Against Spain in Group E on Sunday, Germany’s chance of reaching the round of 16 is at stake. “We don’t have a free shot anymore. We missed the shot – that’s how we have to approach it,” said national coach Hansi Flick the day after the 2-1 draw against Japan.
Does the team have the resistance to stress and unity to deliver a top performance under the greatest possible pressure against the Spaniards? The German media have doubts. “Bild” reported, among other things, that the squad is criss-crossed by a few fault lines: Bayern versus Dortmund, young versus old, offensive versus defensive.
Flick is in demand as a crisis manager. He had won the first eight international matches, in the last nine he has only won two. In view of the usury of chances, the drop in performance and defensive failure in the last 20 minutes, Flick asked the question of character. “The fact is that I attach great importance to the team drawing the right conclusions and taking responsibility,” said the 57-year-old.
But Flick will also have to question himself in dealing with the avoidable defeat with his coaching team. Some personnel decisions and changes were criticized, especially the substitution of the penalty goal scorer and stabilizer Ilkay Gündogan.
Gündogan’s criticism, who complained in the ARD interview “that not everyone really wanted the ball”, found Flick “okay”. “He put it that way. It’s important in the game when you’re under pressure that you have the courage to offer yourself.” Captain Manuel Neuer saw it that way too. “Somehow you noticed that one or the other player was starting to wobble,” said the frustrated goalkeeper.
A defeat by Spain would seal the next qualifying round four years after the World Cup disaster in Russia – if the Japanese scored against Costa Rica a few hours earlier. In this millennium, there has not yet been a competitive win against Spain. Kai Havertz: “We’re under pressure now.”