France - Germany: a rejuvenated and “hardworking” Mannschaft to escape the negative spiral three months from “its” Euro

It's not a lot, 360 minutes, to restore certainty to a team losing its bearings

France - Germany: a rejuvenated and “hardworking” Mannschaft to escape the negative spiral three months from “its” Euro

It's not a lot, 360 minutes, to restore certainty to a team losing its bearings. When it's time to face France, Saturday March 23 (9 p.m.) in Décines-Charpieu (Rhône), in a friendly match, that's how much time remains – four matches, two in March and as many in June – to Julian Nagelsmann to put his German team back on its feet, caught in an endless negative spiral, less than three months before a Euro which it is hosting and in which it will play the opening match on June 14, against 'Scotland.

The appointment of Nagelsmann in September, the day after a humiliating home defeat against Japan (1-4) fatal to his predecessor, Hansi Flick, was to offer a new start to the Mannschaft. Aged 36, an emerging figure in the German school of successful coaches (Jürgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, etc.), this adept at pressing and data was off to a good start with success in the United States (1 -3) followed by an honorable draw in Mexico (2-2). But in November, Turkey (2-3) then Austria (0-2) took it upon themselves to sweep away these fragile hopes, and to plunge Germany back into its doubts.

They have been tormenting her for six years. Eliminated in the first round of the last two World Cups (Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022), exited in the round of 16 of Euro 2021, Germany offers the disconcerting example of an old winning machine lastingly seized up. “It’s not that the team doesn’t know what it has to do or that it doesn’t want to,” analyzed Julian Nagelsmann after the setback in Vienna. (…) But she is not released. It's a good group when you look at it, but it doesn't translate on the pitch yet. »

Young shoots and veterans

The task of the young technician who trained at Hoffenheim, at RB Leipzig then at Bayern Munich, is therefore considerable. This explains why the one who is only under contract until the Euro chose to overturn the table. Because the group he brought to Lyon includes six new figures, never called up to the national team. Little known in France, these players are distinguishing themselves this season in the German championship, like its two top non-foreign scorers, Deniz Undav (Stuttgart) and Maximilian Beier (Hoffenheim). Conversely, Nagelsmann left a host of executives at home, including Matts Hummels, Niklas Süle and Leon Goretzka – Serge Gnabry is also injured and Leroy Sané, suspended.

The intention is clear for this friendly match: to regenerate a group depressed by setbacks, to question the statuses, to promote current form and mental freshness. “We want to ensure that the team has a certain mentality, to change it, with hard-working players on the pitch,” the coach assumed on Friday at a press conference.

He also spoke of “the joy of playing”, keen to reduce the pressure on his team: “It’s football, not politics, even less an economic decision which will affect the destiny of thousands of people. We will try to play, to win and if we lose we will play again on Tuesday, then in May and June with the Euro. »

The coach, however, only took a measured risk, since he kept a backbone of veterans from two European institutions: on the Bayern Munich side, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (forfeited against the Blues) and striker Thomas Müller; Real Madrid side, defender Antonio Rüdiger and midfielder Toni Kroos, back in the selection after announcing his international retirement in 2021. That’s 136 years and 415 caps between them.

“It’s a very good feeling to have Toni behind you,” described Ilkay Gündogan, the German midfielder and captain, at a press conference. His ability to get around the opponent, to give the ball at the right time, will help us to have a more offensive game. » According to him, it is in his zone that the Mannschaft has a card to play against France, deprived of the precious Antoine Griezmann, injured: “My teammates Jamal [Musiala] and Florian [Wirtz] are in sparkling form. We will try to impose our style in midfield. With what I saw this week in training, I think it could look like something very nice. »

By adding Marc-André ter Stegen – who will start in goal –, Joshua Kimmich or Kai Havertz, Germany remains a very well-equipped team, which was able to surprise the Blues (2-1) in a friendly in Dortmund on the 12th. September 2023. A new success or even a draw on Saturday would validate the bold strategy chosen by Nagelsmann and could give Germany the sporting and popular boost it so badly needs in view of “its” Euro.