Mario Gomez says he is targeting a spot in the Germany squad at the 2018 World Cup after returning to Stuttgart, the club where he began his career.
Gomez has played 71 times for Germany, scoring 31 goals, and finished top scorer at the European Championship in 2012.
However, after struggling at Fiorentina — who he joined in 2013 — he did not make the cut for the 2014 World Cup.
Briefly returning to the national team for Euro 2016, Gomez has fallen behind the likes of Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Bayern’s Sandro Wagner for a place at the 2018 World Cup, but says he has not given up hope.
“For now, I only look at the next six months,” Gomez told StN. “It’s an incredibly important time. Both for VfB and me. I have a burning ambition to go to the World Cup.”
— VfB Stuttgart (@VfB) 4 January 2018
Gomez, 32, returned to Stuttgart from Wolfsburg in December — the club he left for Bayern Munich in 2009 — as the Bundesliga club brace for a possible relegation battle in the second half of the season, which gets underway on Jan. 13.
Having only picked up 17 points — two more than Werder Bremen and Hamburg in the bottom three — Stuttgart have put their hopes in Gomez to revive an attack which has only produced 13 goals so far this season.
“I know there will be a lot of pressure,” Gomez told Kicker. “But I have had it ever since I was 18.”
Gomez played his youth football at Stuttgart from the age of 16 and went on to win the Bundesliga in 2007 with the club — the year he also picked up the German Footballer of the Year award.
He scored a total of 63 goals in 121 Bundesliga outings for Stuttgart from 2004 to 2009, before adding a further 92 for Bayern and Wolfsburg in 160 games. He netted 16 goals last season.
“I only scored three goals in the first half of the season last year,” Gomez added.
“Also because there was chaos at Wolfsburg. Yet, after a good winter training camp, I returned. If setbacks like missing sitters had thrown me off course in my career, I would have ended my career at 19, and never had a shot on goal again.”
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.