Germany needs to show....something against Japan.
What, you might ask? Relentlessness...skill...precision...toughness...
Any of those would have worked, but nary a one was found for the majority of the match as the Germans dropped an uninspiring 4-1 decision to Japan.
Let’s get on with it, here are five observations on the match...
Kimmich has way too much responsibility — and movement — in this system
In theory, Flick was looking to get the “best of both worlds” (no, not the same kinds as you might have heard about in Clerks), by still having a back four in theory, but adding Kimmich into the midfield during the attack. However, that is a lot of work and a lot of running...and certainly can leave some holes in the defense as we saw.
Moreover, Japan was able to quickly throw counterattacks at Germany and it did not take the Japanese long to realize that targeting Nico Schlotterbeck would be a fruitful way to expose Germany’s weaknesses. Oh, about Schlotterbeck...
Schlotterbeck as a left-back...did not work
Schlotterbeck is a good defender and he has very good straight-line speed. However, pushing into a left-back position and asking him to cover smaller and quicker (in small spaces) players was a recipe for disaster...and it proved to be just that. On both of Japan’s first half goals, the team attacked Schlotterbeck, whipped in crosses that he could not close on, and scored.
Schlotterbeck’s sloppiness struck again for Germany in the 41st minute when an errant pass sent Ayase Ueda on a straight break away with no challengers except Marc-André ter Stegen. Luckily for Germany, its goalkeeper made a massive save to prevent Flick’s team from being down 3-1 heading into the locker room for halftime.
To be fair, Antonio Rüdiger, the left center-back, was brutal, too, but Schlotterbeck really struggled on the day.
Sané is playing at an elite level
Bayern Munich fans have been paying attention to Leroy Sané over the past month, so it was no shock for many to see the winger absolutely threatening Japan every time he touched the ball.
If you have not been watching Bayern Munich, though, you might be asking if the attacker has been this good and disruptive consistently this season. The answer is an authoritative “Yes” to both.
Sané was a matchup nightmare for Japan and if he had gotten the ball in more advantageous positions, he could have lit up the scoreboard again.
Wirtz is still a work in progress for the national team, but this was a positive performance
During this match, we saw Florian Wirtz make an incredibly important play for Germany. The talented youngster was credited with the assist on Sané’s goal when he deftly slid a pass to his cutting teammate for an easy score. Wirtz’s ability to receive the initial pass from İlkay Gündoğan, survey the situation on the move, and perfectly place a ball to Sané was the best moment that the 20-year-old star has had in a Germany kit.
However, not everything was great for the youngster. At times, he was out of sync with teammates and unable to effectively get into the flow of the match. He appears to be a more cocksure player for Bayer Leverkusen than he is with Germany.
Still so young, Wirtz as well as Jamal Musiala mean Germany is in good hands moving forward, but Flick needs to figure out a way to extract more out of the attacker. The effort from Wirtz could not be questioned, tough. He did bring energy to the pitch, but he was just not involved enough on the ball as a No. 10 for this squad.
Ter Stegen was awesome
FC Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen gave up two goals that were a bit unlucky, but he prevented at least three other “golden opportunities” that should have been goals. This match could have been a rout if not for the 31-year-old.
Not always this proficient for the German national team, Ter Stegen showed his value against Japan in a big way.
Flick is in trouble
After a horrific run of recent games, Flick picked an odd time to make such grand experiments. It reeks of someone grasping at straws to survive and hoping that a new trick or two will be enough to hold off the inevitable for a little while longer.
In the end, Germany’s players are not good enough, but they will not get fired. Despite the abysmal performances from some (Schlotterbeck, Rüdiger, Kai Havertz), ineffective showings from others (Gündoğan, Gnabry), and general inconsistency from a few more (Wirtz, Emre Can), Flick is the man on the hook for Germany.
Maybe most damaging is that the team often looks hapless and struggles to assert itself in just about every game now. The players might not be motivated or they might not be responding to the coaching, but whatever it is, it is bad.
To be clear, Flick is not the one out there on the pitch making errors. The coach is only working with the hand that he has been dealt, but there will have to be a “fall guy” for this at some point — and that man will undoubtedly be Flick.
The manager never looked like he was not in control at Bayern Munich, but now it looks as if he has no grasp on the squad. Injuries have hurt and a lack of development by almost everyone on the team has killed some things, but Flick is now in major danger of getting the boot — unless he can coax a world class effort out of his boys against an outrageously stacked France team. To that, most would say “good luck!”
Looking for more Germany analysis? The Japan game may spell the end for Hansi Flick, but how much blame do the players deserve? We talk about that and so much more in our latest podcast episode! Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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