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Opinion: Germany no longer an elite team

Germany's historic exit is the latest turn in a tumultuous four-year run.

Just like in Russia, Germany are out in the group stages of a World Cup. Despite beating Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday, the damage was already done. This time, their exit was perhaps even more painful because they left their destiny in the hands of others and paid the price for it, after Spain lost to Japan.

Out in the group stages in successive World Cups and out in the Round of 16 at the Euros last summer, Germany has proven one thing: this is no longer a tournament team.

Despite Niclas Füllkrug's best efforts, Germany don't have a classic number nine. Defensively, only Antonio Rüdiger has looked a good enough successor in the generation following Mats Hummels and co. The mess made of the right back spot since Joshua Kimmich moved into midfield has been a disaster and the lack of real quality in the wingback position generally has finally caught up with Germany.

Structural issues

These are all issues, in part, connected to youth football in Germany. Overhauled by the introduction of academies in the early 2000s, Germany's system produced a generation of technically-gifted, tactically-smart players. That led, in part, to glory in 2014 but since then Germany has been slow to adapt and the rest of the world has caught up. Reforms are now in place, but they will take the best part of a decade before they bear fruit.

Coaching has also been an issue. Germany was a rollercoaster side under Joachim Löw, who gradually became a coach who rarely got the balance right and in the end stuck around too long, dragging Germany through the two previous tournaments but not into a new era.

The arrival of Hansi Flick, a coach who turned Bayern Munich into a risk-taking, winning machine in his short time at the club, brought great hope. Instead, Flick's football flickered on and off in Qatar as Germany never really pressed with the required ruthlessness. The problems remained and true innovation has been lacking. Flick must take some blame here for some questionable choices and was rudely reminded that that Germany is not Bayern Munich.

Quality is lacking

All of this leads to the obvious yet startling conclusion that in the context of the current international game, Germany is no longer part of the top tier. They are just another team. The statistics prove it: Germany has just three wins in their last 10 tournament games. The team knows it too, as demonstrated by comments from Ilkay Gündogan and Manuel Neuer after the loss to Japan. The showing against Spain proved a flash in the pan, for both the team and their head coach.

Evidently, Germany is no longer elite.

Flick will likely stay, with the home European championships in two years his ultimate and possibly only chance of redemption. Team manager Oliver Bierhoff, on the other hand, may well find himself in hot water.

The ageing spine of this team has reached its limit. Thomas Müller effectively retired after the Costa Rica game. It would be no surprise to see Ilkay Gündogan, Mario Götze and maybe even Manuel Neuer do the same, regardless of the home tournament in two years. The wheels of a swift and radical revolution are in motion.

Either way, a truth that has long been lingering in the background is now out and undeniable: Germany is no longer a top team.

Edited by: Matt Pearson

Source: DW

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Story first published: Friday, December 2, 2022, 10:21 [IST]
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