While the rest of the world may attribute Germany’s relentless ability to perform in international tournaments as typical Teutonic efficiency, or some other stereotype, the nation has its own word for it: Turniermannschaft.
It literally means “tournament team” and often denotes the manner in which the German national side can stumble through qualifying campaigns before raising their game when it really matters. Or that is how things used to be: this present iteration of the German national team are certainly not a Turniermannschaft – instead, they have become a byword for chaos.
That much was clear to Leon Goretzka, the scorer of Germany’s late equaliser against Hungary and new national hero, after Wednesday’s match.
“There were situations where our heads were not quite there,” the Bayern Munich midfielder admitted, while the nation was still breathing a deep sigh of relief. “There were also a few situations where we were not quite up to scratch. We have to address that.”
However, the problem with this Germany line-up is that Joachim Low, the manager, has already tried to address the pre-existing issues in his faltering team and nothing seems to be working.
Following a 6-0 demolition by Spain in mid-November and an embarrassing 2-1 defeat by North Macedonia in March, Low broke the emergency glass and recalled Mats Hummels, 32, and Thomas Muller, 31, to the squad.
Not only did this decision underline Low’s concern about the quality in his squad – he admitted in the announcement that his defence “did not have the desired stability” – but it also forced him to concede that he was wrong to banish them from the national team in early 2019, when he tried to build a new squad with the next generation of players. “You can interrupt an overhaul under the circumstances,” he suggested.
- Revealed: How you beat Germany – and who England should pick to do it
Yet bringing back the old guard was not the only thing Low has done to try to avoid disaster at Euro 2020. Only 13 days before their opening game against world champions France, he opted to wipe his tactics board clean and propose a system that would perhaps offer Germany a fighting chance in Group F.
Desperate to protect Hummels’s lack of pace in defence and to shoehorn Muller into his front line, Low moved from a traditional 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 that saw Joshua Kimmich, the influential Bayern midfielder, move out wide to become a wing-back, with the relatively untested Atalanta defender Robin Gosens on the left.
To his credit, the 26-year-old Serie A defender has perhaps been one of Germany’s most impressive players at Euro 2020 to date, but it is worth noting that he went into the tournament having started at wing-back for his nation in a similar formation on only two occasions prior to Low’s sudden change of plans.
Euro 2020: German advanced wing-backs
After three games against strong opposition, it is safe to say that Low’s last-minute tweaks and changes have not exactly proved to be the inspirational strokes of genius that the 61-year-old would have hoped. After rearranging his tactics to fit Muller into his attack, the Bayern striker managed only three shots and zero goals or assists in his opening two games, before getting injured ahead of the third and crucial match against Hungary.
Similarly, Hummels has overseen a shambolic defensive line who have shipped five goals in three games, while being directly at fault for an own goal against France and being at least partially to blame for Hungary’s opening goal on Wednesday night.
“A lot of things don’t work,” a frustrated Lothar Matthaus, the 1990 World Cup winner, said when asked to review a troublesome group stage.
“Low must make the right decisions now, regardless of whether a player has been with the team for 10 years or only two months. Low has again relied on players who have once again let him down. He must finally wake up.”
The ultimate fear for Germany is that Low is wide awake and well aware of his team’s problems, but simply does not have a solution at hand. With Hansi Flick waiting in the wings to press the “restart” button in August, it seems as though Low’s once proud team are now just hoping to get over the finish line before the whole thing falls apart.
Whether England can put them out of their misery remains to be seen.