2 Things that Germany need to do to get rid of the World Cup hangover
Ahead of their UEFA Nations League return leg against the Netherlands on Monday 19th, November, Germany will be looking to avoid another disappointing defeat.
Since the disastrous World Cup campaign, Joachim Low's team has been lurching in a bad fit of winter doldrums. Better known for resilience, the Germans would have been expected to quickly turn-around from their nightmare of a poor show in Russian, where they were unceremoniously bundled out at the group stages, with defeats to Mexico and South Korea.
That no defending champion has defended their title, since Brazil in 1962, might have given Joachim Low’s charges some reprieve. However, with additional uninspiring performances in the UEFA Nations League, Die Mannschaft appears to have gone from bad to worse.
A 2-1 defeat to France at Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, coming shortly after a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands at Johan Cruyff Arena, on Saturday, October 13, 2018, indicate vulnerability never seen with a German national team before.
The result means Die Mannschaft, shamefully hounded out of World Cup at group stages, have also, almost blown their probability of advancing to the final four top-tier group of the UEFA Nations League, slated June for next year.
To reclaim their footballing glory, DFB urgently needs to address two simple issues.
#1 Replace senior players when for one reason or another, they cannot bring their A-game
Eventually, every player stops performing at peak, and it’s only natural that at some point senior players must pave the way for new blood. As such, Joachim Low's insistence on selecting senior players at all expenses needs an answer. For example, picking Manuel Neuer in goal, ahead of Ter Stegen was a strange approach at the World Cup.
True, Manuel Neuer is a fantastic shot-stopper, when at his best. Unfortunately, Neuer arrived in Russia right after enduring a nightmarish season, beset with injuries on the sidelines. In contrast, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Neuer's competitor for the goalkeeping slot had just been phenomenal at Barcelona, all season long.
But, Manuel Neuer wasn't the only senior player who needed replacement in Russia. Ahead of him most of the outfield unit comprising of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller looked drab, lackadaisical.
Yet, even after Russia, in their first leg UEFA Nations League barren draw against France, Low maintained his faith in the old guard, fielding five members of the 2014 World Cup winning team. Manuel Neuer in goal, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng at centre-back, Toni Kroos in midfield and forward Thomas Muller, all featured.
The most telling detail of that night, however, was this: All of Joachim Low’s starting line-up for the match had been part of Germany squad in Russia, with Leroy Sane, the only new face coming off the bench late on.
#2 Continually work to bring in new kids on the block
Germany’s poor run is surprising when you think about the quality of young players at their disposal. Their 2017 exploits at the Confederations Cup and Euro U-21 unveiled dazzling talent within Germany’s ranks.
These exciting new prospects can blend with the experience and class of senior players to give Germany football something exceptional. Given a chance, they can be just as good as anyone could be. Low agrees: "Of course we need to integrate new players. We always need to be pushing to do that, but it is a process that will not happen overnight." Those were his words after that first night of UEFA Nations League in Munich.
The only problem is that his approach integrating new players into the team tends to be a little too cautious. Such an approach, as seen in Leroy Sane’s exclusion from the World Cup is something bordering on a controversy.
Even after the Russian debacle, with its damaging effects, it still seems like Low is not particularly keen on injecting new blood into the system. He is somehow unwilling to turn to the generation of Timo Werner, Leroy Sane, Draxler, Brandt, Joshua Kimmich, and Jonas Hector.
Probably, he is careful not to cause further disruptions to the already troubled unit. But by his admission after their thrashing at the hands of the Dutch, the continued poor run is drowning his team’s confidence. And that may require urgent radical changes to remedy the situation.
The positive side is, considering the level of talent within, together with DFB’s history of modelling on efficient systems and crosscutting support, a faster comeback for Die Mannschaft is possible.