Germany has forgotten how to win games a year before hosting Euro 2024

AP , Thursday 22 Jun 2023

Perhaps the only positive Germany can draw from its national soccer team’s deepening crisis is that the 2024 European Championship is still a year away.

Germany s
Germany s players react after the international friendly football match between Germany and Colombia in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on June 20, 2023. AFP


Even if few believe it anymore, Germany coach Hansi Flick insists that is enough time to turn things around before hosting the tournament.

Flick struggled to justify his conviction late Tuesday after the latest disappointing performance — a 2-0 loss to Colombia that saw his team whistled off at halftime and again at the end.

“With the results, what can I say?" Flick said. "The arguments are not on our side.”

Some fans even held up signs saying “Flick out,” showing who they believe deserves blame for Germany’s ever-lengthening slump.

Flick had said before kickoff that it was imperative to get a win against Colombia after the 1-0 loss in Poland and 3-3 draw with Ukraine the previous week.

“We need successful results to take the next steps, otherwise it will be difficult,” Flick said.

It’s proving difficult. Germany has qualified as host of Euro 2024, meaning it won’t face any competitive games before the tournament. It’s reliant on friendlies to build up confidence, but the lackluster results are having the opposite effect.

Without naming names, national team sporting director Rudi Völler questioned the quality of the players and suggested some will be dropped before next year's tournament.

“There were some involved today who we won’t see again in September,” Völler said, referring to Germany’s next friendlies against Japan and France. “Everyone got involved, that’s not in question. But in the end, you have to say it’s definitely a question of quality.”

Germany is not short of good players. Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz are two of the best young players in Europe, Antonio Rüdiger plays for Real Madrid, İlkay Gündoğan just helped Manchester City win the Champions League for the first time, and Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Leroy Sané are all used to playing at the highest level for Bayern Munich.

But AC Milan defender Malick Thiaw was the only Germany player to emerge with any credit this week after making his debut against Poland and keeping his starting place against Colombia.

Germany’s problems precede Flick, going back to when the team was eliminated from the group stage of the 2018 World Cup as defending champion under Joachim Löw. Another flop followed in 2021 at the coronavirus-postponed Euro 2020 tournament before Flick took over.

Flick was Löw’s assistant from 2006-14 and then won every title he could win as Bayern Munich coach in 2020 and 2021. He was supposed to oversee Löw’s failed shakeup and turn the Germany team back into a ruthless scoring machine.

But Germany flopped again in the group stage at last year's World Cup. From 11 games this season, Germany has only won three — an ultimately futile win over Costa Rica at the World Cup, and two friendly victories over Peru and Oman.

Germany, a four-time World Cup champion, used to be a feared rival. Now the players’ confidence is arguably at an all-time low.

“It’s dramatic,” Goretzka said after Colombia’s first ever win over Germany. “You can’t say the spirit wasn’t there. We wanted to throw everything into it. Everybody wants it.”

Flick’s chopping and changing hasn’t helped. He made nine changes for the Poland game from the starting lineup against Ukraine, then another five changes for the team to face Colombia.

None of Flick’s tinkering resulted in any improvement and all his changes give the impression he still isn’t sure of his best lineup. The players, too, cannot settle or get used to playing in any system when they’re playing with new teammates for each game.

Gündoğan alluded to a vicious circle of poor results affecting confidence, leading to more shaky performances and poor results. He also referred to Völler’s accusation of a lack of quality.

“If you don’t manage to reach your presumed high potential over a longer period of time, then I think it’s normal that the question of quality comes up at some point. We have to face that,” Gündoğan said. “Nevertheless, we’re here to represent Germany in the best possible way. It hasn’t worked at all in the last few games. And we have to question ourselves critically and then come together again.”

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