The national team meets the European champion: the crisis is now an Italian sport

Hansi Flick came to work a little late. The German national team’s warm-up program was about to end, however of course it would be misleading to conclude that the national coach was not keen. Flick had barely greeted his staff and let his gaze wander across the field as his voice echoed across the stadium.

“beauty!” Flick called on the young Munich player Jamal Musila. “What kind of header is that supposed to be?” Nothing escapes a national coach.

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“Hansi conveys the fun in football, the joy in winning. National player Thomas Muller said in an interview with Kicker, with ease, joy and freedom. “But when he works on the field, he demands complete focus.” This combination of seriousness and ease is How Flick got the German national team out of the bad mood and returned to the spotlight.

It’s only likely that the good mood will become clear again in the next eleven days when Flick and his team – in that order – meet Italy, England, Hungary and Italy again.

The new Nations League season begins on Saturday (8.45pm, live on RTL) with the first leg in Bologna. If you had said last summer that in this duel a team full of self-confidence meets a self-doubt-infuriated person, it would not have been a surprise. Only one would have thought that the confident team would be the European champions Italy.

On the contrary.

Satisfy the team mentality

The German national team has not lost a game since Hansi Flick replaced Joachim Loew as national coach in the late summer of 2021. After eight wins initially, they have not won for the first time in a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Amsterdam at the end of March. And although qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar was just a matter of form – thanks to fairly moderate opponents: “The team showed that they simply wanted to do everything 100 percent,” says Flick. “This mentality, this attitude has been well received.” It is above all the national coach who supports this position. “We’ve turned a new page with Hansi,” says Oliver Bierhoff, national team manager.

This also applies to the European champions, but the current chapter is rather bleak for the Italians. Coach Roberto Mancini’s team, Wednesday, returned to the place of its victory 324 days after winning the final match in the European Championship. But this time, Wembley was no place for joy and pride. In the so-called Finalissima, the Super Cup for the continental champions from Europe and South America, the Squadra Azzurra Argentina was almost inferior.

In the end it was 3-0 for the Argentines. “Despite everything, it’s still a beautiful moment in our career,” Mancini said after the match. Because participating in this duel once again reminded us of the highest level of last year. Since then, however, Italians are going through hard times. Because they lost to North Macedonia in the World Cup qualifiers in Qatar, they did not participate in the World Cup finals for the second time in a row.

Confused at Wembley (II). Joachim Loew’s time as national coach in London ended a good year ago. Since then it has been with…Photo: Imago Pictures/Ulmer Press Photo Agency

“Nevertheless, do not underestimate the European champions,” says German international Serge Gnabry before the Nations League duel. At the European Championships a year ago, the Italians were still the measure of everything, and winning the title was a victory for technology, tactics, talent and team spirit.

Even Flick introduced himself as a fan of this Italian team on Friday before leaving for Bologna. “The way they played football was great,” he says. “They were very brave and acted aggressively, pressed the opponent and always had good solutions, even when you were in possession.”

But the joy of Italian summer is long gone. “After the European Championship, we had a difficult time scoring goals. We have to find solutions to this, to be faster,” says the coach of the national team, Mancini. “But it will not be easy to build a team that will satisfy us in the short term.” Stock of young players who move To the top is manageable, and very few of them actually play in Serie A. However, after the defeat to Argentina, Mancini said: “I still have the enthusiasm.”

With 37-year-old Giorgio Chiellini, one of the defining figures of this generation of Italian football, he ended his international career after 117 caps in London on Wednesday. Cavalier has kept the team together, especially in the European Championship a year ago.

What the new team will look like, who will lead it – all that has not yet appeared. Roberto Mancini can try that job again – just as he did after missing the 2018 World Cup. “He did a great job,” says Hansi Flick. “And he will try the same thing again.” Perhaps the future begins on Saturday in Bologna.

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