There’s a lot to digest and unpack with Germany’s exit from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in the group stages — the second consecutive time they suffered that fate having crashed out at the same point in Russia back in 2018. For a nation that’s so synonymous with footballing heritage and success, that is something that’s simply unacceptable on all levels. There were missed chances, severe lapses in defensive concentration, phases of complacency, and periods of a lack of creativity, but the finger can be pointed in so many different directions instead of solely at Hansi Flick and his coaching staff.
For former Bayern Munich and Germany defender Philipp Lahm, he believes that most of Die Mannschaft’s problems came down to a lack of defensive stability, overall organization, and the fact that their opponents could easily sniff out their weak points.
“In Qatar, the big nations have succeeded so far, only not us. Germany have lost defensive stability – the team cannot keep anyone away from their goal. Every opponent creates chances, even Costa Rica and Oman. Germany’s game always suffers a break,” Lahm told The Guardian (via @iMiaSanMia). For any one of their group stage matches, to Lahm’s credit, Germany was lucky not to have conceded more than they did. Both Spain and Japan had spells where they, by far, were the far more threatening side, and because of what happened between Japan and Spain during Germany’s late charge against Costa Rica, it proved to be nothing but a consolation spearheaded by Chelsea’s Kai Havertz.
For Lahm, the wasn’t necessarily a lack of passion, grit, or intensity, but Germany’s lack of organization was something that their opponents were really able to pounce out. With the first midfield pivot of Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan in front of David Raum, Niklas Sule, Antonio Rudiger and Nico Schlotterbeck, they looked completely stretched between the lines at time and Japan routinely looked dangerous on the counter attack. That did improve against Spain and Costa Rica, but Flick’s reluctance to start with a natural striker from the get-go meant that Germany had a plethora of midfielders and attacking midfielders in systems that just didn’t seem to work in their favor, at least consistently enough to progress out of the group.
“In all group matches Germany showed passion, commitment & aggression. The opponents sensed there were players with quality. But there was a lack of strategy and order; it was never clear who would take on which role. Hansi Flick’s team were not not well organized in Qatar,” Lahm explained. He also felt that there was just never real a sense of control or dominance at any point during any of Germany’s matches, either. “We failed to control the game. To control a game you have to develop play from the defense and from the center. That is a law of football. These positions – in the jargon 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 – must complement each other and develop a blind understanding,” he said.
Particularly, the center back is a position is a spot where there just hasn’t been enough continuity in recent years for Germany in Lahm’s assessment of that are of the pitch. “Stability comes from continuity. For a long time, however, it was not clear who would defend in the center for Germany. The midfield didn’t find itself, although the right players were available,” he said.