by Oliver Trust
BERLIN, March 27 (Xinhua) -- It might have been one of these rare moments of deep satisfaction in the footballing life of Marc-Andre ter Stegen when he slipped into the German shirt for the first games against Peru and Belgium in 2023.
Wearing the number one jersey on his back seemed more than just an outer sign of being Germany's leading goalie.
Due to the serious leg injury of Manuel Neuer, it is more than a bold guess that Ter Stegen might keep the current status as the 2014 world champions' first keeper.
It has been common sense that he is at the same level as Neuer. But the Barcelona keeper has turned 30 when he receives the reward of figure 1 shining on his shirt.
After joining Barcelona in 2014, and for some years playing together with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, he might have gained the missing international experience.
Ter Stegen is one of the world's best, just like Messi predicted back in their joint year in Barca.
Stunning series with him keeping his goal clean caused attention around the globe, and the German has become one of the Catalans' cornerstones.
On the road to the UEFA Euro 2024 to be hosted in Germany, cards have been reshuffled.
At first, it might be doubtful if Neuer can return at the age of 37 and reach the same level after being sidelined over many months.
Meanwhile, Ter Stegen is a serious competitor challenging the man who has been Germany's first keeper for over a decade.
"I have always expressed my goals openly. The situation is like it is due to an injury of Manuel. I try to use my chance," the Barca keeper said.
Ter Stegen said he is intending to be the German goalkeeper when the country hosts the 2024 tournament.
He might have remembered his first attempt to express what he is aiming for in 2019. But Neuer returned from a previous injury, enjoying the support of the former national coach Joachim Loew.
It took Ter Stegen a challenging amount of patience to wait.
The friendly against Belgium this Tuesday will be his 32nd international and the second with his new number after he wore No. 22 for years.
Germany's national coach Hansi Flick announced an open competition on the way to the 2024 tournament, and the 2015 UEFA Champions League winner might feel chances haven't been better to outpace Neuer.
Ter Stegen has gained what can be called internal balance to enter that race on a new level. Flick and Neuer might be aware this time things seem tighter and Ter Stegen is breathing down his rival's back.
For the coming months, it seems to be on him to repeat his past years' success to consolidate his position. He seems ready to join the race in a calm but determined way.
"I have been asked by the coaches and the association if I want to wear the number one. I just said, yes, OK."