All in all, this past World Cup was an underwhelming experience, with Germany ultimately being eliminated due to their untimely first loss to Japan 2-1 and Japan performing as the nemesis again beating Spain 2-1 in the last game of the group stage.
From the conclusion of the first group stage match, there were concerns about Germany’s unity and performance and those concerns have only been amplified and corroborated by this report. For starters, Germany seems to have been divided into two groups, the “Bayern Squad” and ‘The Rest”, as noted below:
The national team was divided into two camps - the 'Bayern block' and 'the rest'. Hansi Flick was accused of bias towards the Bayern players due to his special relationship with them, that caused a split within the team. Flick couldn't win the whole team over [@SPORTBILD] pic.twitter.com/YP3F6hQmFG— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) December 7, 2022
This was problematic for a few reasons, however, the most notable part was Hansi Flick not creating a unified squad. That alone could be an easily fixable problem, but Sport Bild notes that there were even more problems. If one can remember, the “OneLove” armband became major news between Germany, England and Belgium prior to the start of the World Cup. Once Qatar and FIFA prohibited the armband, the expectation was that was it however a few of Germany’s players had other ideas:
The problems started before the Japan game. The discussion around the One Love armband on the eve of the game was led by (Manuel) Neuer & (Leon) Goretzka who insisted that a gesture of protest must be done. Other players didn’t want to take part in any political statements.
This disagreement led to what would become a rather infamous photo for Germany before the Japan match. It also, however, leads to a clearer power-structure within Germany not only including their captain, Manuel Neuer and his club teammate Leon Goretzka. Speaking of Goretzka:
During the Japan game, many couldn’t understand Flick’s decision to sub Goretzka on for Gündogan, which ultimately led to a loss of control and balance. Internally, it was criticized as a ‘harmony substitution’ to keep Goretzka happy. Gündogan was furious.
I’m just going to be rather blunt here: Ilkay Gündogan was atrocious at this World Cup. Frankly, he should have never been brought. Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Jamal Musiala do make up the Bayern midfield, but they’re also the best midfield trio Germany has. Jamal Musiala has supplanted Thomas Müller and the Goretzka-Kimmich combination is one of the best pivots in all of Europe. So, excuse me while I do not see this to be as big of a problem as others make it. Finally, one more core problem that appeared is Kai Havertz frustration at his lack of playing:
Players like (Marc Andre) ter Stegen and (Kai) Havertz were frustrated to sit on the bench. ter Stegen, especially, is growing frustrated that he’s not getting his chance despite his performances at Barcelona - which will only get worse after Neuer’s decision to continue and Flick’s reliance on him.
Ter Stegen was never going to start and frankly I still do not think he should. Call me biased, but Neuer is still the starter. That is not to say Flick should not open a competition, but Neuer still has time and time again kept Germany on the field when our far greater weakness *Ahem Defense.* You know it is still a luxury to have Ter Stegen as the No. 2. Havertz is a far more complex situation. He was undoubtedly the best player in Germany’s crucial 4-2 victory over Costa Rica and has done more than enough to be a starter. The problem is, where? He’s not going to take over Musiala as the CAM. The wings had talented players already there and unless Hansi Flick drastically changes the formation for accommodate him as a False No. 9, he might just have to accept his place as a rotational player. Not to mention Timo Werner or Niklas Füllkrug will be back as the striker.
Germany has problems, but they also have an absurd amount of youthful talent. The real question is, will Hansi Flick make the necessary structural changes to better implement his talent or will he remain stuck in his Bayern ways?