Too fragile defensively against Japan at the start of the tournament, Germany returned to some of their fundamentals against Spain, in the wake of Niclas Füllkrug – their only professional number 9 – scorer at the end of the game. Shunned by part of her audience, the Mannschaft can she just start to become herself again this Thursday against Costa Rica, to avoid further disillusionment in worldview?
This Wednesday, November 23, they were only 10 million. Ten million Germans in front of their screens, to see their selection being ridiculed 2-1 by a breathtaking Japan. A pokey number. Four years ago, the first match of the Mannschaft in Russia against Mexico (1-0) had attracted nearly 26 million viewers. A sad ratings like a lingering loss of love, a suspended rupture that heavily permeates the atmosphere. But then, what exactly is wrong with this Germany?
Game of Germans, game of villains
For a year and dust, the Mannschaft has yet tried to renew its software. First, saying finally auf wiedersehen to Joachim Löw and his football iberized to the extreme. The man who swallows his boogers will have done everything well for years, culminating in the 2014 World Cup, where his team will have synthesized his Germanic heritage and the Spanish influences which then dominated continental football. Löw will however have caricatured himself to the extreme during the 2018 World Cup, where he will have confined Mario Gómez – the only bomber of the selection – on the bench. Ditto at Euro 2020, which Germany will have played without a professional number 9.
A real tactical heresy, in the land of Gerd Müller, Miroslav Klose, Rudi Völler and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Beyond the crucial question of the centre-forward, Löw’s Germany will also have lost other historically identifying components of its football along the way: first, a brilliant bastard behind, capable of invent fantastic passes and rides than to control his defense authoritatively (Beckenbauer, Matthäus, Sammer, to name but a few). Under Flick, the Mannschaft composes with rather qualitative defenders – from Rüdiger to Süle via Raum -, but none has the build to endorse the costume of Kaiser of his rearguard, that we will have seen liquefy against Japan. Same causes, same effects in the middle: Flick started the 2022 World Cup with a Kimmich-Gündoğan duo not bothered with leather, but a little too nice, a little too clean, a little too playful, a little too fair play, in short, not quite classically German. No heir to Paul Breitner, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Stefan Effenberg and Torsten Frings in sight to wedge an irresistible strike into the skylight, replace the youngsters in a daron way and badly break an opposing dribbler.
Füllkrug, 9 with old
All is not lost, however. Aware of not being able to hold the swell against Spain as much (36% possession), Flick reviewed his copy against the Rojapreferring the colossal Leon Goretzka to İlkay Gündoğan, to hold with Kimmich the double pivot of his 4-2-3-1. The great Munich rod will have played his role admirably, recovering 8 balls (best total among the midfielders of both camps) and communicating to his people a communicative aggressiveness, like his angry tackle on Nico Williams in stoppage time. Obviously, Germany will also have become themselves again by bringing in Niclas Füllkrug, in the 70e minute of play. A pure centre-forward not necessarily brilliantbut who knows the mysteries of a penalty area by heart.
The great Werder booby does not have the technical finesse of Kai Havertz, inconsistent at the forefront against Japan. Even less the versatility of Thomas Müller, no more at ease in front against Spain. But is this only a problem? At the forefront, Germany has historically never needed an excellent player, in the first sense of the term. But a real goalscorer. Of a type stronger for planting than for chaining one-twos and stepovers. Facing Spain, Füllkrug not only cleared Unai Simón’s skylight, but also put a monster mess in the opposing box, while the striker – despite being in a very favorable position – was also successively forgotten by Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane. Antonio Rüdiger was not mistaken in the post-match press conference: “I think Niclas gives us something different, which we don’t have without him. » True. While not a world-class player, the centre-forward clearly knows his stuff. In 20 minutes of play, he will have transformed the end of the match for his selection, which had previously demonstrated that his tracing of Spanish football was definitely not at the level of his reference model. Morality? The copy will never be worth the original. To ape too much Rojathe Mannschaft got lost on the way. It can still possibly avoid ending up in the ditch, by beating Costa Rica on Thursday. Germany seeks Germany. But will she find her in time?
By Adrien Candeau
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