Football Nations League: Classics in the sanctuary (

Striker Kai Havertz (3rd from right) couldn’t get through Hungary’s solid defense either.


Football fans from all over the world still get heart palpitations when they take the stairs from the London Underground at Wembley Park station to the gallery, which offers an unobstructed view of the sanctuary. The huge steel arch of Wembley Stadium could not be overlooked on Sunday when approaching the London Heathrow hub. The old structure was demolished almost exactly 22 years ago – after England lost 1-0 to Germany. At the time, Dietmar Hamann spoiled the British when they said goodbye to the myth that still plays a role when these proud footballing nations meet again.

Otherwise the jewel box with its 90,000 red bucket seats for the classic England vs. Germany (Monday 8:45 p.m. / RTL) would not have been sold out. But no one could have guessed that the dice had already been cast in the Nations League group: the DFB team messed up the Final Four in the summer of 2023, the “Three Lions” were even relegated, but “that’s always a prestige game” , says DFB director Oliver Bierhoff. When the 54-year-old speaks of “compensation”, he means above all the disappointing round of 16 of the 2021 European Championship (0: 2), when Joachim Löw’s era ended almost unworthy. Hansi Flick’s 15th international match will also be the most important mood test before the World Cup in Qatar (November 20th – December 18th).

Without an idea and conviction, like against Hungary (0: 1), the four-time world champion must not compete on the holy turf if the German team does not want to thwart all the progress made in the first year of Flick. “We have to see that we play better over 90 minutes,” said Flick. The 57-year-old had many conversations over the weekend to find out why his ensemble suddenly fell back into behavior patterns that they thought had been overcome in the final phase of Löw.

Fresh impetus is needed: Jamal Musiala appeared at the press conference in London on Sunday for a reason: the 19-year-old all-rounder had played for Chelsea since he was seven before he came to Bayern – England is his “second home”. Flick appreciates “that certain something” about top talent. Kai Havertz, employed by the Blues, also stands for this. The 23-year-old is likely to move into the center of the storm in his adopted country. Hopes for more playful solutions are linked to the noble technicians, because the offensive seemed haphazard against the Magyars.

Serge Gnabry or Timo Werner lacked form and self-confidence, Thomas Müller had his strongest moment in the analysis on the ZDF microphone. The free pass in the starting eleven for Flick’s favorite player is debatable. Nevertheless, the national coach will not throw basic principles and order overboard, because: “The time for experiments is over.” The suspended defense chief Antonio Rüdiger, who could be replaced by Matthias Ginter or Nico Schlotterbeck, did not make the trip to the island at all. Robin Gosens should get a chance as a left-back for David Raum.

Flick admitted that the plan to overload the right flank with two offensives – Jonas Hofmann and Gnabry – on Friday did not work out. He takes this tactical error on his cap. The self-criticism should signal that the coaching staff must also improve if the fifth star is to work in Qatar. The DFB National Team Directorate wants to stick to this still seemingly grandiose target for the desert trip. “We’re starting the tournament from scratch,” Bierhoff asserted. Flick had a hard time hiding his frustration in Leipzig. “Every now and then you shouldn’t let your emotions out completely,” revealed the native of Heidelberg after he had listed a long list of shortcomings: “The first half was the worst half in the last 14 games: little courage, little trust, little dynamics, little Intensity – many mistakes.«

After all, the players reacted self-critically. From “45 to 90 minutes to forget,” said midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, who reminded that “there are never friendlies against England”. Müller remarked “that the phase is not the easiest”: The protagonists were meant from FC Bayern: Their creative crisis then spilled over into the middle of the national team. How the situation develops in Munich will inevitably rub off on Flick’s work. The national players in the top clubs have to cope with a program of 13 competitive games (eight Bundesliga, four Champions League matchdays and one DFB Cup round) before the World Cup. Flick will name the final World Cup squad in the week before the 15th Bundesliga match day, before the plane leaves for Oman on November 14, where the brief familiarization for a controversial World Cup will take place, which causes many football fans to ache rather than heart flutter.



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