Mueller out? Kimmich transferred?: The most sensitive questions that Flick has ever had to clarify

Hansi Flick and the German national team have their backs to the wall at the World Cup - and are about to be eliminated.

Mueller out? Kimmich transferred?: The most sensitive questions that Flick has ever had to clarify

Hansi Flick and the German national team have their backs to the wall at the World Cup - and are about to be eliminated. Before the decisive duel against Spain wild personal discussions break out. For the DFB team it is a game that can have serious consequences.

When Hansi Flick thinks of Brazil, the national coach still gets warm feelings. This is less due to the cozy temperatures in the summer of 2014 and not to the current summer temperatures in Qatar, where Hansi Flick has to endure the biggest storm of his tenure so far.

This had been brewing in the shaken homeland (after the 1-2 defeat against Japan) and euphoric Spain (7-0 win against Costa Rica). Somewhere over the Mediterranean, the two winds had combined to form a powerful hurricane and made their way to the "Zulal Wellness Resort". To that place, far from the gates of Doha, which should have been the Qatari "Campo Bahia" - but is now (only for the time being) being shaken violently by the foothills.

The calm, the harmony, the happiness from the warm days in the wellness temple in the municipality of Santa Cruz Cabrália are a beautiful memory. The memory of a time when things were better in German football. You don't have to glorify the past, but if you compare 2014 and 2022, then the situation is like this: In Brazil, only Per Mertesacker's ice barrel interview caused friction, in Qatar there are so many other things that create a stimulating climate . But not just sporty. The team's first appearance was overlaid by the discussion about the "One Love" armband, the federation's buckling against the FIFA ban and the fight for a strong sign of reparation.

Is the "mouth closed" gesture good for that? That was discussed variously. On the other hand, there was less diversity of opinion when assessing Germany's performance against Japan. The enforced majority observation: It was okay for 60 minutes, then there was a change and finally all stability sank into the Persian Gulf. And with it the good, better, optimistic mood. Locally, not at home, the lack of interest in the World Cup is well documented there with weak TV ratings. But back to Qatar: In view of the approaching hurricane, the atmosphere in the team is stimulating. Kai Havertz said on Friday that it was time to "tell the truth." A cracking debate like in 1974? When Germany collapsed against East Germany and the country was in turmoil. With the result that only a few days later Yugoslavia was played.

Can things be repeated from 48 years ago? It's the exciting question before the "final" against Spain on Sunday evening (8 p.m. in the live ticker on In the event of a defeat, the earliest conceivable knockout threatens. (as you can read here again). Only once in German history did the team fail after just two games, that was in France in 1938. It would be a historic low point, as far as one can lean out the window. One who would question a lot, maybe even everything. From the training in the youth teams to the courage and tactics of the national coach.

Would Flick be questioned as the man of choice? Rather unlikely. His nominated World Cup squad was hardly criticized in advance, at most in nuances, see Mats Hummels. The squad was considered by many to be the best possible selection. Rather, Flick is struggling with the structural problems of German football, which also weighed on predecessor Joachim Löw. And yet it is likely to be the most important game of his coaching career. A preliminary round at a World Cup can neither be quickly repaid nor easily discussed away.

And Flick has already proven how he can defy complicated weather conditions. When the DFB team not only disappeared from the top of the world in sport, after the 2018 World Cup debacle and the early end of the 2021 European Championship, but also alienated itself from the fans through aloof marketing claims, when "dark clouds" appeared on the "Die team" weighed heavily, so he not only succeeded Joachim Löw as the man-catching national coach, but also quickly sorted things out profitably on the field. Admittedly, the opponents were not always the strongest, but Germany played lively, sometimes thrilling football. But the fact that exactly that stagnated, even tipped over, that games like the one against Japan were not played successfully to the end and caused frustration the closer Qatar came, is also true.

What this actually looks like will be decided this Sunday. The national team, the coach, the players themselves before the tournament in the desert did not hold back their belief in their own strength and thought the world title was possible. DFB director Oliver Bierhoff had formulated this path back up as a goal for his new national coach. Not necessarily in Qatar yet, but Germany should be a top favorite again at the home European Championship in 2024.

Before the game, wild discussions break out about the right line-up. It seems clear that the team will be changed. Winger Leroy Sané is forced into the starting line-up after suffering from knee problems. But who has to give way for him? Serge Gnabry, who had missed countless top chances against Japan, but was very agile in the second half? Rather not. Jamal Musiala? Excluded. Absolutely impossible. Thomas Müller? Probably! The chief communicator and pressing leader, who Flick actually considers indispensable, is struggling with form after his injury break. In the opening game he dropped significantly and didn't seem fit. A KO now could also mean the end of his (great) international career. From the bank.

Müller out of the starting eleven would mean: Musiala moves from the left to the ten. In this position he had put the Bundesliga and all experts in ecstasy in the first half of the season. Lothar Matthäus sang hymns. Probably the most recognized TV analyst called him "indispensable", made raving Messi comparisons and immediately attached a price tag of a "quarter of a billion" euros to him. With Musiala the game would probably get more ideas, more speed, more danger. There was possession against Japan, but no surprises.

Casting the "Ten" is just one of at least four problems. Who plays up front? Havertz had a bad evening against Japan, to put it mildly. Does the internationally inexperienced Niclas Füllkrug now get a chance against a powerful opponent in the most important DFB game of recent years? It would be a brave decision. But maybe not the right opponent against this opponent, as cult trainer Winnie Schäfer explained in an interview with Havertz could be the better choice against the ball-safe Spaniards with his strengths.

And how's it going in central midfield? Joshua Kimmich is considered an actually immovable authority. Flick appreciates the influence of the Bayern driver on the game of a team beyond all measure. That was already the case when we were together in Munich. However, Flick had a reliable man for the right defensive flank in Benjamin Pavard. That's the crux of the matter for the national coach: You can nominate whoever you want, but only with the right passport. Buying a problem solver, like in club football, just doesn't work. If he were to transfer Kimmich and put Müller on the bench, Flick would reject two of his basic beliefs. Brave in such a game.

But he just lacks a right-back at the highest international level. And so it is now being discussed again whether Kimmich, who can play this position at the top level, should not be transferred. Because there are more outstanding alternatives available in midfield. For example İlkay Gündoğan, who was an important stabilizer against Japan after a weak start until he was substituted. Or Leon Goretzka, who is actually indispensable with his power and final strength. Flick tested the duo against Oman and was able to record: it wasn’t a very good idea. However, Oman was also a friendly, 90 minutes to get used to the climate on the Arabian Peninsula. A pattern without value.

And what happens in defence? Will Freiburg left-back Christian Günter join the team for David Raum? Günter is considered to be more tactically disciplined, but does not have the power in the game like the Leipzig player. But because Sané might move back in, that might be dispensable. However, Flick would have to give up the tactical ideal of the asymmetrical last row. Because Günter is not someone who is constantly present at both ends, like the Canadian Alphonso Davies once was at Flicks FC Bayern.

How is the center set up? Antonio Rüdiger is non-negotiable. He is and will remain the boss. Will Niklas Süle, who has been heavily scolded as a right-back, move back to his side? Or will Dortmund teammate Nico Schlotterbeck, who has also been badly scolded, remain in the team? The always serious Matthias Ginter would be available as an alternative. Or Armel Bella-Kotchap, who has put many top strikers through the wringer in the Bundesliga and Premier League, but has never played such an important game.

And then there is the open question of the cast in the back right. After the bankruptcy in Japan, Flick invited to a media round and there gave up his vehemence to think about Kimmich's role. However, a transfer back is not considered likely, rather the Flick frequent player Thilo Kehrer, who was surprisingly not considered at the start, is the first candidate. But the openness with which the national coach thinks about the problems from the Japan game is remarkable. Hansi Flick is in the storm and has to make the trickiest decisions of his coaching career so far. Brazil is so far away.

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