Home NEWS Germany ‘have lost their way’ – DW – 09/08/2023

Germany ‘have lost their way’ – DW – 09/08/2023


In the nine years since Philipp Lahm played the last of his 113 international games, lifting the World Cup in Brazil, Germany have failed to get beyond the first round of back-to-back World Cups.

With Lahm’s German generation having largely departed the international scene and a home European Championship On the horizon, their former captain has questioned the leadership qualities of the current players and believes it is not too late for Hansi Flick’s side to build a “strong core” and have a successful tournament in 2024.

“I don’t know who has the responsibility, currently. Who is the face of the team? Who forms the core? Who are the key identifying players in this team?” the EURO 2024 tournament director asked in an exclusive interview with DW at the end of July.

“Every successful Germany team had a core, which still needs to be formed now. There is still enough time.”

Football |  World Cup 2014 |  Miroslav Klose, Kevin Grosskreutz, Lukas Podolski and Philipp Lahm
Lahm, Germany’s seventh-most capped player, is the last captain to lift a trophy for Die Mannschaft.Image: VI Images/IMAGO

Still, Flick does not have much time left. The men’s European Championships kick off in Germany in June 2024, and with just a few sets of friendlies left, there is now a sense of urgency, also felt by Lahm.

“The upcoming international breaks must now be used to form that core and the face of this team,” he explained to DW. “I think for the fans, it’s essential that they know who the team is. I think it is important for the fans and within the team that this is made crystal clear.”

Munich - Philipp Lahm Interview with Max Merrill
Lahm tells DW that the current Germany team has ‘lost its way’Image: Killian Bayer /DW

‘We’ve lost our way’

But the picture remains murky, both in terms of squad selection and results. Before the last round of friendlies, Flick had spoken about the need to “excite” fans and get supporters on their side ahead of the tournament in 2024. But in June, the team failed to inspire with a draw against Ukrainefollowed by losses to Poland and Colombia.

Drastic change is needed, with Lahm even going so far as to suggest Germany need to address the fundamentals.

“I think what has been missed in the last few years is focusing on the basics, just on football,” the 39-year-old said at his foundation’s offices in Munich. “That means scoring goals up front and defending at the back. We have focused on all sorts of things around the game but not on the most important things, what football is all about. We’ve lost our way a bit and need to play catch-up now.”

Nowhere near the elite, no leadership

After three successive disappointments at major tournaments, Germany have slid out of the footballing elite. Time is not on their side now, and the team is crying out for current players to steady the ship as Lahm did in his time.

With captain Manuel Neuer out since a skiing accident in January, Joshua Kimmich has taken the armband, reminiscent of when Lahm himself took it off an injured Michael Ballack and gave the team a new face. After back-to-back third-placed finishes at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, he led Germany to an illustrious title in 2014.

Lahm was often viewed as a quieter captain, not a vocal and aggressive leader in the mold of Lothar Matthäus, Oliver Kahn, Franz Beckenbauer or his predecessor Ballack.

Football |  Friendly match Germany vs Colombia
Germany’s current team are short on leaders, says Lahm.Image: Meusel/Beautiful Sports/IMAGO

“My leadership style was always at eye level and focused on performances,” explained Lahm. “I tried to be a role model for all my teammates and the fans. Also, give a clear opinion, analysis and demands. I believe it’s crucial that everyone understands their role in the team, accepts it and fulfills it not to endanger the team’s success but to shape it positively.”

In recent matches, standout performances and strong characters have been rare. The charismatic late-blooming striker Niclas Füllkrug is perhaps the only shining light in an otherwise uninspiring squad. Germany has looked disjointed and lost, with players either underwhelming, unused, or inconsistent, but Lahm is optimistic despite the slump.

“I believe we have the quality in our squad,” he outlined. “We have good players who are experienced enough to play successful football.”

“Then there is the example of Morocco, who at the last World Cup had a new coach come in just months before and form a unit. Or Argentina and Croatia. I don’t think they had a better squad than us, but they were very successful,” says Lahm. “It’s about being a collective, and you need to form that. I hope we can achieve that in the short time left.”

World Cup 2006 Germany fans flash gallery
Germany’s last home men’s tournament, the 2006 World Cup, unleashed huge levels of public support.Image: AP

Germany can draw on the spirit of 2006

As both tournament director of EURO 2024 and critical figure of several Germany World Cup campaigns, including the home World Cup in 2006, Lahm knows how much being the host can factor into a side’s success or failure.

“We won’t be among the favorites because we were knocked out of the group stage at the last two World Cups and between that in the last 16 of the EUROs,” he admitted.

“You could see at our home World Cup in 2006 we weren’t the third-best squad, but the team identified with the task at hand. The people sensed that too, which can create mutual excitement during a tournament.”

“We had that from the first game in 2006 against Costa Rica here in Munich, but especially in the next game against Poland where we scored the 1-0 winner right at the end in Dortmund. I think Germany became a unit there, thinking, ‘Yes, now we can get far.’ You can’t underestimate that feeling. That is the great advantage of a home tournament.”

The buzz may arrive once Germany kick things off on June 14, 2024. But until then, Hansi Flick faces frustrated fans and puzzled pundits, who demand to see signs of life and vigor. If the frustration builds, even the hype of a home tournament won’t be enough to avoid another early exit.

Edited by James Thorogood



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