old forward Niclas Fullkrug.

The attacker replaced Thomas Muller with just 20 minutes of normal time remaining and needed little over 10 minutes to fire Germany back on level terms with a goal that breathed fresh life into Die Mannschaft's hopes of progressing to the last 16 in Qatar.

Fullkrug burst through on goal and, with only Spain stopper Unai Simon to beat, smashed an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net to make it 1-1 and rescue a vital point for Hansi Flick's side ahead of their final group match against Costa Rica.

The goal caps a remarkable rise for Fullkrug, who had not played a single minute of senior international football a year ago.

So, who is he and how did he make it to World Cup 2022? GOAL has all the details.

Who is Niclas Fullkrug?

Date of birth: February 9, 1993
Place of birth:Hanover, Germany
Clubs:Werder Bremen, Greuther Fürth, FC Nurnberg, Hannover 96

Fullkrug is a no-nonsense striker who came through the youth system at Werder Bremen and is now back at the club where he began his career after spells with Greuther Fürth, FC Nurnberg, and Hannover 96.

He also represented Germany at U18, U19 and U20 levels, but was made to wait for his chance in the senior squad.

Time in the German second division with Nuremberg and Greuther Fürth saw Fullkrug score 24 times in 85 games before he joined Hannover 96 in 2016. Fullkrug went on to score 14 times for Hannover in the German top flight in 2017-18 but a knee injury then disrupted his progress.

The striker returned to Werder Bremen in 2019 and has gone on to catch Flick's eye with his goalscoring exploits for the River Islanders. Fullkrug was a big reason why Bremen were promoted last season and secured an immediate return to the Bundesliga.

How many goals has Fullkrug scored?

Bremen's No. 11 bagged an impressive 19 goals and contributed eight assists last season and has continued his hot streak in the current campaign, which resulted in an international call-up. Fullkrug is the Bundesliga's top-scoring German and has netted 10 times in just 14 outings this season.

His goals saw him earn the Bundesliga's Player of the Month award for both September and October and undoubtedly helped him book his place in the Germany squad for the competition in Qatar.

Fullkrug made his Germany debut earlier this month in a friendly against Oman, becoming the oldest outfield player to make his debut for Die Mannschaft at the age of 29 years and 280 days. Yet Fullkrug quickly showed what he's all about by scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win.

The Werder Bremen striker then made his World Cup debut against Japan in Germany's opening 2-1 defeat and followed that up by scoring his first goal in the competition against Spain. Fullkrug's goal also means he's the first German substitute to score a World Cup goal since Mario Gotze in the 2014 final against Argentina.

What has been said about Fullkrug?

Fullkrug has been previously compared to former Germany forwards Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, and is nicknamed 'Lücke' (the German word for gap) due to the gap between his teeth.

Germany coach Hansi Flick has been happy to explain why he called up Fullkrug into his squad for the tournament in Qatar. Flick is without duo Timo Werner and Lukas Nmecha due to injury and made it clear he wanted in-form strikers with him in Qatar.

"Niclas has the momentum on his side as well, as well as the way he offers his services to the team," he told reporters. "That's clear when you see his goals, and that's also the feedback I got from [Werder Bremen coach] Ole Werner."

Werder Bremen team-mate Niklas Stark also backed Fullkrug for the call-up. He said: "Fülle can be important for the national team, just like he is for us. There are outstanding technical players [ahead of him], but if you want to play with a classic nine, I don't think there's anyone better."

Fullkrug will be hoping for more World Cup chances after keeping Germany in the competition. Flick's side must still beat Costa Rica in their final group game, and hope Japan do not shock Spain, if they are to progress, which means there's still time for more heroics from Germany's No.9.