NJoshua Kimmich and his colleagues stood on the field at a loss even before going into the fan corner and needed to speak after a historic defeat. Although the German team still showed fighting spirit after a humiliating first half, the 2: 3 (1: 2) against Belgium provided some painful insights: After a Belgian lesson, Hansi Flick still has with the national team on the way to the 2024 home European Championship a lot of work ahead.
The 2:3 (1:2) against the Red Devils, who were coached by Domencio Tedesco after their own early failure at the World Cup, was the first German defeat against the neighboring country in 69 years. In any case, the slight hope that German football would improve after the 2-0 win against Peru has given way to disillusionment.
“We were too reserved, too passive. We couldn’t put the opponent under pressure. Belgium outplayed us mercilessly. Then we switched. Then there was a bit more stability in it. We did better after 30 minutes,” said Flick on TV station RTL. Expert and DFB record national player Lothar Matthäus found clear words about the weak first half: “First we have to evaluate the first 35 minutes. What Germany played there was the worst I’ve seen in my long, long career. They didn’t fight back in the duels, they let the Belgians play. They are deserved and fortunately only 2-0 behind. But then they woke up. We want to see the team the way they played from the 35th minute. They didn’t go under. They fought back. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in the end.” Matthäus had already found clear words after the first half. “It wasn’t a one-class difference, it was a two-class difference,” he had said.
Only the arrival of Emre Can after about half an hour and some young players in the second half led to an improvement, he then analyzed after the final whistle. But it wasn’t enough for a draw. For Matthäus, the reason for this was clearly the failed initial phase: “It was a complete failure in the first 30 minutes.”
Yannick Carrasco (6th) and Romelu Lukaku (9th) scored the first two goals for the Belgians on Tuesday evening in front of 42,910 spectators in the sold-out Cologne stadium in an initial phase that was irritating for Flick and was like a very bitter lesson for the DFB-Elf. Each preparer: Kevin De Bryne. The start raised fears of a debacle like the 0: 6 in Spain two and a half years ago, but the DFB team stabilized. Niclas Füllkrug (44th penalty) was able to shorten the gap with his sixth goal in his sixth international match.
De Bruyne becomes the horror of the German defense
In the second half, when the Belgians shifted down two gears, it was even possible to equalize with a few chances. But then De Bruyne (78th) ensured the old distance. In the end, Serge Gnabry’s goal again didn’t change anything about the defeat (87th).
But the initial phase caused great concern. Kimmich spoke of a “bad 15 minutes” and didn’t want to sugarcoat anything: “We weren’t on the pitch at all. We were very error prone, not hungry at all. (…) The mistakes must stop. That was nothing, especially not at the beginning.”
While the pros from FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will see each other again in the Bundesliga cracker on Saturday, after the third defeat of his term in office, Flick now has to provide answers for the upcoming international three-pack in June, including the 1000th DFB game against Ukraine. The national coach should then certainly reduce his personal experiments again.
The new DFB sports director Rudi Völler was absent from the stands because of kidney colic. What the 1990 world champion got to see at home in front of the television in the first half, he probably didn’t like at all. Because the DFB team was really presented in the first half by the Belgians, who also had to digest a disappointment in Qatar. Above all, the defense around the completely indisposed Marius Wolf on the right flank was completely overwhelmed against the Belgian stars around De Bruyne.
Position mistakes, poor duel behavior, tactical weaknesses – there was a lack of every nook and cranny. For a long time nothing worked out on the offensive either, so the young Leverkusen star Florian Wirtz was redeemed after half an hour. There were further worries when Leon Goretzka had to limp off the field after 32 minutes. The Munich player’s left ankle was heavily bandaged, which must have given new Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel a fright ahead of the Bundesliga summit against leaders Dortmund on Saturday. But Gorrtezka gave the all-clear after the game. “I’ve twisted my ankle. It should be enough until Saturday,” he said.
The German team fell behind in the sixth minute. After a fine pass from De Bruyne to Carrasco, the winger let Wolf out and put the ball into the goal from close range. Just three minutes later, the fourth in the world rankings cheered again when Lukaku hit a massive one. The last time Germany was 2-0 down in the first ten minutes was in March 2006, in a 4-1 loss in Italy shortly before the home World Cup, when things got very uncomfortable for then national coach Jürgen Klinsmann.
The second goal was preceded by another pass from De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder was a pivot in the Belgian game. The Bayern players will face De Bruyne again in two weeks in the Champions League quarter-finals.
And it could have been even worse if the Belgians hadn’t been so careless with their big chances. Hertha’s Dodi Lukebakio ran alone towards Marc-André ter Stegen’s goal, but put the ball just wide of the right post (19′). Two minutes later, Lukaku headed the ball to the crossbar (21st). The German defense found it difficult to get a grip on the massive center forward. Significant when Thilo Kehrer simply fell to the ground in a duel against the Inter striker.
“It wasn’t a class difference, it was a two class difference. Germany just watched how Belgium played,” complained DFB record national player Lothar Matthäus as an RTL expert. In any case, Flick was visibly served and reacted by strengthening the defensive midfield. With Can for Wirtz, a fighting touch came into play, and Goretzka’s injury also made Felix Nmecha’s international debut.
The best thing about the first half was the result, because shortly before the break the German team came up with a surprise goal. Füllkrug hit Lukaku’s outstretched arm with a header and was awarded a penalty, which the Bremen player converted ice-coldly himself. With his sixth goal in his sixth international match, he further improved his impressive quota. He had already scored twice in the 2-0 win over Peru.
In the second round, more order returned to the German game, also because the Belgians no longer took such risks. Suddenly there was also work in front of the goal of the Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels. Serge Gnabry had a good chance after a Wolf cross (53′), and four minutes later, Füllkrug posed a threat with a header. Shortly thereafter, Timo Werner finally had his sense of achievement, but the Leipziger was offside when he supposedly equalized (59th). The flow of the game was a bit off for the Belgians, also because Tedesco took some stars like Lukaku off the field. But they still had one highlight in their repertoire: after a fine counterattack, De Bruyne completed the ball on a pass from Leandro Trossard. De Bruyne then left the field, while ex-Hamburg player Josha Vagnoman made his debut on the German side.
But the German team did not give up. Gnabry initially had another opportunity when he shot the post (84th) and was then even rewarded with the goal after substitution Kevin Schade.