For Germany, Das Reboot II in the offing
Germany have not kept a clean sheet in any game in the Euros or the World Cup since 2016 and they need to change their training methods
This wasn’t like the disgrace of 2004 but calls for rebuilding have begun started by none other than Hansi Flick. “For the future of German football, we need to do different things in training,” the head coach said after Germany exited the World Cup in the group stage for the second time in a row.
Flick, who said this was not the time to speak about his future, agreed that the four-time world champions have been far from “world class”. Look at Spain, he said, they have built a team of young players. “We need to focus on the next generation, one that will serve the nation for the next 10 years.”
When Germany were eliminated by two dull draws and a defeat to an understrength Czech Republic in the European championships in Portugal, it had led to a ground-up rebuilding of the football set-up. Bundesliga clubs were incentivised to set up academies and there was an emphasis on looking beyond hard-running players and battering rams of strikers to a more sophisticated way of playing.
It created a cycle that helped Germany make the semi-final of the World Cup they hosted and every other competition thereafter culminating in them being world champions in 2014. Germany had moved away from playing strikers of the Juergen Klinsmann and OIiver Bierhoff era, to mould to the False Nine of Mesut Oezil. But they also had a strong defence; in 2014 they played four centre-backs in one game and got Philipp Lahm to play in his original position in defence after starting the competition by using his versatility in midfield.
The backline has been a worry for some time now. Germany have not kept a clean sheet in any game in the Euros or the World Cup since 2016. “Opponents don’t have to do much to score against us,” said Joshua Kimmich in Al Bayt Stadium’s mixed zone.
“We need new goalkeepers, new wingbacks. We have always had them but now we need to start looking,” said Flick after the 4-2 win against Costa Rica.
For a team that has a wealth of talent in the midfield, Germany’s resources at the back is spare. Thomas Mueller made that point, saying Germany lack “specialists” in all positions. David Raum, who was good going forward against Costa Rica, is a wide player used as wing back here. Kimmich plays in midfield at Bayern Munich – he is used as right-back usually when Benjamin Pavard or Noussair Mazraoui are injured - but was the wing back on Thursday. “Defence,” said Flick with a pause “is one the things that didn’t go to plan here.”
The offence too. “You have got to take your chances. I am convinced we would have been in a different position had we won against Spain,” said Flick. Germany could have but the story of being unable to take their chances has been a running theme through this campaign. One that began with Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda making eight saves.
His career revived by Flick at Bayern Munich, Mueller is no longer the “interpreter of space” who broke out in the 2010 finals and starred in the World Cup four years later. Thursday was likely to be Mueller’s last international. “We missed too many chances, said Kimmich.
Problems in front and problems at the back –it was the defence’s inability to take care of a long ball that led to Costa Rica’s first goal from Yeltsin Tejeda - couldn’t be masked by the quality of their midfield. One where Jamal Musiala emerged as a positive.
“But he was trained in England not Germany,” said Flick pointing to graver problems having already made the point about Spain. “It is unfortunate that a player of Musiala’s abilities won’t be at the World Cup. His dribbles, winning one-versus-one situations was outstanding. In the next few years, a team can be built around him.”
Musiala completed 12 dribbles, the most by a teenager in World Cup history since 1966 when detailed statistics began being kept, according to numbers provider OptaJoe. Till Thursday, he had attempted 34 dribbles in three games, the most in this edition, OptaJoe said on Twitter.
The end was early because of what happened in the beginning. “Germany were not in control after 65-70 minutes against Japan,” said Flick. “In my opinion, if you change Ilkay Guendogan for Leon Goretzka, two players from top clubs, there should not be any difference in quality,” said Flick early on Friday here. The substitution happened in the 67th minute; Japan’s goals came in the 75th and 83rd minutes.
A historic all-woman team running the game oversaw Germany’s last game in Doha. The inquest will begin now.