National coach Hansi Flick. AP
Germany will host the Euro 2024 tournament, but the country's team has been floundering and the former Bayern Munich coach is under pressure to show he can finally turn things around.
Germany sporting director Rudi Völler says the players have “an obligation to deliver” in friendly games against Japan in Wolfsburg on Saturday and France in Dortmund on Tuesday.
“Despite all the pressure he feels, Hansi is also full of enthusiasm," Völler told the Spielmacher (Playmaker) podcast this week. "He’s fired up to show in both games against Japan and France that we can still play in Germany.”
Germany can still play, but the team appears to have forgotten how to win games. German supporters whistled the players off the field after the latest disappointments — a 2-0 loss to Colombia, a 1-0 loss in Poland, and a 3-3 draw with Ukraine in friendly games in June.
Germany forward Kai Havertz on Thursday complained about a lack of support and said it played a role in the team’s disappointing World Cup performance last year in Qatar.
“We didn’t have that much support in the country. From a sporting perspective, there was no support, we were left on our own,” Havertz said in comments that are unlikely to endear the misfiring team to frustrated fans.
A four-part documentary on Germany’s World Cup campaign to be shown from Friday on Amazon Prime adds to the pressure. It casts the team in an unflattering light, showing the players to be distant and reserved in meetings with Flick, who tries unsuccessfully to force positive thinking on the group.
Japan defeated Germany 2-1 in their first group game at the World Cup, contributing to another early exit for the four-time champions. Germany also flopped at the previous World Cup in Russia.
The upcoming match against Japan will be Flick’s 25th game in charge as Germany coach. After starting with eight wins over opponents the team would be expected to beat, Flick’s last 16 games have yielded only four victories.
Niclas Füllkrug scored twice in the last one, a 2-0 friendly success over Peru in March, but the former Werder Bremen forward is injured and will miss the games against Japan and France. Bayern veteran Thomas Müller was called up in his place. With 121 games for Germany, the 33-year-old forward is the most experienced player in the team.
Brighton midfielder Pascal Groß, 32, was called up for the first time and could make his debut.
Flick on Friday named İlkay Gündoğan as Germany captain in place of the injured Manuel Neuer, saying the Barcelona midfielder and Joshua Kimmich should “form the new leadership duo” in the team.
Flick, who was assistant to coach Joachim Löw when Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, knows time is running out to get good results.
“I have a great desire to lead this team. I’m proud and also grateful that I can coach these players,” Flick said. “Sometimes you don’t get the successes or results that you want. That’s currently the case with us. So we all know that the games tomorrow against Japan and also against France are very important.”
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