When looking at Germany’s disappointing performance at the Euros, there are roughly a few dozen reasons why the squad failed to advance to the quarterfinals, but some stood out more than others.
Let's take a look at a few ideas on why Germany flamed out in a tourney that — all of a sudden — looked like it was set up for them to steal. Honestly, we could have named 30 reasons things didn’t work out, but who wants to read that kind of manifesto.
A collective loss of form from too many stars
As easy as it would be to place all of the blame on Joachim Löw, the players must shoulder — and accept — some of it.
Getting out of the Group Stage was no sure thing and it almost didn’t happen. The team had its own inherent challenges (see below), but the one saving grace could have been the squad’s talent actually living up to expectations.
Instead, a slump spread from player-to-player like a virus. Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, Ilkay Gundogan, and Timo Werner were among the players to never get on track.
Thomas Müller picked up a knock and then struggled mightily against England. Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger also scuffled against the Three Lions. Joshua Kimmich did not look nearly as impactful playing out wide.
Löw was reluctant to use Leon Goretzka and that probably played a role in why the Bayern Munich midfielder could not maintain his excellent start against England as he never had a chance to build any type of partnership with Toni Kroos in the midfield. Robin Gosens was a roller coaster and Kroos was up-and-down as well.
You could conceivably say that the only players who really maintained their respective consistency were Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer — and even then, Hummels had a few regrettable moments despite his overall great play.
In a nutshell, it was a horrible time for multiple players to struggle and it became far too much for the team to overcome.
The marriage to the 3-4-3
Let’s be honest…Löw shoved this formation down everyone’s throats despite ample evidence that getting the best XI players on the pitch might require a different look.
The frontline never — even against Portugal — looked fully comfortable operating in that alignment. The greatest strengths of players like Gnabry and Sane were nullified by making them play more narrow.
Kimmich — arguably Germany’s best player — saw his effectiveness limited by being pinned on the right flank.
The defenders, while they tried, often found themselves out of position or unable to effectively handle pressure.
In addition, Müller and whoever Löw lined up at striker could have operated in tandem centrally without the need for one player to remain high and glued to the opposition’s backline.
The 3-4-3 prevented Germany from being able to get the most out of the talent on its roster. More, the formation never allowed Germany to take full advantage of the speed of players like Werner, Sane, Gnabry, Havertz, and Musiala.
A manager who just lost his feel...a long time ago
It was evident early on that players Gundogan and Gnabry were either not in form or uncomfortable playing in the roles they were given. When Lukas Klostermann went down with an injury, the only viable option left at right-back/right wing-back was to move Kimmich — weakening the midfield, which was extremely evident against England.
Still, there were numerous signs in the friendlies leading into the Euros and during the Group Stage that things were not working out. While there was reason for optimism heading into the England match, there was also A LOT of reason for doubt. All of the signs for failure were there.
More than anything, though, Löw lost his feel for the roster and the game. What he made work from his own personal Golden Era (2008-2017), did not work at any point in the last four years. Whether it was communication, teaching, coaching, team composition, chemistry, formations, or whatever, things did not click.
Germany fans were left grasping at straws in hopes that things would just....work out at some point during the last four years. They never did. They just got a lot worse and eventually levelled out enough to prevent Germany from completely hitting rock bottom.