From the ultimate tournament team to a football dwarf: Germany’s shocking transformation



The German team, with Thomas Müller second from the right, mourns after the elimination.Image AFP

As nestor, Thomas Müller gave the excited talent Jamal Musiala an encouraging tap on the head. A little further on, Leroy Sané was bent over with his hands on his knees, his head tucked between his shoulders. And a camera shot captured the blank look in the eyes of Kai Havertz, crouched on the field.

The images of desperation symbolized the disillusionment of the German football players. Despite the 4-2 victory over Costa Rica, Die Mannschaft was eliminated from the group stage of the World Cup for the second time in a row after Russia’s early 2018 exit. In between, it failed ingloriously in the eighth finals at the European Championship, as proof of the decline of the 2014 world champion.

The deception in Qatar means that German football has reached the bottom, boulevardkrant concluded Image, a year and a half before the European championship in their own country. “On December 1, 2022, we witnessed the end of a once great and proud footballing nation.” To add: ‘We used to frighten the football world. We were praised as a tournament team. Now Germany is just a football dwarf.’

In line with trend

In the Qatari coastal town of Al Khor, about fifty kilometers from the capital Doha, time was put back more than four years when Germany found its Waterloo in the Russian Kazan in the group stage, although both retreats told their own story. With national coach Hansi Flick succeeding Joachim Löw, Germany hoped to enter a new era. But the early shutdown was more in line with the trend of recent years.

From 2006, Löw held sway with the German team for fifteen years and experienced his peak in 2014 with the world title. Under his leadership, Die Mannschaft became the shining example of modern football, also for the Netherlands. Speed ​​and dynamics were linked to footballing ingenuity. But in his last period, Löw became a victim of his own success. He held on too long to players of age who had brought him success, was the criticism.

Germany was unlucky on Thursday that it was partly eliminated by a controversial goal (ball over the back line or not) by Japan against Spain in the other group match. But it couldn’t hide the problems Germany faced during the World Cup. Both on and off the field.

The 57-year-old Flick, who won two national titles, the Champions League and the World Cup for club teams at Bayern Munich in eighteen months, was praised in Bavaria for putting down the defensive organization. He had to watch in Qatar how his team shot mainly defensively. Germany conceded five goals in three games, including four against Japan and weak Costa Rica, as Flick continued to slide in his team. “He has not built up a strong axis in his eighteen months as national coach,” said Image.

No top striker

It overshadowed the surplus of offensive quality with, among others, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané and the super talent Jamal Musiala, although the lack of a top striker weighed heavily. Germany played good football at times. It was the country with the most shots on target in the group stage and should have scored the most goals based on the quality of the chances (expected goals): 10.5 instead of six.

In a broader perspective, it probably said something about the metamorphosis that Germany has undergone in recent years: more spectacular but less result-oriented. According to former international Bastian Schweinsteiger, other countries were more eager to win than Germany. “There were situations where I missed five percent concentration with the players,” he said as an analyst for the German television channel ARD. ‘You also have to be ready mentally.’

After the third early departure in four years, the criticism of the powerful German media not only focused on the players and coach, but also on the football association. In Germany, the disappointing results ran parallel to moral concerns about the controversial World Cup in Qatar, with the discussion about the OneLove captaincy being the most thorny issue. “Instead of solving the problem early, the union only allowed the problem to get worse. Until it got in the way of the sporting preparations and caused unrest in the team,” the magazine wrote De Kicker.

The team photo before the first group match against Japan, in which the players cover their mouths in protest against FIFA’s ban on wearing the OneLove captain’s armband, will remain linked to the failed World Cup in the collective memory. “The result that fits the big mess,” headlined the South German Zeitung about the shutdown.

In 2006, the World Cup in their own country was the start of a successful period in which Germany reinvented itself. The question is whether the European Championship can have the same effect in a year and a half.

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