What Went Wrong for Germany at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? The German side hasn't been at the same level as they were a few years ago. Now Cast your mind back to 2014. Things were different back then. Twitter was not ruled by Elon Musk, Bangladesh had not been to space yet, and Lionel Messi had yet to win an international trophy with Argentina. But he had come close, oh, so close.
It was only the introduction of Mario Gotze in the 88th minute that would change the course of history. An incredible volley in the 113th minute from the then youngster Gotze and Germany would be crowned World Champions 7 minutes later.
A squad full of legends and a new batch of world-class talent such as Gotze himself, along with Andre Schurrle, Christoph Kramer, Julian Draxler, and Matthias Ginter, signaled the beginning of a potential German-dominated football era.
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Now come back to the modern day. Germany have just been knocked out at the group stages of the World Cup for the second time in a row and have only played two games since their World Cup triumph eight years ago.
All those young players mentioned have failed to meet their potential. Andre Schurrle has retired prematurely, Mario Gotze is no longer the player he once was, Christoph Kramer and Julian Draxler are no longer part of the national team setup, and Matthias Ginter is the national team's fourth choice center back.
But what has happened to Germany? Where did it all go wrong for one of the most decorated national teams in Qatar?
Since the departure of Joachim Low as head coach, the DFB has appointed Hansi Flick as his successor. Flick certainly has the pedigree for the role. He is a treble winner with Bayern Munich and was Low's assistant when Germany won the World Cup in 2014.
The problem lies not with the managerial selection but with the manager's selection. Quite a few selections in Flick's three games have puzzled those who follow the German game closely.
In the first game against Japan, where Germany lost 2-1, the second goal can be directly attributed to a defensive mistake by Nico Schlotterbeck. Niklas Sule, who was playing right back, didn't help much either with his performance in the game.
In the three games, only David Raum can say that he has properly played his part without making any errors.
Hansi Flick went for a backline of Rudiger, Sule, and Schlotterbeck, along with Raum in the first game and Thilo Kehrer in place of Schlotterbeck for the second. Matthias Ginter, the German national team player of the year in 2019 and a member of the Bundesliga team of the season in 19-20, did not make the cut.
Hansi Flick opted to play Sule, a largely immobile and slow player, in the fullback position instead of more conventional players such as Lukas Klostermann. Even Thilo Kehrer, when he started, started as a center back instead of a right back, as Sule continued to play there. A baffling decision that ended up costing Germany.
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Mismatches in Midfield
In the midfield, a pairing of Kimmich and Goretzka was the most obvious pairing, as both have incredible chemistry that has been built up by playing together at Bayern Munich. Another factor that contributed to the loss was the insistence on playing Gundogan alongside Kimmich against Japan.
Jamal Musiala, who was Germany's best player by far in Qatar, started in an unfamiliar position on the left in both matches against Japan and Spain. Only when he was allowed to drift inside and play in the middle did he flourish. One of the main reasons for Die Mannschaft's plight in Qatar was a failure to get the most out of their most exciting and explosive player.
Flick's inability to trust less popular players should be called into question as well. Julian Brandt and Jonas Hoffman were not given significant game time instead of the injured Leroy Sane, instead opting for Jamal Musiala, who, as already stated, didn't play at his best when out of position.
Perhaps it's time he learned that good German players exist outside of the top teams. Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hoffman, Julian Brandt, and Karim Adeyemi were not trusted with significant game time even when Germany were crying out for something out of the box. The lack of game time for Adeyemi and Ginter has to be the most frustrating for the German fans given their recent performances and how well they could've played with these two in the team.
An Alarming Attack
However, the German team's most frustrating department was the toothless attack.Since the days of the great Miroslav Klose, Germany have been crying out for a proper striker. They were blessed with Timo Werner, but his injury meant that Hansi Flick had to play Kai Havertz there in the first game.
Out of all the teams in the group stage, Germany had an xG above 10 yet scored only six goals. Due to their massive underperformance and 69 shots, they also had the lowest conversion rate.
Hansi Flick's insistence to play Thomas Muller and Kai Havertz instead of starting Niclas Fullkrug, who scored two goals in limited minutes, is a glaring example of Flick's refusal to adapt and play lesser-known players. This tactic of Flicks backfired in a calamitous way, as the lack of goals directly contributed to Germany's exit in the group stages.
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The Next Step
Despite the fact that Germany's underperformance pointed the way to humiliation, the underlying numbers and overall performance suggested that Die Mannschaft was extremely unlucky.
The steps that were taken after Germany's most humiliating 5-1 defeat against England in 2001 have been fruitful, and they've continued to bear talented fruits. The next generation of top-level German footballers can already be identified in Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz, Youssoufa Moukoko, Karim Adeyemi, and so on and so forth.
Under Hansi Flick's management, these young players should thrive, but Flick should accept his flaws and adapt to using proper players instead of jamming square cubes into round holes.
Germany's premature departure in the group stages of the 2022 Qatar World Cup was a massive shock on and off the pitch. But looking beyond the missed chances and defensive errors, the blueprint of a top team can be found. But looking beyond the missed chances and defensive errors, the blueprint of a top team can be found.
With better luck and fewer injuries, the scenario could've been much better, and instead of an inquiry, Hansi Flick might've been praised. But that all remains in the hypothetical, a realm that many German fans have frequently visited in recent times.
Now, the Germans can only do one thing: move to the next tournament, Euro 2024, in their own backyard, a prime location to demonstrate to the world that German football remains at the pinnacle.
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