How Hansi Flick is breathing new life into Germany after their departure to England at Euro 2020
Three games, three wins, 12 goals and none against.
Yes, fair is fair, Germany played against Liechtenstein, Armenia and Iceland – hardly highlights of the international game – but it still represented the launch for Hansi Flick.
The man tasked with revitalizing Die Mannschaft after their chastening Euro 2020 last-16 departure to England could not have asked for more in September’s trio of World Cup qualifiers.
More fundamentally, Flick is breathing new life into a German team that had grown old, uninspired and often dysfunctional after 15 years of Joachim Low.
Germany got off to a good start under new manager Hansi Flick in last month’s qualifiers
Flick (center) prepares to lead Germany into another round of competition this week
Flick was Low’s assistant between 2006 and 2014, helping them reach the pinnacle of World Cup glory, before becoming the sporting director of the German Football Association for three years.
Someone so immersed in the fabric of the national side should have a good idea of what needs to change, and changes seem to be implemented quickly.
Further progress should be made this week, when Germany takes on Romania tonight and then travels to North Macedonia in a qualifying group that they currently lead by four points.
In March, Germany was stunned at home by roaches North Macedonia and the result only fueled fears that Euro 2020 might have to be written off as a loss.
Those fears became reality when, despite home-field advantage, they failed to make convincing progress through their group in all three games before crashing out at Wembley.
Germany’s dreams of winning Euro 2020 were ended by England beating them in the last 16
It was a painful exit for an inconclusive German side as they lost 2-0 to their old rivals
It was not how Joachim Löw wanted to end his time as Germany national coach after 15 years in charge
But the transition from Low to Flick has come with a light-turning moment in terms of optimism. The former Bayern Munich coach is already talking about their chances at next year’s World Cup.
‘November 2019 [when he replaced the sacked Niko Kovac] nobody thought Bayern Munich would win the Champions League in 2020,” Flick reminded everyone this week.
Flick has tried to take a more holistic approach since he officially took the reins in early August.
He considers personal relationships with club managers to be key – even if there are no players from that particular club in the German squad.
To that end, Flick has discussed with Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel how to get the best out of striker Timo Werner. He regularly checks in with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.
He has also encouraged contributions and suggestions from all 18 Bundesliga coaches on how to improve Germany’s game.
Chelsea’s Timo Werner scores for Germany against Liechtenstein in the first game of Flick in charge
Serge Gnabry was one of Germany’s goalscorers when they beat Armenia 6-0 in Stuttgart
A 4-0 away win over Iceland then left Germany in full control of qualifying group J
March 25 Iceland (H) W 3-0
28th of March Romania (A) W 1-0
March 31st North Macedonia (H) L 1-2
September 2nd Liechtenstein (A) W 2-0
5 September Armenia (H) W 6-0
September 8 – Iceland (A) W 4-0
October 8 Romania (H)
11 October North Macedonia (A)
Nov 11 Liechtenstein (H)
Nov 14 Armenia (A)
That’s despite the latest roster with players from just seven of Germany’s best teams. Players like Bochum, Greuther Furth and Arminia Bielefeld won’t get many calls from players, but that doesn’t change their ideas.
Frank Kramer, Bielefeld’s manager, described his conversation with Flick as “brutally open” and said he was encouraged to “make suggestions” as part of an almost patriotic national effort for the team.
“It’s so important to me: we can’t point at each other, we have to talk to each other – the clubs, the DFB and vice versa,” Flick told Kicker magazine.
There have also been tactical changes. Low set up Germany in a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-2-1 formation, but Flick has played a balanced 4-2-3-1 in his three games so far.
Flick used that system all along at Bayern and believes it will offer more incision in the future rather than a laborious fit just to fit.
Last month there was certainly more ruthlessness about the team, with Serge Gnabry, Werner and Leroy Sane especially taking advantage of this.
In terms of squad selection, it looks more like evolution than revolution. Germany maintain a strong Bayern Munich core from Manuel Neuer in goal through Niklas Sule at the back, Leon Goretzka and Thomas Muller in midfield to Gnabry and Sane on the flanks.
Flick selected eight players from his former club in the final selection of 23, but no one cries for favoritism – after all, Low chose eight Bayern players over the summer.
But there is also a clear effort to keep emerging talent with one eye on next year’s World Cup.
Flick seems more than willing to trust stalwarts like Thomas Muller (right)
Bayern Munich’s 18-year-old starlet Jamal Musiala has a bright future for Germany
19-year-old Karim Adeyemi, in great form for Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, scored his first goal for Germany against Armenia on his debut last month.
Freiburg defender Nico Schlotterbeck, 21, has been reinstated and Bayern’s Jamal Musiala, just 18, looks set to become Germany’s next big star after being priced out of England’s youth teams.
Low tried in vain to get rid of Muller and Mats Hummels in 2019 before finally realizing the error of his ways.
It seems Flick wants to draw on the wisdom of old minds as well as the fearlessness of the youth at his side, which isn’t a bad idea with the next tournament just a year from now.
It would be unwise to get too carried away – Flick’s Germany hasn’t been tested yet.
Karim Adeyemi, enjoying an excellent season at Red Bull Salzburg, scored against Armenia
Romania is probably their strongest opponent in Group J, but is only 42nd in the world rankings.
Germany will blow to Qatar from here and that’s where the real test begins. But now that Flick is in charge, they seem to be in safe hands.