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Five observations from Germany’s difficult 2-1 win over Romania

Hansi Flick had his first bad game for Germany — what did we learn?

Germany v Romania - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany did not play like Bayern Munich

No pressing, poor combinations, and slow buildup play — Germany played nothing like a Hansi Flick side. The defense was immensely prone to counterattacks and looked slow and lethargic throughout. Meanwhile, the attack kept getting shut out by Romania’s well-organized defense, and it took a long-range effort and a set-piece to get Germany out of jail.

This showing was reminiscent of Flick’s predecessor, characterized by the same slow buildup, misplaced passes, and just an overall unsureness of the performance on the pitch. Flick needs to get his team up and running again, as his side faces off against second-placed North Macedonia in just a couple of days. Hopefully he can get his men to play the way they did last month, because this particular game did little to alleviate any nerves that Germany fans may still have.

Hansi Flick has a BIG fullback problem

Jonas Hofmann and Thilo Kehrer aren’t the answers Germany are looking for. Against Romania, the pair of them were nothing short of dire — unable to provide any meaningful support to their wingers despite having a mandate to push far up the pitch to attack. With only a year left until the World Cup, Flick doesn’t have much time — he needs to find solutions, quickly.

The easier solution exists at right-back. Move Niklas Süle out wide, and either put Mats Hummels or Matthias Ginter at center-back. Left-back, however, is a totally different problem. Robin Gosens is mainly suited to a back-three, Thilo Kehrer is a dud so far, while David Raum and Nico Schlotterbeck are untested at this level.

Flick needs to start trying new things out, because the current setup isn’t working.

No rest for the restless

Germany v Romania - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by Markus Gilliar/Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s quintet on the field didn’t get any rest, apart from maybe Leroy Sané, but even he was subbed off very late in the game. This is understandable from Flick, as he probably wanted to keep his best players on the pitch to ensure that they walked away with all three points, especially in a tough game like this. However, one can only think ‘what if Germany had a big enough lead, and they could sub off some of their starters?’

Indeed, the likes of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich haven’t had a proper rest in ages, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting any in the near future, with big games coming up thick and fast for both club and country. How long can they go before they finally run out of fuel? Well, I guess we’re about to find out in the next two months or so.

The defense was a shambles

We touched on how Germany’s defense wasn’t that impressive already, but let’s rant a bit more. None of Germany’s defenders, bar perhaps Niklas Süle, had a good game. The full backs, as aforementioned, were pretty poor, slow, and not creative in a single way. Jonas Hofmann couldn’t cross a road to save his life, and Thilo Kehrer was partially responsible for Romania’s first goal, although he did pick up slightly in defense afterwards.

Antonio Rüdiger was nothing short of horrendous, getting nutmegged on Romania’s goal and looking shaky throughout. His tackles were panicky, his challenges were often too little too late, and he didn’t look confident at all. One can only wonder what sort of magic Thomas Tuchel came up with to fix Rüdiger into a Champions League winning center back, and how Flick can replicate that magic to make him into a World Cup winning center back.

Finally, Marc-Andre ter Stegen cannot hold a candle to Manuel Neuer. Deputizing for Germany’s injured captain, the Barcelona goalkeeper had a relatively busy night, but didn’t look confident either. There was an air of uneasiness whenever the ball went to him, and it doesn’t seem like he did a good job of controlling his defense. Could he have saved that Romania goal? Maybe, maybe not, but his performance did nothing to warrant a starting spot for him in Germany colors going forward. Once Neuer returns, ter Stegen will rightfully return to his designated spot on the bench, and that can’t happen soon enough.

Thomas Müller, man

Bayern Munich fans will be tired of hearing this (or will they?), but Thomas Müller is something special. Countless games he has won for Bayern Munich, and so many moments he has made as well. Germany fans may have lost touch with his magic due to his two-year hiatus from the national team, but he proved that he still has what it takes today.

Following a corner, a flick on from Leon Goretzka found Müller alone in a pocket of space that the Raumdeuter had darted into unbeknownst to anyone. The Bavarian native stuck out a leg, striking an awkward pose as he tapped the ball into the back of the net to give Germany the lead, and eventually all three points. It was a classic Müller goal, and one that was extremely valuable in Germany’s World Cup qualification journey. It was a pleasure seeing Müller wear the coveted #13 jersey for Germany again, and hopefully he can build on his legacy in national colors in the near future as well.