A little disclaimer: If you’re in a decent mood after Germany managed to salvage a draw against Spain, prepare yourself for a scathing read. The observations from today’s game will be undeterred and highly skeptical, and for good reason. Germany’s group stage game against Spain was a nervy affair from the start, and everything, from the starting 11, the passages of play, and the passing set this team up to lose. It’s a surprise that Hansi Flick’s side is still standing, but there’s a foreboding sense of it not lasting much longer.
Let’s just dive straight into the observations:
Hansi Flick’s starting 11s are appalling
It’s hard to defend coach Hansi Flick. Some Bayern Munich fans may still be enamoured by the famous sextuple that he won in 2019/20 with the club, but with all due respect, that feels like a one-off, given the unfolding of Germany’s World Cup challenge so far. Heck, if anything, this team is challenging for ‘worst performance of the group’ so far, and actually in the lead, sitting comfortably at the bottom.
The starting lineups feel like the coach sets this team up to lose. Let’s start with West Ham defender Thilo Kehrer as the right-back choice. Oh, don’t like the sound of that? Then may I interest you with a midfield overload against, well... one of the tournament’s best sides when it comes to controlling the midfield? How about Thomas Müller as the lone striker up top? Feeling uneasy already? And that’s not even half of it.
The match felt lost before it had even begun. Manchester City’s Ilkay Gündoğan, predictably, was nothing more than a traffic cone in midfield for large phases of the game. The decision to reduce a player in attack to overload a midfield that already has the world’s best duo in Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka is just one among myriad terrible decisions that Flick has taken in the game against Spain. And as head coach, you cannot get away with blaming individual players all the time. You need to own up to your mistakes. And I hope he learns from them because Germany is going out at the group stage if he doesn’t.
And what’s scary is, it’s very likely that qualification is not even in their hands. It all hinges on how well Spain perform against Japan.
Surprise! “Kick the ball and inshallah” doesn’t work
Germany gifted the ball to Spain throughout the game. It is common knowledge that players like Antonio Rüdiger (Real Madrid), Thilo Kehrer, and David Raum (RB Leipzig) cannot pass to save their own lives. But when you add that to a poor passing game from Gnabry, Kimmich (per usual standards), Gündoğan (and quite honestly, the rest of the team), everything implodes. Spain didn’t need to win balls because they were presented with gift-wrapped ones every time they lost possession. And the reason? Germany’s defenders and midfielders just clearing the ball all the time and launching long balls to the front three without using the center of the park or the additional width.
Everyone and their dog knows that Spain likes controlling the midfield. Wouldn’t common sense then suggest that width would be the way to go against them? Overloading the flanks is not a concept foreign to Flick’s philosophy, which is all the more baffling that he didn’t implement it.
You have to make successful, accurate passes in order to create chances. This side looks just as bad as the one in 2018, if not worse, which is just shocking.
Spain deserved to win
Well, at least in the first half, they did. Not because of how extraordinary they were, but because of how terrible Germany was. The last 20 minutes certainly looked different, and in no small part due to the substitutions, which begs the question: Why on earth is Hansi Flick not starting Niclas Füllkrug (Werder Bremen) and Leroy Sané? Thomas Müller as a lone striker has seldom worked, and it must’ve certainly pained many a Bayern fan to see our beloved Raumdeuter roam around with no one to provide service to. Free the man. This is just disgraceful usage of such a pivotal player.
Spain’s midfield controlled everything. Spain’s attack wasn’t exactly great though, and neither was their defense. Germany’s attack could’ve put 2-3 past Spain had Sané started ahead of Gündo. Since that didn’t happen, Spain looked in complete control and should’ve put the game to bed. They would have, if not for some last-gasp substitutions that saved Flick’s blushes.
Germany’s fullbacks were their own kryptonite
Thilo Kehrer and David Raum are two very fine players who should’ve carried out the very important job of warming the bench. Unfortunately for them, they had to start against Spain, and who could blame them? They did their best to not concede own goals, and they didn’t. But they did pretty much everything else they could to ensure that Germany had a torrid outing.
Raum is a player I’ve been following for a while now. The man is one of the Bundesliga’s best offensive full-backs, but since Germany has some massive liabilities in defense, the player is expected to defend first and run forward later, which he’s not very good at. Also, passing and crossing are not his forté, which is a shame, because Germany could really use a Davies-esque LB. He probably heaved a sigh of relief after FC Barcelona’s Ferran Torres was taken off, because, well... that looked uncomfortable.
And Kehrer... the less said about him, the better. Leipzig’s Dani Olmo toyed with him like a cat playing with its prey, and the man could do nothing about it. He was responsible for conceding the cross that led to Spain’s goal, and didn’t do much on the offensive end either. A traffic cone would’ve at least been a barrier.
The substitutes saved the sinking ship
Take a bow, Füllkrug and Sané! Both players were welcome additions to the pitch, and instantly vitalized Bayern’s offense. It’s almost as if they were the missing pieces of the puzzle, right? The two combined beautifully with Musiala, resulting in Germany’s only goal. The attack was a bit too hot to handle for Germany’s defense when the two were on the pitch. Gnabry and Gündoğan shouldn’t have started in the first place, but what do we know? Flick is a coach with loads of international and club football experience. Oh wait...
Bottom line: Germany was saved by these two men. Borussia Dortmund’s Nico Schlotterbeck did also make an important tackle toward the end, but he isn’t as much of a no-brainer because of his shambolic outing vs Japan.
So yeah, it doesn’t look very good for Germany, and a big win against Costa Rica, combined with Spain beating Japan would be the only favorable outcome. And if Germany ends up qualifying, expect every game in the knockouts to be Germany’s last.
If Hansi doesn’t get his act together, that is.
Interested in a VERY in-depth review of Germany’s 1-1 draw with Spain? Then why not check out the latest episode of our podcast? We talk about everything from lineups, tactics, and individual performances, to a discussion about Bayern Munich at the World Cup overall. Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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