The good news for Hansi Flick is that he is now free for the Oktoberfest which begins this Saturday in Munich. The 58-year-old was fired from his post as Germany coach on Sunday, the day after a humiliation inflicted by Japan on Wolfsburg (1-4). When it comes time to host France in Dortmund this Tuesday (9 p.m.), the Mannshaft, which has not won in five matches, is in distress. State of play of a football monster adrift.
Germany, quadruple world champion, had never failed to get through the first round of a World Cup before 2018. Its defeats against Mexico (0-1) and South Korea (0-2) could be placed in the drawer of the famous accident thesis. The Mannschaft had been crowned in 2014, and France had pulled out all the stops to dominate them in the semi-final of Euro 2016. It was, in reality, only the beginning of the descent into hell.
She did not advance beyond the round of 16 at Euro 2020, beaten by England at Wembley (2-0). At the 2022 World Cup, its inaugural defeat against Japan (1-2) plunged it back into the abyss. The elimination was “one of the worst evenings in our history”, lamented the daily Bild. In three editions of the Nations League, Germany has never qualified for the Final Four. Before France on Tuesday, she remains in five matches without a victory and even three defeats, something never seen for her since 1985. Recent results which do not inspire fear.
Play a game and ask yourself how many German players would have a place as starters in the French team. Apart from the versatile Joshua Kimmich and perhaps Antonio Rüdiger, Ilkay Gündogan or Jamal Musiala, injured and missing for the Blues, you will not draw much across the Rhine. The renewal of the German workforce is slow to take shape.
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Without a real scorer, it is Kai Havertz who inherits this role of center forward. Bayern Munich wingers Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry are as inconsistent as possible. The lack of creativity in the middle, far from the era of Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil, is felt. The symbol is Thomas Müller, skipped by Flick during the March and June matches to “give the youngest a chance”. The Bavarian, almost 34 years old, was recalled this month. Entering in the 73rd minute against Japan on Saturday, he did not reverse the trend.
Between 2009 and 2021, in seven editions of the Euro U20s, Germany finished on the podium five times, and was even champion three times. But of those of the last coronation in 2021, only the attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz and the full-back Nico Schlotterbeck have reached the milestone with the A. The Mannschaft has not even passed the groups at Euro hopefuls 2023, and will not see the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
What is happening to the German team? The answer may perhaps be found in a reform driven by the federation, which notably removed the rankings in youth championships, so that clubs could develop their players without the pressure of relegation. The very influential vice-president of the federation and president of Borussia Dortmund, Hans-Joachim Watzke, strongly criticized this federal project, seeing it as a loss of competitiveness. He was put in his place by President Bernd Neuendorf.
The German federation realized, in 2021, that it was time to start a new cycle. Exit Joachim Löw, coach since 2006. Welcome Hansi Flick, winner of the 2020 Champions League with Bayern. A series of 8 victories launched his adventure, the game was offensive, shimmering. Then the machine stalled, first in the 2022 Nations League (one victory in 6 matches), before the global fiasco in Qatar.
However, everything was not to be thrown away, which is why Flick (58 years old) kept the confidence of his leaders, a year and a half before a Euro 2024 at home. Since then, the content on the ground has only gotten worse, and the results follow. “The pretensions are moving away from reality,” ruminated captain Ilkay Gündogan in the wake of the heavy setback against Japan (1-4). Currently, from a playing point of view, we are not at the level of a team like the one we played tonight.”
The Mannschaft broke down and pressed the red button by sacking Flick. Who to embark on a commando mission? The experienced Louis van Gaal (72 years old), the former Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann (36 years old) and Oliver Glasner (49 years old) are mentioned. Time is running out, nine months before a European Championship on home soil.