Germany experienced a fiasco at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. At the EM three years later, it’s a big disappointment. The top of the world seems far away. But then Hansi Flick comes along, becomes national coach and everything seems possible. What’s going on there?
Manuel Neuer only announced a few days ago that the goal must now be to become world champion. When the captain said his sentences, it was not yet official that the DFB team would travel to Qatar. But to take the drama away from it all: It would have taken an unimaginable miracle to prevent that in qualifying for the World Cup. So the announcements weren’t disrespectful, just adapted to the new German (euphoria) wave. But that’s really amazing, isn’t it? Under the direction of national coach Hansi Flick, anything seems possible.
But that’s the way it is: In the team, it seems to be quite controversial how aggressively one should communicate self-confidence after five international matches under new guidance. Neuer opted for the full throttle variant. Kai Havertz also thinks that you don’t have to squander your own goals. One had to do enough often in the past few years. Leon Goretzka, for example, sees it differently. Like Manuel Neuer, he also plays for FC Bayern and shouldn’t have too big ambitions, but he still speaks of “smaller rolls” that should be baked. Not a nice phrase, but probably a true one.
Nobody, not even the uninhibited euphorics, should be able to give a serious answer at the moment about how much distance the DFB team has already covered on the path back to the world elite and how much distance is still ahead of them. Because as intoxicating the performances were at times, including the second half in North Macedonia against North Macedonia (4-0), the strength of the opponents was so mediocre. Sure, the Romanians can play football well (2: 1), the Armenians have proven that too. And North Macedonia had already shaken Germany on March 31 (1: 2). But those were other times. Blocked times on the home stretch of the Joachim Löw era.
There is a powerful “but”
You can talk to these opponents strongly. But that would also be a stupid form of self-deception. Because these teams may work well as a collective and have one or two very good footballers in their ranks, but they are not Spain, Italy, Belgium or France. These four teams had just hinted at the Nations League final tournament how great they were at this game. Even if hardly anyone in this country had seen it. The French around Kylian Mbappé had grabbed the title, but the Spaniards around super talent Gavi were enthusiastic.
Hansi Flick knows all of this. But it doesn’t scratch him. “The quality of our players, if you look at where they play, you just have to say that they also have the quality to hold their own against Italy, Spain, France and Belgium. I’m very confident.” You don’t want to contradict him. Because if the team’s learning curve continues so steeply upwards, then in Qatar they will definitely be one of those nations that are competing for the golden cup. There is still a lot of subjunctive here. Flick would like to replace this little by little with the imperative. In his words it means: The team still has to take development steps.
The problem areas of the national team were clearly outlined recently. The optimal occupation of the defensive flanks has not yet been found. Thilo Kehrer urges himself more and more. He can do it left as well as right, as the emperor would probably call it, but he can also do it in the center. Niklas Süle and Antonio Rüdiger have made a name for themselves there and are working hard to start the World Cup in this constellation. You have made good arguments, but you have by no means dispelled all doubts that they can really be the most stable variant. You can still see the shadow of Mats Hummels and sometimes that of Jérôme Boateng.
Flick, the player therapist
Another problem area is the storm center. Timo Werner is the man of choice there. Not everyone likes it. His sometimes unfortunate appearances have become a national matter. In the collective desperation for a savior in the middle, Simon Terodde was even talked about loudly. Even Lothar Matthäus thought the idea was good. Terodde, you have to know, is 33 years old and probably the best striker that the 2nd division has ever had (over a long period of time). In addition to the Hanover legend Dieter Schatzschneider, of course. Now Flick found the criticism of his striker Werner powerfully exaggerated. He had talked him strongly. In public and towards the team.
And what can you say, this flick did it again. Werner not only played really well against North Macedonia, he also scored two goals. His degrees were very confident. Yes, it’s amazing what’s going on right now. With the team. With the players. It feels like a déjà vu. The man from Bammental had already achieved an astonishing rapid transformation at FC Bayern. He had built the most dominant team in Europe out of an insecure crowd. Players like Boateng or Thomas Müller had turned from emergency nails into load-bearing walls. Flick, he’s a remarkable therapist too.
In the national team, Flick had not only succeeded in doing this sporty start-up aid with Werner. His influence on Leroy Sané was even more formative. At the European Championship, the Munich-based man failed again because of himself and his claims to finally be a difference player. He dragged this fatal condition with him to Munich (where he even received whistles) and then to the DFB team. Sané worked hard and regained happiness. About conquering the ball and a lot of willingness and passion. And suddenly heavy things on the ball seemed light (footed) again.
Somehow this national coach manages to awaken the mentality of the players. He doesn’t have to teach them the game again. And Flick has already planted this greed for goals and victories, the will to do everything possible, in the team’s DNA. Even after a deficit like against Romania nothing collapses anymore. The head goes up, the legs run forward. Sometimes a little too reckless, but always driven by going “all in”. “How far we are then, I don’t know. But I definitely know that a lot can be done with this mentality.” And Manuel Neuer has already revealed what exactly.