Will national coach Julian Nagelsmann become a danger to the football nation of Germany?
Photo: imago/Mika Volkmann
Julian Nagelsmann invited people to “painting black”. “You’re welcome to do that, but it won’t make us a better football nation,” said the national coach late Saturday evening in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. To speak of a memorable press conference after the 2:3 (1:2) international match against the Turkish national team is perhaps a bit exaggerated. It was definitely an extremely inconfident performance from the 36-year-old.
“First of all, congratulations to the Turks on their victory.” Julian Nagelsmann’s first words made people sit up and take notice, as roughly as he had spoken them. He later said: “The third Turkish goal doesn’t count.” One can argue about the penalty whistle that led to this goal in the 71st minute. But it wasn’t just a disappointed national coach on the podium, but a sore loser. Nagelsmann lost his nerve after just the third game with the DFB team. For all the doom-mongers, here’s the trend: win against the USA, draw against Mexico, defeat against Turkey. And should another defeat follow next Tuesday in Vienna against a good Austrians with coach Ralf Rangnick, then the football nation of Germany would be right back where it was before the coaching changes from Joachim Löw to Hansi Flick to Nagelsmann.
Bernd Neuendorf is also worried about this. One shouldn’t say that everything was bad, said the DFB President on Sunday. Because: “To question everything now makes it difficult.” Loss of reputation due to various scandals and the sporting decline, plus the financial hardship – for Neuendorf and his association, the European Championship in their own country is of the utmost importance. In order to at least say something self-confident, he also counted the critics. “Always this exulting to the heavens, saddened to death.”
If you asked ten-year-olds today, they wouldn’t be able to remember the good times for the German national team. Every celebration has long since faded away in the football cosmos, every criticism of the development is justified and there is no sign of improvement even under Nagelsmann. All the problems that have plagued the team for years also became apparent in Berlin. The new national coach wanted to strengthen the vulnerable defense and “defend it more variably”. Against Turkey, the defense was formed in a chain of three, four or five. It wasn’t just the goals conceded by Ferdi Kadioglu in the 38th minute and Kenan Yildiz in stoppage time in the first half that looked bad.
Nagelsmann later lost himself in difficult-to-understand tactical explanations and couldn’t find simple explanations for mistakes. Even more fatal than badmouthing everything is not wanting to acknowledge the problems. Here too, the new national coach was similar to his predecessors. Even his view that the Turks “were no better” and had “fewer chances” is debatable. “Both goals conceded weren’t played well either.” This sentence from Nagelsmann frightened many in the large press room of the Olympic Stadium. On the one hand, the disrespect towards the opponent is shocking, but on the other hand, there was a lack of integration into the football world. Turkey has only made it to a World Cup twice, most recently 21 years ago. Anyone who badmouths such an opponent despite a defeat can very quickly become a danger to the football nation of Germany.
No, it wasn’t all bad. Leroy Sané had an outstanding international game. Speed, ball handling, running routes: The Munich player was always a threat on the right flank and provided a fantastic preparation for Kai Havertz’s lead in the fifth minute of the game. Florian Wirtz was convincing in the attacking midfield. With a strong individual action four minutes after the restart, Niclas Füllkrug made it 2-2. Another but: The DFB team had strong offensive moments even in their worst times. “We started well in the first ten or twelve minutes,” praised Nagelsmann. An analysis popular with coaches of relegation candidates. The national coach did not provide an explanation as to why his team lost control of the game.
Immediately after the final whistle, Sané disappeared into the catacombs. He was certainly disappointed, as he had been able to shine so much himself. But this departure was definitely disrespectful to his own team, the opponent and the audience. It seems that the DFB team has not yet become a team even under the new national coach. The attitude has been criticized all too often in recent years; Nagelsmann calls it “emotionality”. He really wanted to wake them up. She was missing, he said after the game.
An old piece of wisdom could help the young Nagelsmann. A team is more than the sum of its members, and that doesn’t just apply to football. So far, the national coach, like his predecessors, has taken a different approach. “If I have ten world-class players, ten of them should play.” One of the national team’s ongoing problems is that they always play in the same pool of players. Because every new coach thinks that his tactics will make things better. Although one or two newbies are welcomed into the team every now and then, others remain on the team.
When Joshua Kimmich had to leave the pitch after 71 minutes on Saturday, Leon Goretzka came on as a substitute. Both have been discussed for a long time. Kimmich also failed to influence the game against the Turks. Instead, he often lost his defensive orientation in central midfield, alongside the well-playing captain Ilkay Gündogan. While Kimmich is still a regular at FC Bayern despite ongoing criticism, Goretzka has been lagging behind his form for ages. Nevertheless, both Munich players are allowed to play in the national team. An alternative is only valuable if it is used. Robert Andrich, Pascal Groß and Grischa Prömel remained on the bench in the test against the Turks.
For all pessimists: Everything can turn out differently with Nagelsmann. The DFB and its president are particularly hoping for this. “For us, this European Championship is so central that we are focusing fully on it,” said Neuendorf on Sunday. That’s why he’s not having a coaching discussion now. “After the European Championships, we’ll see whether things continue.”
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