The facts lay bare the truth of how shockingly poor this World Cup has been for Germany. Having arrived in Russia as reigning world champions, as well as Confederations Cup winners only a year ago, they performed well below expectations in all three of their group games, which lead to their first group-stage elimination since 1938. With rumours of discontent in the camp, change is needed across the board for Die Mannschaft to avoid another subpar tournament.
Germany’s problems in Russia have stemmed from dismal performances on the pitch. A lucky win against Sweden was sandwiched by two dire performances against Mexico and South Korea.
Joachim Löw’s side were stale and unable to create many meaningful chances in all three of their games, scoring a measly two goals from 72 attempts on goal (Opta). The side looked unbalanced and as a result they were often exposed to counter attacks.
Many of Germany’s established players, such as Jérôme Boateng, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Tomas Müller, who were all so key to the triumph in Brazil four years ago, were anonymous in Russia. They all made either serious errors, or simply did not do enough for the team. They are arguably still capable of representing some of Europe’s top clubs for seasons to come, however it is unlikely that they will be still performing at the top of their game in four years time for the next World Cup. Mesüt Özil and Manuel Neuer will also be into their 30s by the time the next World Cup rolls around.
The failure at this World Cup presents the ideal opportunity to build the team around a new core of players, such as Marc-André ter Stegen, Niklas Süle, Leroy Sané and Timo Werner. They are all players with enough experience at the highest of club levels and they are now more than deserving of being trusted as the centrepiece of a newly rebuilt national team.
Löw has managed the German national side commendably since taking over in 2006. He has lead them to at least the semi-finials in each one of the five major tournaments up to this point, however, to say this World Cup has been anything short of a disaster is an understatement.
To finish bottom of a group where few would have doubted their position as group winners goes to show how underwhelming and poor Germany have been. Some of the blame lies with the players, however it was Löw who picked the players and there are certainly question marks over some of the decisions he made. Not starting Julian Brandt against South Korea, despite impressing in a very short space of time against both Mexico and Sweden, was questionable given the lack of a penetrating, direct runner to take players on.
The absence of enthusiasm in Germany’s play suggested that they were missing a player of Sané’s quality, who would have certainly infected a certain amount of energy into the team and perhaps even fear from opposition players, given his rich vein of form at Manchester City this season.
These are just a few examples of the decisions that Löw has seemingly got wrong and his position as coach is now surely untenable. It would make sense for him to now end his 14-year involvement with the German national team which up to this tournament, has been one of the more successful, consistent managerial reigns at a national team.
Like Löw, Oliver Bierhoff has excelled in his role as “Nationalmannschaftsmanager” since taking the role created by Jürgen Klinsmann in 2004. It can be argued however, that his own shortcomings have also been exposed in the run up to this campaign. Firstly, he has been unable to calm the PR storm created by the images of İlkay Gündoğan and Özil posing with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan which has led to widespread criticism, as well as abuse and boos for the two players from German supporters.
The negative atmosphere incited by this incident has perhaps contributed to the negative performances seen on the pitch not just at the World Cup, but also in their warm-up games against Austria and Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the decision to hand Löw a four-year contract before the tournament in May now appears to be a very short sighted, arrogant decision. The fallout from this can now only be negative, as to terminate his deal would likely be costly in terms of compensation for the DFB and would also naturally raise questions over the competency of the management of the national side. Yet keeping Löw would understandably be interpreted as a step away from progress and unambitious.
Having missed out on the possibility of recruiting talented coaches such as Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann through their commitment to Löw, Bierhoff’s management of the last 12 months could also be under scrutiny following such an awful World Cup and the lack of foresight to the possibility of a below expectation performance has been exposed.
It goes without saying that there will be at least some sort of consequences for both the team and management of Die Mannschaft, as such a poor tournament cannot go unpunished for a country which prides itself in efficiency. There is no question that German players are some of the most talented in Europe, if not the world, however change is required if this talent is to achieve once more.
By Oscar Bell.