After a tumultuous start to 2019 for the German national team with the highly controversial exclusion of the Bayern Munich trio, Germany and head coach Joachim Löw responded by winning a game against their international rivals the Netherlands for the first time on Dutch soil since 1996. After a fantastic first half, Germany almost lost a two-goal lead only to score a last-minute winner. Perhaps the final result was a bit fortunate, yet the victory in Holland gave glimpses of what this new exciting German team can do. Despite a horrible World Cup campaign, there are several reasons why the future looks bright yet again for Löw and the German national team.
Löw’s success in grooming young teams
Germany charmed the world with its effective and enjoyable football in South Africa in 2010. Little did football lovers know at the time that this was the backbone of both the team that would win the Champions League 2013 and the team that won the World Cup a year later. Before the tournament, future Bayern stars Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller had only 16 national caps between them. Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil were relatively unknown for fans outside Germany and had only 15 caps total between.
The German team at the time was in need of reconstruction, as many previous starters either retired, were injured or were simply not good enough anymore. At a first glance, it seemed as if unproven and inexperienced talents from the Bundesliga had taken their place; yet as history shows, they were able to achieve more than their predecessors.
More recently, Löw brought what was seen as a B-team to the 2017 Confederations Cup, and yet they won the tournament with ease. Germany’s first Confederation Cup title might not mean too much, since the competition is generally more as a friendly tournament. It nonetheless is a tournament that teams want to win and in which the coaches play their best-possible squads. It was also extremely impressive that winning German team had just 179 caps total. To put that into perspective, Cristiano Ronaldo alone currently has 155.
Germany’s squad against Serbia and the Netherlands had an average age of 23.7. If they were to compete in the 2018 World Cup, they would have been the youngest squad by 3.5 years. It goes without saying, a young squad does not necessarily mean success, yet Löw’s proven track record of rebuilding the national team fits the Nationalmannschaft’s current needs.
The need for reconstruction
It is clear that Germany is in need of reconstruction. The disastrous Russia campaign was a run of results that surprised every single person. Germany won every single game in their qualification group and had won the Confederations Cup with their B-team the summer before. The team was packed with established elite players at every position and had a coach that was considered the brains when Germany won bronze on home soil and later led Germany to their first German World Cup title since 1990. Under Löw’s management, Germany never failed to reach the semi-final in an international competition.
What went wrong? Tactically, Germany tried to play the same football with which they trounced Brazil 7-1. In Russia, however, the fluid play Germany displayed in Brazil had turned it to a stale version of itself. Löw’s exclusion of Leroy Sané was, in hindsight, a mistake, yet, at the time, Sané had not impressed in recent German performances. Arguably, Germany had a poor World Cup because Löw relied on players that won the title four years earlier. Hence, some blamed Löw entirely for the disastrous result, but I do not believe that paints the whole picture.
There were clearly internal problems that plagued the team. There were reports that claimed there were two separate cliques, the Bavarians and the ‘Bling Bling’ group. Özil’s and Gundogan’s photo with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan caused further division as the DFB, Reinhard Grindel, and Oliver Bierhoff waffled over the affair, ultimately culminating in Özil’s acrimonious retirement.
There were more reports stating that Kroos decided to not pass the ball to teammate Marvin Plattenhardt because he did not believe he was good enough. Löw also wanted to stay in Sochi where the team lived during the Confederations Cup campaign, but the team ended up in a small town near Moscow due to financial restrictions. Sure, there will always be excuses when a giant football nation goes out during the group stages, but it Germany clearly faced many problems before they played their first game.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Löw’s decision to exclude Müller, Boateng, and Hummels, it is clear that the team is in need of a reconstruction. The decision came as a surprise, it wasn’t handled well, and it wasn’t well-liked in the Munich area. Yet, if Germany wins Euro 2020, it will be hard to argue that it wasn’t the right decision.
Germany has plenty of upcoming talents. Sané is already one of the best wingers in the world. In the national team he is joined by other talented players that is under the age of 25. Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, Jonathan Tah, Niklas Süle, Julian Brandt, Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are already established Bundesliga players who can flourish into national legends. Germany’s first half against the Netherlands was for me, a foreshadowing of what this team can become. Playing with each other in the national team will only make them better and as of right now, every player I just mentioned — perhaps excluding Gnabry — are regular starters at their respective club. In other words, there is no reason to expect that they won’t get better.
There has, understandably, been a significant amount of doubt surrounding the future of the German national team. I believe that their worst days are behind them.