International breaks can admittedly be a bit of a downer for fans trying to follow their respective teams or leagues. This break, however, holds some intrigue for Germany and coach Joachim Löw.
After an abject failure at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Germany will play this week in hopes of rediscovering itself as a squad and regaining some of the confidence it built up for the better part of, well....it’s an entire existence.
Some of our brightest minds (and me!) sat down to discuss what we are looking forward to this week.
What are your expectations for Germany during this international break?
I expect Germany to settle down again after a dismal appearance at the World Cup, specifically from an organizational standpoint. Since the Germans exited-stage-left in Russia, there were questions surrounding Löw’s return as manager. This topic of discussion directly feeds into a manager’s responsibilities — one of them is player selection. Not only were there controversial decisions made during Germany’s matches in Russia, but also before the team arrived. Mesut Özil and Leroy Sané were neglected by the German national team, one situation more lethal than the other. Although Özil’s future is clear-cut for some, it’s important for the German National team to cultivate the next wave of talent. In the case of Sané, Germany must think long-term and identify what kind of player Leroy can be going forward. I expect to see a less erratic Germany during this international break.
John N. Dillon
Even in the new Nations League format (I keep kicking myself for wanting to say “League of Nations”) these upcoming matches are still little more than glorified friendlies. Both France and Germany should readily qualify for Euro 2020 in the ordinary way (beginning in March 2019). France in particular can rest on its laurels for now.
It’s a different story for Germany. The matches against France and Peru are, for the DFB and Jogi Löw, the first opportunity to make amends for their humiliating exit from the World Cup. I expect Germany to field a serious lineup and play to win. If they manage to humble France, it will be a publicity coup. If they fall flat, though, it could mean another numbing round of recriminations and media punditry until the DFB can convince its supporters that Germany is back on track. A win against Peru will do little to appease the critics; a loss, of course, would add more fuel to the fire under Reinhard Grindel and Löw’s seats.
To be quite frank, I’m not one to over-hype Germany’s upcoming fixtures based on what happened in Russia; it’s obvious that they now have a point to prove. Plain and simple, what I expect from Löw, his staff, and the players is a clear game plan for how to approach each match. Additionally, if the plan goes awry, I want to see Löw make the proper adjustments to respond as each match unfolds. Simply put, there needs to be zero trace of complacency; if something isn’t working at all, Löw has to try something different instead of playing the same broken record repeatedly.
I think I need to see something resembling the confident, attacking side that Germany was before it morphed into the indecisive, inconsistent side that participated in the World Cup. To his credit, Löw has begun to overhaul the roster by cutting ties with Sami Khedira and seeing Mario Gomez and Mesut Özil retire, but we need to see how he lines this team up and how they play. I’m not saying these games are do-or-die, but Germany needs to have a good showing and be in a position to win. Acknowledging that the results don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, this break is primarily about re-establishing that aura of confidence within the team.
What player are you most excited to watch?
Leroy Sané and Johnathan Tah. I’m interested to see two players — Leroy Sané and Johnathan Tah. Both players are 22 years old and are at a crucial stage in their respective careers. It seemed as if Sané was bound for a FIFA Young Player Award-like season and summer for Manchester City and Germany. Is that still in sight? For Tah, I’d like to see the center back get a chance in the team, even though Niklas Süle and Antonio Rüdiger may have solidified their roles as starters. Tah is a promising player and ha shown that in the Bundesliga for the past few seasons.
John N. Dillon
Leroy Sané. Jogi Löw needs to figure out how to make one of Germany’s most exciting and talented youngsters click with the national team. A lot of people criticized Löw for omitting Sané from the team in Russia. But by then the damage had been done: Sané had played so poorly for Germany that Löw’s decision (in my opinion) was justified. But that was then: Löw needs to start over with Sané and find a way for him to contribute to the team in a meaningful way. He’s too good to leave at home.
Leon Goretzka. I’m sure a lot of people are going to say Leroy Sané because there’s a chip on his shoulder, but for me, it’s got to be Leon Goretzka. We’ve seen him really start to hit his stride for Bayern under Niko Kovac and he capped off his start over the weekend vs. Stuttgart with a goal and an assist. He showed why he’s going to be an important midfielder for Bayern, and I think as Germany’s old guard slowly makes its way out, so to speak, Goretzka will be one of the players to take over as a natural leader once that transition is made. He impressed in the Confederations Cup last summer but didn’t get too many minutes at the World Cup, at least not as many as he perhaps would’ve liked. Now, as Germany aims to come back strong, I see Goretzka playing an important role in the Euro 2020 qualification process.
Timo Werner. I have become like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football with Werner, so I might as well line up one last time and hope that Lucy doesn’t pull the ball away. Werner has given me a ton of reasons not to believe, but I still hold those glimpses of the 2017 Confederations Cup and 2016-2017 Bundesliga season in my head where he was a dynamic, fleet (not fleeting) force. Let’s hope that, now surrounded by the creativity of Marco Reus and Thomas Muller, Werner can be that disruptive force he has the potential to be.
Who was the one player you would have liked included on the roster that wasn’t?
Mario Götze. What ever happened to him? I will leave it at that.
Niclas Füllkrug. I know that there will probably zero people that agree with me here, but I think the Hannover ace deserves a shot with Die Mannschaft. He’s just the type of rugged, physical presence Germany could use up front to contrast the pacier forward options like Werner, Reus, Sané, etc. His 14 goals for Hannover 96 last season really put him on the map and he was part of the reason Hannover were able to finish mid-table in their first season back in the Bundesliga after winning promotion. I think, in essence, he could prove to be a quicker, more physical version of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner and could really be effective if he’s given a chance.
John N. Dillon
No one in particular. I don’t feel very strongly about any particular player who was omitted, but I do have two thoughts: one is that Löw should perhaps patch things up with Sandro Wagner. Perhaps that bridge is irreparably burned, but perhaps not. Löw’s roster does not have a conventional big target man, and Wagner is arguably Germany’s best option. Otherwise, I am surprised that Löw has dropped Sebastian Rudy. The roster also doesn’t have a defensive midfielder. Even if Löw wants to reinvent the team (again) and play differently, there may come situations that call for someone like Rudy. Julian Weigl is another player who could perform that function.
Philipp Max. Acknowledging that FC Augsburg’s Philipp Max and Joshua Kimmich are very similar players with a strikingly similar skill-set (albeit with Kimmich being the more polished and potent talent), I believe Löw missed a golden opportunity to see how Max would fit on the squad when Jonas Hector bowed out. Hoffenheim’s Nico Schulz has earned the right to show what he can do as a more defensive presence at left back, but just giving the glimpse of Max and Kimmich together would have been interesting to see. Instead, Löw opted for Paris Saint-Germain’s Thilo Kehrer, who is buried on the depth chart at center back and also behind Matthias Ginter for that hybrid center back/outside back reserve role.