When Hansi Flick took over as head coach of the German national soccer team on August 1, 2021, the DFB team had just been eliminated by England in the round of 16 of the European Championship. As announced, Joachim Löw had resigned from his post as national coach after 15 years and had made room for a fresh start. And that was urgently needed, because after winning the 2014 World Cup title in Brazil and the still quite decent performance two years later at the European Championships in France, with the quarter-final defeat against the hosts, Germany actually no longer played a major role in world football played.
The historically bad elimination after the group phase of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the appearances at the last European Championship in England had revealed that something had to change in the DFB team. “Our goal is to get back to the top of the world. That won’t be easy, but we have enormous quality. We will do everything we can to be at the top again,” Flick announced in his inaugural speech in August last year, emphasizing: “The best players should play for the national team, but we also want to give the youngsters a chance.” You can’t guarantee success, but you can prepare for it, says the national coach.
Müller: “That’s something drastic”
On Thursday (November 10), the 57-year-old announced his squad for his first major tournament as head coach. Flick caused surprises with some nominations and remained true to his first statement. In addition to established national players such as Thomas Müller, Antonio Rüdiger and Joshua Kimmich, Flick has found a good mix of players who are currently at a high level of performance and young talents such as Bochum’s Armel Bella Kotchap or Dortmund’s striker Youssoufa Moukoko. “Youssoufa is developing well. He’s fast, he’s lively and he’s a good finisher,” explained the national coach.
But how has the national coach changed the national team in the past 16 months? Flick, who is considered a good communicator, managed to get the often critical German fans behind him in a short time. And the mood within his team is good too. Flick seems to have found the right approach. “A new era began in September with the change of coach. We haven’t had that in Germany since 2006. So that’s something drastic,” Thomas Müller praised the work of Flick and his coaching team.
The first appearances of the DFB-Elf under the new national coach have contributed to this. Twelve goals in the first three games, plus not a single goal. Five more victories followed – a record for Flick, because never before had a national coach won so many games in a row after taking office. But opponents like Liechtenstein, Armenia, North Macedonia or even Iceland do not necessarily belong to the elite of world football.
Although the DFB team showed decent performances against England, Italy and the Netherlands, they only managed to draw 1-1 in their first encounters. After the poor performance in the 1-0 defeat against Hungary in September of this year, experts and the national coach looked at the DFB team with a little more disillusionment. “We mustn’t lose confidence in the team and we’re not doing that either. I have complete confidence in the team,” said the 57-year-old before the 3-3 draw in England, the last game so far.
About the tactics for consistency?
However, due to the postponement of dates due to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the tight schedules of the national leagues and some of his players’ injuries, Flick had little opportunity to work with the same squad for a longer period of time. “Some of the players also have other things on their minds, from the club and from the Champions League they are also under a lot of pressure.”
The result was and is obvious. Because if you take a closer look, the national team lacks consistency. Stability in defense and accuracy in offense are still the biggest problems. Only Antonio Rüdiger from Real Madrid, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gündogan and Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, Müller, Leon Goretzka and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer are constants in Flick’s team.
In the offensive department, an experienced, accurate striker is still missing. After Timo Werner and Lukas Nmecha were out of the World Cup due to injury, Flick now relies on Müller, Bremen’s Niklas Füllkrug or Mario Götze, who returned to winning the 2014 World Cup. But maybe the only 17-year-old Moukoko will surprise the attack of the DFB-Elf. In midfield, the national coach is spoiled for choice, but will be able to rely on the so-called Bayern block of Goretzka, Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala. There is no shortage of talented individual players in the German selection, but there will still be no well-rehearsed team at the World Cup.
World Cup in Qatar to “warm up”
But Flick’s plan could be different anyway. Although you go into the tournament with the goal of becoming world champion, for Flick the further development of his team is still the priority. He will also use the World Cup in the desert country for this, because the long-term goal is different: the home European Championship in 2024. “It would be time to become European champion again 28 years after my winning goal in 1996,” said DFB director Oliver Bierhoff in the Interview with the Internet platform Spox. “In any case, we want to be back at the top of the world by 2024,” said Bierhoff.
In Qatar, the task of the DFB-Elf is clear: do not embarrass and with a bit of luck move into the quarter-finals or even semi-finals. It won’t be enough for more, the teams of world champions France, Brazil and England are too strong for that. But in order to play at the top in two years, young players like Musiala, Nico Schlotterbeck, Moukoko or Bella Kotchap can “warm up” in the Qatar sun. In 2024 they could then provide unforgettable moments in their own country.