When Joachim Löw quit his post as the German national team trainer in 2021, there was really only one name in the frame to take over- Bayern’s sextuple-winning coach and former Löw assistant Hansi Flick. Germany were in safe hands and the good times were meant to return after two tournament failures. Fast-forward two years and the reality has turned out quite differently with Flick fired after the nation’s worst run of results since 1985 and their build-up to the European Championships on home soil in disarray.
The question needs to be asked- what went wrong for Hansi Flick?
Bayern Munich were extremely loathe to see their coach depart for the national team post back in May 2021. This was wholly understandable as he had secured history during the 2019-20 season with the sextuple of Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Champions League, German Supercup, UEFA Supercup and the FIFA Club World Cup. The following season he added a second Bundesliga title, but the pull of the national team job was just too big and the Bavarians were forced to say a sad farewell.
His Midas touch seemed to work on the Nationalmannschaft too with his first thirteen matches all ending in German victories with qualification for the Qatar World Cup achieved with ease. This was however a false dawn and the optimism of his appointment soon turned sour with a poor Nations League performance, a disastrous campaign in Qatar and then worse to follow.
Flick’s downfall is simple to explain and part of the answer can be found in that very word- simple.
His huge success at Bayern Munich was based on the old adage of keeping it simple, picking the best players for his particular set-up and then building up a real team bond that strived to achieve the very best. There was no real need to deviate from this as the players at his disposal were of the highest quality and bought into his way of doing things. Granted he did have players that picked themselves in key positions (Davies, Alaba, Kimmich, Thiago, Müller, Lewandowski) meaning that tinkering wasn’t necessary.
As national team coach he lost this thinking and moved away from keeping things simple. He never really settled on an absolute first-choice line-up with many problem positions seeing him chop and change the players selected. This was partially due to the larger pool of players staking a claim for a call-up and Flick’s inability to settle on the right player.
The full back berths have been problematic and this current generation of players is rather top-heavy on central and attacking midfielders and almost bereft of classic strikers and top quality defenders. The fact that Niclas Füllkrug is the first-choice is more to do with the complete lack of alternatives. This is far from a Golden Generation for Germany, but Flick still should have done much better with the players at his disposal.
The bright hopes Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz are not there yet in terms of delivering fully for the national team and too many of the other stars look a pale imitation of their club personas at international level.
As Flick overcomplicated things, the results started to suffer. They won just one of their six matches in the Nations League and suffered a chastening defeat to Hungary. The World Cup, as we now know, was a disaster with the opening loss to Japan proving so costly. The fact that Hansi Flick was given a second chance after the debacle in the Gulf raised a few eyebrows with team manager Oliver Bierhoff being made the fall guy.
Flick wasted his second chance with the post-World Cup form bringing more of the same. Peru were beaten 2-0, but since then it has been all downhill and the situation just seemed to lurch from bad to worse. Losses to Belgium, Colombia and Poland were combined with a 3-3 draw with Ukraine, which really could have been a fourth defeat.
The friendly with Japan on Tuesday was supposed to be a new start and the chance for redemption, but things just turned even more sour with an abject 4-1 loss. Flick’s time was up.
His magic touch from Bayern had deserted him and he was left as the first Bundestrainer to ever be sacked with a record that doesn’t cover him in glory. His points per game record of 1.72 is the second worst record in history—only Erich Ribbeck (1.5) had a worse record with Germany.
Flick’s record at Bayern Munich shines like a beacon in the night, but his record as German national team coach has been tarnished by the last 12 months. It all started so well with so much promise and optimism. A combination of not sticking to his prior winning formula and not having the absolute top quality first-choice starting XI has led to the trainwreck that is Hansi Flick as Bundestrainer.