Euro 2020 Opinion: What new manager Hansi Flick must do to turn Germany into winners again
Hansi Flick will now take over from Joachim Low as Germany boss after the country's elimination from Euro 2020 at the hands of England. Germany are stuck between the generation that won the 2014 World Cup and the new generation that has yet to establish themselves at the top level. Flick has a big job on his hands.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Thomas Mueller of Germany reacts after a missedisses a chance during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, England
Germany can’t claim they weren’t given fair warning. In many ways, their Euro 2020 reflected what went wrong three years earlier at the 2018 World Cup with Joachim Low’s side a long way short of the required standard to go far in the tournament. They deserved to suffer a painful exit at the hands of England.
In Russia three years ago, Germany looked to have reached the end of a cycle that had delivered glory four years beforehand at the 2014 World Cup. The need for rejuvenation, for fresh ideas and methods was clear, yet the team that arrived at these Euros was essentially the same.
Low will now step aside as Germany boss with Hansi Flick already confirmed as his successor and the former Bayern Munich boss has a big task on his hands to turn around a sinking superpower of the international game. The process must start now, but it should have started long ago.
Indeed, Euro 2020 was one tournament too far for Low and for his Germany team. There were some new faces, including Kai Havertz and Robin Gosens, in the 26-man squad he called up for the tournament, but at no point did it appear Low had an idea of how to fully shift Germany into a new generation.
The back three might have masked some deficiencies in defence, but it robbed Germany of control in the centre of the pitch. As a pairing, Ilkay Gundogan and Toni Kroos are as technically able as they come, but with a combined age of 61 they lack athleticism. This is likely why Low picked Leon Goretzka to start against England, but not much combination play with Kroos was evident.
Joshua Kimmich was deployed as a right wing back in every game Germany played at Euro 2020 and while the 26-year-old can play here, this is one decision Low will surely face scrutiny for. Kimmich is the best central pace-setter Germany currently have, but he couldn’t influence matches to the best of his ability out wide.
Flick will almost certainly forge a midfield partnership between Goretzka and Kimmich when he takes over from Low, such is the success Bayern Munich have enjoyed with the pair in the centre of the pitch. This is the basis upon which Germany must build their next team ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
More troublesome for Flick is the lack of options in central defence. Mats Hummels was recalled to the Germany squad for Euro 2020 to address this deficiency, but this was merely a short-term solution. Antonio Rudiger is an elite level centre back. Looking past him, though, German defenders are thin on the ground right now.
Neuer Bundestrainer: Hans-Dieter Flick
Image credit: Getty Images
Germany have also suffered for their lack of a true penalty box poacher. Low switched between using Kai Havertz, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller as the apex of his attack over the course of this summer’s tournament, but at no point did it appear a system or structure was in place to harness them.
At least Flick will have options in this area. Havertz has the skill set to turn himself into a true number nine. Gnabry is still one of the best wide men in the game right now and is a player Flick knows how to get the best out of having coached the 25-year-old for the past two seasons at Bayern Munich. Then there’s Jamal Musiala, the teenager who stands a good chance of being a first team figure for club and country by next year’s World Cup.
The last time Germany were eliminated from an international tournament by England, the country embarked on a programme of footballing root and branch reform. 21 years on, it’s unlikely Germany will make such fundamental changes, but changes are needed. It’ll take more than just a new manager.