That can't go well. Around the stadium in the desert, there was an unpleasant smell even before the DFB team collapsed at the World Cup. Then Joshua Kimmich wrestles with tears – and everyone else for explanations. National coach Hansi Flick has one, but still has to deal with Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Arriving at Al-Bayt Stadium it smells like cow dung. Or is that camel dung? Regardless, the bad omen is clear. Because crap is crap in the end. At the World Cup in Qatar, Germany put the cart so deep in the desert sand that it became clear that it was rotting in every nook and cranny. Even Hansi Flick can't sugarcoat the embarrassment or provide it with any kind of just-keep-it-on bows.
But he tries. At least a little further. Tanned, but badly injured, he sits at the international press conference after the final whistle. Before that, Bastian Schweinsteiger drags him through the Bedouin tent by the nose ring. The team does not burn, says the world champion. "That's nonsense," says the national coach. In the catacombs of the stadium, he describes his disappointment (huge!) and doesn't want to look for excuses. Although the preparation was so short, even though the end was already sealed with the bad 20 minutes against Japan.
His team, says Flick, have not managed to consistently play at a high level. He doesn't say it directly, he praises the quality of the team and complains about the lack of nines, strong full-backs and the training of youth players in Germany. The long way down has only just begun. "There are good players for the future," he says and later: "What has always distinguished us: that we can defend." Not the case anymore. Four goals against Japan and Costa Rica are the reality. Then there is the lack of efficiency. The negligence. A lament. Everything is crap. He doesn't want to resign. Because the good news is: "The mood in Germany wasn't great before either." That's what Flick says when asked about the impact of failure on Euro 2024. The home tournament. In which Germany will no longer go as a favorite.
The journalists wait a long time for the players in the catacombs. İlkay Gündoğan, Antonio Rüdiger or David Raum just shuffle past with their heads bowed. A few others face the questions with wretched faces. There's Joshua Kimmich, close to tears, who says it was "the most difficult day of my career", the end "not easy for me to cope with personally" and he's "afraid of really falling into a hole". Thomas Müller gives a farewell speech on ARD. He did it "for love". 121 internationals, 44 goals. But not a goal in a tournament since beating Brazil 7-1 in July 2014. Later he concedes half of the speech again.
DFB newcomer Niclas Füllkrug explains that he is "still stunned that it's time to pack your bags". Jamal Musiala is simply "sad and disappointed", Serge Gnabry even feels "a lot of anger". Manager Oliver Bierhoff admits: "The claim is different. We are not where we want to be."
Outside and in the team bus, which is ready to leave, similar scenes of collective frustration are playing out. Kai Havertz, who was voted Man of the Match, stands next to the bus with his head bowed and is on the phone. Gnabry gets in briefly, but can't stand the silence, gets out straight away and stretches his legs for a moment. The others sit silently inside, waiting for the remaining teammates from the mixed zone. Staring at their phones. Peaked caps pulled low over the face. No conversations. Outwardly no emotions.
But suddenly movement. Gündoğan, he sits in the middle of the back seat, pulls out his mobile phone and several players surround him and look at the device together. Maybe they're watching Japan's 2-1 goal, just a millimeter wide of the end. What would have been if? Short discussions. Silence again.
The low blow shocked the team and those responsible. Rightly so. Thomas Müller will soon no longer be a national player, Hansi Flick wants to remain national coach. The immediate consequences after the embarrassing appearance of the DFB-Elf in Qatar are limited, but the second preliminary round at a World Cup in a row will change German football seriously. The colossal failure of the national team shakes the identity of a once great football nation.
The highly praised generation of mid to late 20s around Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané and Niklas Süle said goodbye to three consecutive tournaments far too early and with more and more embarrassment. They are no longer a promise of a great DFB future. They will forever carry the taint of two failed world championships with them through their careers. As the bus leaves Al-Bayt Stadium, fog lies over the desert. Nobody can foresee what comes behind the fog that night. Departure into the unknown.