National football team: DFB selection on the way

Kai Havertz (l.) missed the third goal of the evening after the two goals by Niclas Füllkrug (r.) from the penalty spot.

Photo: imago/Mis

Perhaps it was wise foresight, possibly just coincidence, that the German Football Association (DFB) was able to easily escape the great general strike in the country. Putting the first international matches of the year in the cathedral cities of Mainz and Cologne and taking Frankfurt as the base quarters is certainly a great advantage for Monday. Traffic on the rails and in the air should largely be at a standstill, but why does the senior national team have such comfortable team buses that are well guarded most of the time behind bars in the futuristic team hotel at the Frankfurt exhibition center? They will now take the entire entourage the approximately 200 kilometers via the Autobahn 3 – and not, as was originally planned, via the ICE railway line laid next to it – to Cologne, where the second international match against Belgium will take place on Tuesday evening.

Even the press conference is still on the DFB campus on Monday, but these are all shallow changes to the plan. Compared to the millions of commuters who are suffering from the strike, the DFB kickers are still doing well. They definitely walked a little bit toward rapprochement over the weekend. “Every individual is ready to go that extra metre,” stated national coach Hansi Flick after the win against Peru (2-0), which was watched by an average of only 6.36 million television viewers on ZDF. The 58-year-old stated: »We had a good grip for 90 minutes. We scored two nice goals up front and didn’t concede a goal at the back, that was our goal.”

Will, passion and a desire to make amends were evident after the Qatar World Cup fiasco – but anything else would have led to serious debates about the football coach’s reputation. It’s amazing that the 25,358 visitors to the stadium, including a considerable number of Peruvians, even let a La Ola wave slosh through the red-illuminated arena at the Europakreisel in Mainz. Maybe just for the joy of having been there at the new beginning in 2023, which was at least a success in terms of mood.

Despite all the joy of a clean sheet against ultimately harmless South Americans, who subsequently proved why their participation in the World Cup in Qatar was absolutely dispensable apart from their supporters, the protagonists did not get excited. There was no one hugging each other cheering at the final whistle. On the other hand, everyone felt that this game could at best emanate the slightest hint of a spirit of optimism. It wasn’t a turning point.

Flick is therefore very right that the Belgians, who also lost in the preliminary round in Qatar, are waiting for a more meaningful assessment of their position. Under new coach Domenico Tedesco, the Red Devils won 3-0 in Sweden at the start of the European Championship qualifiers. ‘It’s a different caliber. I’m glad we have such an opponent in the second game,” said the national coach, who had already announced that he would “mainly play the team” that scored the most plus points in the first half. It remains to be seen whether changing the basic order to a 4-2-2-2 system with two sixes, two tens and two nines will also work against world-class players like former Bundesliga star Kevin De Bruyne. Flick will not tear apart the basic structure, consisting of the safe goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, the reliable chief of defense Matthias Ginter, the stable double six Emre Can and Joshua Kimmich and of course the double packer Niclas Füllkrug (12th and 33rd), who is bursting with self-confidence . And the bold debutant Marius Wolf should also be allowed to show himself again.

Joshua Kimmich and colleagues completed the lap of honor with satisfaction, but certainly not with enthusiasm. “The second half was mixed up, there was no flow of the game,” admitted captain Kimmich, who wore a black, red and gold bandage again in his 75th international match. A little more color would have done the game good after Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry and Mario Götze came on, but the hard-working Gnabry was the only one who brought the right impetus, who spectacularly hit the bar once (60th). When the DFB team had long since saved themselves with alibi football – and Kai Havertz, who played well at the beginning, put a penalty on the post and the follow-up shot illegally into the goal (68th) – Mergim Berisha and Kevin Schade were still celebrating her debut. Things are still not going well for the DFB selection over the 90 minutes, but they have learned the basic virtues demanded by sporting director Rudi Völler. And so that there are no doubts on the way to more down-to-earthness, the association organized a cooking course for children on Sunday under the guidance of national team chef Anton Schmaus and with the active help of some kickers.


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