Hansi Flick had a lot of fun in Munich on Tuesday. In the Nations League match against England, the national coach saw a lot of what he had given the German national team beforehand. He must have loved the almost blurred little scene midway through the first half, even if it was less significant for the game’s overtime trajectory.
It was about a vertical duel at the midfield level. At first glance, two fencers of different weight classes met. On the one hand, there’s the rather sensitive Kai Havertz, who is more of a T-shirt than a champ. On the other hand, the English defender Harry Maguire, with a real mass of 1.94 meters and a weight of 97 kilograms, gave shoulders like a bull.
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Both went up – and eventually Havertz grabbed the ball and passed it to the English half. “It’s just fun to watch,” Flick said.
This is mainly because Havertz has a role with him in which he often has to deal with giants like Maguire. A role that is not necessarily tailored to the Chelsea midfielder. But Havertz has been put in the lead by Flick because there are still no suitable applicants for the position.
The national team has been following the controversy over the lack of suitable strikers for years. Not only Flick, but his predecessor Joachim Loew was also forced to improvise often. A classic striker who has already reliably proven his suitability at the highest level, someone like Harry Kane on Tuesday with the England national team, and German football doesn’t currently have that in his wallet.
Someone like Harry Kane, that’s it
“We don’t need to hide. We are happy with the overall package in attack,” Flick says of the situation in attack and praises “the flexibility and versatility we have in the team.” In fact, he can refer to different types to occupy the storm. In addition to the wrong nine Havertz, there is Timo Werner, who prefers to seek depth with his speed, but also needs a lot of green lawns in front of him to be able to play to his strengths.
Also of note is Serge Gnabry, who is mainly used in the center of the winger, but also dares to play the role of center-attack. However, his use of it this Saturday in Budapest, in the Nations League match against Hungary (8.45pm/RTL), is questionable. Janabri suffers from muscle problems in his calf.
Flick’s squad for the last four games of the season also has two trainees still trying to get closer to the international level: Karim Adeyemi, 20, and Lucas Nmesha, 23. For Adeyemi, who will be from Salzburg this summer, has moved to Borussia Dortmund, there was not even a place in the squad in the previous two Nations League matches against Italy and England.
“He’s had an incredible development behind him, but of course he still has him,” says national team manager Oliver Bierhoff. “He has a lot of competition, especially in attack, which he has to assert himself against.”
Even Lukas Nmecha is half a step above him in the hierarchy. The Wolfsburg player, who was the European champion with the under-21 team a year ago, was still in the squad against Italy and England. But he didn’t play a minute either. “Lucas is a slightly different player than the central strikers on our team,” says Flick.
Nmecha is closest to the heart of the classic attack in terms of stature. He has good speed, he can put his opponents under pressure, but he also has quality in front of goal. “He scored a lot of goals in training sessions this week,” says Flick. “He showed that it could be an option.”
Not enough gamblers are stolen
The scoring speaks of it at least, because that’s what the Germans clearly lack. In the last three matches, they managed only one goal each, although, measuring the number of chances, it could and should have been much more. “We played really well sometimes,” Flick said after the match against England.
It was meant to be praise but it looked poisoned. Because the phenomenon of Germans losing sight of the actual intent of the game for sheer fun is not entirely new.
“The fact that we’re not efficient enough has been with us for a while,” says Oliver Bierhoff, who was a player at a time when Germans didn’t have much to offer in football more than almost terrifying effectiveness. Since then, priorities have changed dramatically.
“We worked a lot to have fun and have fun,” explains Bierhoff of the German Football Association’s coaching concept, which is now more than 20 years old. “It has resulted in us being very playful at one point or another and not being as sober and efficient as we once were.”
Oliver Bierhoff is the best example of the fact that you don’t have to be far from Brazil to become a footballer, and sometimes feet from Malta suffice. And in the meantime, they would like to be a little more than Bierhoff with the national team: resolute, strong in the finals, resolute. Especially with the World Cup show at the end of the year. “This will be a very important point in the tournament,” says Oliver Bierhoff.