Again no victory against a great opponent: The draw against England was promising, but the German team is far from being among the best in the world again. This is also because the new generation may lack quality.
After the Nations League game against England in Munich’s Allianz Arena, Hansi Flick looked much more relaxed than on Saturday evening. His team had shown a poor game against Italy, and with a view to the World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year, the alarm bells were ringing among some critics.
Things went better this time against England. “We played a great game and unfortunately we didn’t get our reward. Maybe we could have done better. You just have to see that we played against England, a top team. The way we played football is exactly what we want. To be bold, to put pressure on the opponent, that’s exactly what we want.”
Despite the increase in performance, a bland aftertaste remains
The national coach was right. With seven new players in the starting line-up, the team looked fresher, more focused and determined. Joshua Kimmich held the game together, lkay Gündogan and the highly talented Jamal Musiala drove it forward and Antonio Rüdiger was a solid defensive leader. Not to mention Manuel Neuer in goal, who for a long time prevented the English from equalizing with great saves in the final phase. He had no chance against Harry Kane’s penalty in the 88th minute, which led to the equaliser.
Nevertheless, the duel against England and the other games under Flick left a stale aftertaste. You still wait in vain for a win against a great football nation. Even under Flick, the German team has not yet managed to completely convince. Victories against Armenia, Iceland or Romania were followed by 1-1 draws against the Netherlands, Italy and England. The problem areas remain the exploitation of chances and the position of the centre-forward, the flanks and defensive stability. The team took the lead against both Holland and the Three Lions, but couldn’t get the lead over time due to naïve defensive behavior.
Perhaps that leads to the heart of the problem: that the team is not as good and talented as it is always made out to be. Even after Löw’s attempted change after the desolate World Cup in Russia in 2018, this was a hotly debated question. Where are the Mesut Özils, Toni Kroos’, Jerome Botangs, Mats Hummels or Philipp Lahms of the current generation. Is there a lack of the last quality that such players brought to the pitch in the heyday of their work? The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” missed at least the old glory in a comment on the Italian spillway.
Don’t set demands too high
Example Nico Schlotterbeck. The new Dortmunder is highly talented and ambitious. His opening passes are a weapon, but he revealed a certain naivety in the tackle against Harry Kane in the game against England. Kane skilfully crossed and Schlotterbeck ran into his heels. Even if the German side raised the usual doubts about the legality of the penalty kick, in the end it was naïve defensive behavior. The fact that the German team hadn’t conceded a goal up to that point was solely due to Neuer’s saves.
Flick emphasized the enormous quality of the English in attack and was right. But that’s the quality you have to compete against. A mistake like Schlotterbeck’s can mean the end at the World Cup, no matter how many duels he has previously won or precise vertical passes he has played.
The small example of Schlotterbeck only shows that only real world leaders still have to take huge steps. Not to mention the lack of exploitation of chances, another old problem. Had Musiala or Müller converted their scoring chances, Schlotterbeck’s mistake would not have been significant. Another “would have” that shows that something is missing.
Flick is right that the current generation has quality. Joshua Kimmich is representative of the world class that is present in the team. However, one should be careful whether the new generation at the Qatar World Cup is ready to meet the highest standards. Flick and the DFB environment should not repeat Löw’s mistakes in 2018 and 2021 of talking the team stronger than it is.