Hansi Flick’s first defeat shows Germany are not ready for Qatar

Hansi Flick’s first defeat shows Germany are not ready for Qatar

With less than two months to go until the World Cup kicks off, Germany fans still wonder what their strongest side looks like. The coach’s preceding 13-game unbeaten run looked impressive on paper, but a four straight 1-1 draws, a leaky defence, and finally this defeat revealed a truer reflection of Flick’s tenure. 

“I think it was eye-opening, in the first half we played terribly”, Flick told German broadcaster ZDF. “We weren’t brave or proactive and played without confidence.”

Hungary stride on as leaders of this highly competitive Nations League group, while Germany stumble out of the competition, now leaving them without any competitive fixtures between the World Cup and their home Euros in 2024, exactly the scenario Flick had urged his team to avoid ahead of the match. 

Ádám Szalai’s delightful backheel flick for the opener was reminiscent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his pomp. But the ageing former Mainz striker, who was playing his penultimate game for Hungary before retiring from international football, has no right looking like a world-beater, as an inattentive Germany defence fell asleep at a corner and thus failed to keep a clean sheet for the sixth game running.

The hosts also desperately lack a proven goalscorer, but even more broadly any sense of ingenuity in attack. 

Germany beaten on the pitch and in the stands

Under the Friday night lights, the travelling Hungary fans outshone the home support, roaring their side on as one raucous black-clad unit. In fact, the Germany faithful did little to draw attention to themselves, aside from repeatedly pelting Hungary’s corner-takers with paper missiles, used before the match to pay tribute to deceased Germany legend Uwe Seeler.

On the pitch, the hosts also failed to sing to the same tune. From the off, Germany were hesitant and sloppy in their build up, while Hungary showed energy without the ball and greater intent with it.

Flick pays for indecisiveness 

Starting Jonas Hofmann as a makeshift right-back and calling up center-back Armel Bella-Kotchap for the first time less than two months before the World Cup kicks off underlines that Flick is still unsure of both his best eleven and supporting squad.

A half-time tweak bringing on Thilo Kehrer for an out of sorts Serge Gnabry moved Hofmann further forward and yielded more movement. The change saw Germany at times fluidly switch back and forth between a three and four-man defence but this tactical tweak also leaves the impression the coach doesn’t even know what system suits his players. 

“We wanted to try something with Jonas Hofmann at right-back, that’s on me, I wanted to try something but it didn’t work,” Flick admitted.

The COVID-related absences of Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka can hardly be used as an excuse. Marc-André ter Stegen was a more than capable replacement for the captain and not at fault for the goal. Meanwhile, Kimmich and Gündogan, among the best midfielders in the world, found little movement ahead of them from Bayern duo Gnabry and Sané. Jamal Musiala must be asking himself why he was merely a substitute following his excellent early-season form. 

Germany in danger of repeating 2018 disaster

When tested, Germany simply do not yet inspire confidence. True, the men’s national team has often looked shabby before major tournaments only to overachieve. But Group E opponents Spain, Japan – who beat USA 2-0 in Düsseldorf just hours earlier – and Costa Rica will fancy their chances of plucking a point from them in November. 

Flick is running out of time and games, with Monday’s match against England, who lost in Italy on Friday night, the last real test ahead of Qatar. His side failed to inspire in Leipzig and must now hope for a turnaround in London.

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Last Update: Fri, 23 Sep 22 18:07:06