Frustration. Disappointment. Incredulity. Three words which summed up the mood in the German camp after the painful 2-1 defeat to Japan. After just one game at Qatar 2022, Germany are on the brink.
For Thomas Müller, it’s a “horror scenario” reminiscent of the debacle in Russia four years ago, when Joachim Löw’s reigning world champions were dumped out in the group stage.
Now, with Germany’s next game already a must-win against Spain, the toughest opponent in Group E on paper who smashed Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game, the same fate could be awaiting Hansi Flick’s side.
To cut a long story short: Germany are still too harmless upfront and too error-prone at the back. Issues which are neither new, nor easily reparable.
Despite creating good chances against Japan, Germany weren’t able to finish the game off. As has so often been the case in recent months, a proper goal-scorer is still missing.
At the other end, the defense remains dogged by poor communication, positional errors and a lack of stability. Then again, when Flick has selected 12 different back fours across his 17 games in charge, one can hardly expect a well-oiled machine.
The elephant in the room, however, is the question of quality.
Nico Schlotterbeck, David Raum and substitute Lukas Klostermann are decent defenders but certainly not among the best in the world.
Similarly, Niclas Füllkrug is a decent Bundesliga striker while 18-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko has potential – but neither are world class. Even the more experienced and proven Serge Gnabry and Kai Havertz failed to make their mark against Japan.
“I don’t know if we’re lacking maturity or maybe even the quality to be prepared for such situations,” said Ilkay Gündogan, hitting the nail on the head.
Now, against Spain on Sunday, Germany have to win. Defeat would almost certainly see them on the next flight home. Again.
A significant step-up in quality and maturity will be required to deliver the sort of performance necessary to beat Spain.
The sort of performance which Germany haven’t produced in a decisive game in a long time.
Edited by Matt Ford