What’s trending in Football : WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO GERMANY?

Germany also affectionately called Die Mannschaft have won 4 World Cups and 3 European cups need no introduction when speaking in the context of world football. The country has produced and continues to produce world class players. The attitude and mentality of the Germans is something many rival teams have begrudgingly admired over the years.  Germany who won the World Cup in Brazil back in 2014 and had an exciting 2017 by winning the Confederations Cup with essentially a “B” team seemed to be on a pathway for footballing dominance.  Pundits and analysts everywhere praised the German squad depth heading into the World Cup in Russia, essentially highlighting the amazing fruits of a system that was implemented back in 2000. I even did an entire project which documented how Germany innovatively rebuilt their developmental system from the ground up which took them from a low point in Euro 2000 to being back to the elite. The praise and rightfully so were being thrown towards them by everyone and Joachim Löw was the face of this era. However the unthinkable happened to Germany,  touted as favourites by everyone they were eliminated at the group stage of the World Cup.  The cynical football fans can argue that this is part of the game but not for Germany and not this particular Germany, it simply was unfathomable how they limped out the tournament with Sweden and Mexico progressing out of that group. Up until the last moment the usual generic statements were still being used  “Germany always finds a way!” “Don’t write the Germans off.” only for all pundits and fans to be stunned by the manner in which Germany was eliminated.

Fast forward a few months Germany has now been relegated from the UEFA Nations League in a group that contained current World Cup winners France and what seemed to be a down and out Netherlands. As tragic as the elimination was in Russia, it seemed there was still an element of enthusiasm for Germany because of the sheer strength of this team but mummers that things were not right were starting to show. One obvious example is Mesut Ozil publicly stating claims of racism towards him after meeting the Turkish President  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,  also the omission of Leroy Sane from the World Cup squad due to his attitude which was echoed by teammate Toni Kroos. To further add to the turmoil, Ozil was always heavily criticized by Bayern president Uli Hoenes calling him a “poor excuse for a footballer” who “hadn’t made a tackle since before the 2014 World Cup.”   These issues seemed to indicate that the camp was far from unified and whether this directly correlates to Germany’s worst world cup performance in 80 years is very much up for debate. The chaos was clearly bigger than what was portrayed to the public.

Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil, along with Everton’s Germany-born Turkey striker Cenk Tosun, pose with the Turkish president – Getty Images

What makes matters worse is the manner in which Low and his men were eliminated from the UEFA Nations League, this is what has shocked the fans and pundits alike once again. Whether you are a fan of Germany or not the decline of this team has shocked everyone, Germany managing 2 draws and conceding 7 goals is very alarming for a team that just a few months ago seemed unstoppable. So what happened exactly? A question that has been asked before and to their credit was solved.   Some cynical fans get solace in saying that the UEFA Nations League was not taken entirely seriously is a perfect example of how the reality has not yet sunk in. Ozil is not the only scapegoat for this current problem, Pep Guardiola who brought his possession-based style to Germany which was heavily integrated into the national set-up was blamed by former Germany defender Hans-Peter Briegel for the current predicament is yet another example of people grasping in vain at straws to try to understand what is happening. Joachim Löw is now being criticized and it goes to show the nature of the game at times. Joachim Löw was not always well received by the public in the beginning, after the 1-0 final loss to Spain in Euro 2008,  followed by the elimination by Spain at the 2010 World Cup and then Euro 2012 with that memorable strike from another controversial player Mario Balotelli it seems as if it the Germany public was saying it was time for Löw to go. At one point the team were starting to get called the “nearly men” and that the current cycle blew their chances. However, World Cup 2014 glory seemed to wipe all those doubts away and he was revered for his management style and tactical acumen. Now once again the calls for his head have returned and change is being considered.

The DFB who were praised for their innovation back in 2000 will now once again have to sit down an analyze the situation and come up with a solution for Germany. The ability to analyse and create a long-term plan will now once again be called upon, what is undoubtedly clear is that the stereotypes of footballing superpowers are being swept aside. Countries like Brazil, Italy, Germany among others have received very rude awakenings about the state of their national teams and that the gap in quality is quickly decreasing. Globally, teams from a tactical and sporting development perspective have evolved, often a term used by lazy pundits and analysts when speaking about international football is the term “Traditional Superpowers of World football.”  Germany was always the first team people used when referring to this apparent outdated phrase.  Of course is not far-fetched and completely reasonable to argue that all teams have cycles of success and failures, it is the very nature of the game and complete dominance without innovation exceedingly difficult. With all those factors considered if there is one team that has proven itself on and off the field as a team that is innovative and has adapted its Germany and even though the source of the current predicament from a public perspective is perplexing Germany will once again have to take a hard look at themselves to solve this problem. Can Germany rise again is the question many are asking and according to history yes they can.


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