In 2024, the Germany team will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of winning the 2014 World Cup, a historic campaign, marked by a 7-1 defeat of hosts Brazil and a victory over Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final.
The setting for the German celebration had everything to be perfect, after all, next year, the country will host the European Championship. But there is no festive atmosphere among the Germans six months before the competition — quite the opposite, in fact. There is a fear among the four-time world champions of causing an embarrassment in front of their fans.
Since winning on Brazilian soil, Germany has never met on the field again. In the last two World Cups, in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar, the team did not pass the first round. These are the team’s worst results in World Cups.
Between one World Cup and another, the country also suffered an early fall in the last Euro, in 2020, when it lost its place in the round of 16, surpassed by England, which would take runner-up.
In 2023, Germany won only 3 times in 11 matches, in addition to two draws and six defeats, all in friendly matches, as the Germans gained a direct place in the Euros as hosts and the European qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup will be only played in 2025.
The negative results caused the German Football Federation to waste another year in trying to establish a coach at the helm of the team. After the end of the long-lived Joachim Löw era (2006-2021), Hans Flick inherited the mission, but the former Bayern Munich coach ended up being fired in September this year shortly after the 4-1 defeat to Japan.
In total, he led the team in 25 duels, with a 57% success rate. He even started well, winning the team’s first eight matches, even without facing any of Europe’s big teams, but only added four more victories after that. He also had two draws and six defeats.
Some of the most painful negative results in his career occurred at the World Cup in Qatar, where he ended up as the highest paid coach among the 32 coaches who competed in the tournament, with an annual salary of €6.5 million (R$36 million in season).
The investment did not translate into results. With him, Germany debuted with a 2-1 defeat to Japan, drew 1-1 with Spain, and, although they beat Costa Rica in the final round, 4-2, they fell in the group stage.
A series of documentaries produced by the German press followed his trajectory in the tournament and the images only increased criticism of Flick. First, a lack of connection between him and the cast was pointed out. Afterwards, the coach faced ridicule because of a scene in which he shows a video of geese flying at athletes in an exercise to supposedly improve teamwork.
ÍIkay Gündogan, 33, at the time a midfielder for Manchester City and currently at Barcelona, was one of the leaders of the squad led by Flick and admitted that he lacked harmony with the commander.
“Many of our players are in a mental struggle with themselves. There is no trust between them, there is no understanding of the moment, of the correct decisions on the field”, criticized Gündogan.
For former full-back Philipp Lahm, 40, currently director of the Euro 2024 organization, the problem would not only be one of command, but also the lack of a “strong core” of athletes, like the one of which he was one of the captains.
“I don’t know who currently has the responsibility. Who is the face of the team? Who forms the nucleus? Who are the main identification players in this team?”, asked the player, world champion in 2014.
“Every successful German team had a core, which still needs to be formed now. There is still enough time,” Lahm added.
With the understanding that it is possible to form this strong group, after all there are many Germans playing in the main teams in Europe, the German Federation decided to hire coach Julian Nagelsmann, 36, who curiously had already replaced Hans Flick when he left Bayern Munich.
The debut was promising, with a 3-1 victory over the United States, but Germany ended the year with three games without winning: a draw with Mexico and defeats to Turkey and Austria.
The challenge for 2024 is great and, with just over six months to go until the Euro Cup, time seems short to restore the squad’s confidence.
Nagelsmann, however, knows that his stay in the national team depends on it. After all, he signed a short contract, precisely until the end of the tournament on German soil. If the team does not get back on track, it is unlikely that his contract will be extended and Germany will once again be without command and direction.