The German men’s national team has a long history of success. World Champions in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014, they have also finished among the top three a record 12 times, including four second-place finishes.
The team has also won three European titles, in 1972, 1980, and 1996, and finished out of the top eight only three times, reaching at least the semi-finals on nine occasions. A competition record.
Their dominance of the sport once prompted former England International Gary Lineker to famously say:
“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
All of which explains why their current form is causing fans and experts to ask how it all went so wrong.
For the first time in a long time, the German national team travelled to a World Cup and, according to the European football betting predictions, they were not among the favourites for the title. Argentina, Brazil, France, Portugal, England, Belgium and the Netherlands all found themselves ranked higher than a team that usually travelled as favourites.
The odds were not wrong, and having suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Japan, Germany found themselves leaving the tournament earlier than expected. Despite a squad of players that contained Champions League winners, Premier League and Bundesliga Champions, plus some exciting young players in the shape of Youssoufa Moukoko and Jamal Musiala, the unthinkable had happened. Germany had failed to get out of the group stages at a World Cup for the second tournament running. For the first time in over 20 years, serious questions are now being asked about the direction of German football.
2002 Japan/South Korea 2nd
2006 Germany 3rd
2010 South Africa 3rd
2014 Brazil 1st
2018 Russia 22nd
2022 Qatar 17th
One school of thought is that this failure is a symptom of a long-term sickness in German football, with an inability to produce enough quality players for the national team to choose from. “Do we really have as many good players as we think?” asked former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Many experts believe Spain and England are years ahead of Germany in terms of youth development, and the emergence of special talent like Jamal Musiala proves the point – he was brought up in England and joined Bayern from Chelsea aged 16, having developed through the English system. Germany also failed to qualify for last year’s U19 European Championship.
The Glass is Half Full
Another view is that Germany was unlucky to go out of last year’s World Cup at the group stage. A creditable draw with Spain and victory over Costa Rica were only marred by a narrow defeat by Japan. Even the eventual World Champions Argentina lost their opening game in a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. Not only that, Morocco became the first-ever African nation to make it to the semi-finals after a surprise victory over European heavyweights Portugal.
A winter World Cup is also a factor that needs to be taken in to account, with the tournament coming int the middle of a crowded season for many European nations, meaning a lot of players were tired and mentally unprepared.
German coach Hansi Flick was only installed in 2022 and there’s no doubting his record of success at club level. But with national games few and far between and the tournament arriving mid-season, the ability to implement his intense, integrated, high-pressing style on the national team is still a work in progress.
Bundesliga: 2019/20, 2020/21
UEFA Champions League: 2019/20
UEFA Super Cup: 2020
FIFA Club World Cup: 2020
The German premier football division is a top-level league and one of the best in the world in terms of player quality, stadiums and atmosphere. Jude Bellingham, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Christopher Nkunku, Manuel Neuer, Leroy Sane, and Josko Gvardiol, are just some of the long list of stars to have played in the Bundesliga.
Critics would argue, however, that the league lacks depth with only one or two teams capable of challenging for the title every year. A fact that is borne out by Bayern Munich clinching a 10th league title in a row in 2022. That lack of competition is seen as unhealthy for players skill development and competitive mindset.
So, is it a radical overhaul or just a few tweaks that are required to put Germany back at the top of the footballing world? With a European Championship on home soil in 2024, they will again be among the favourites to lift the title. A passionate home crowd and more time for the manager to get his ideas across could well shut the doubters up. But anything less than victory and calls for a radical overhaul of the whole system may will be impossible to ignore.
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