It is extremely rare for a German national team trainer to go into a week of seemingly meaningless international friendlies with as much at stake as Hansi Flick does ahead of matches with Japan and France. However, a disastrous World Cup has been followed by a host of poor displays and defeats. The debate over the Bundestrainer’s future has already begun and it is now up to him and the team to turn the tide in his favour.
The group stage exit from the World Cup in Qatar, while a huge disappointment, could and should have been filed away in March when Germany embarked on their first set of friendlies as attention turned to the European Championships in Germany next summer. A failure on home soil could not be contemplated so an injection of positivity was needed.
A win over Peru however was followed by a 3-2 defeat to Belgium, who themselves were looking to bounce back after World Cup agony. June got worse for Hansi Flick as his side suffered defeats to Poland and Colombia while only just scraping to a 3-3 draw with Ukraine. The backlash was understandably fierce with Flick in the spotlight for the continued failure of the national team.
Something has to change. Ideally it would be the performance levels and results the team achieves, but if this negative series continues then the DFB would have to seriously consider making a coaching switch to try to change course as the nation builds up to hosting the Euros.
The first international break of the new season however pits Germany against two very difficult opponents. Japan, Germany’s conquerors at the World Cup, are up first on Saturday in Wolfsburg, with heavyweights France the opponents in Dortmund on Tuesday.
If we’re talking about ‘must-win’ matches, then Germany are going to face a real challenge. Flick however remains confident that the team can turn the corner and that they have what it takes to start injecting a sense of optimism.
“I am positive, we have a plan” he said this week in an interview with RND+. “And I can promise that we are well prepared. In the past few weeks I have traveled to many players, we talked about the future, what expectations I have, what roles the players have to fulfill. The conversations give me confidence that the team has understood what we are facing. And that is crucial for me. There was a turning point, a new phase has begun: From now on we want to let the core team get used to it.
“The experiences of the past were important. We tried out a lot: new lineups, new systems. And even though the results weren’t optimal, we made one step further.”
On the surface at least, Flick seems to retain the confidence of the DFB with sports director Rudi Völler speaking out in support of the Bundestrainer this week.
“It’s always like this with nominations, lineups, substitutions: every fan, every expert has their own idea” Völler said. “I had to endure it back then, Hansi has to endure it today. As a national coach, you are asked everywhere: Why does he play on the left, why isn’t he nominated, why a back three? You don’t always have to agree, but there should be respect for the position and person of the national coach.”