- A general malaise has overtaken German football
- Entitlement and self regard characterised the performance versus Mexico
- Like Bayern in the Champions League, Germany lacked penetration
Complacency does every World Cup winner in the end. That’s one of the reasons why nobody has retained the title since 1962. There are others, of course – lack of hunger and the onset of age amongst them – but only the former can be levelled against the current world champions. This is still a young enough squad.
However, today’s game with Mexico saw them at their most entitled, self regarding worst, still selling whatever products German supermarkets have been associating them with for the last four years. It was as if they felt they only needed to turn up.
Take Toni Kroos. Tackled in the first half, he fell on the ball and handled it, assuming the referee was going to oblige with a free. He did – he gave it to Mexico. Kroos then approached the referee at less than friendly close quarters and was promptly shoved off. Rightly so. The presumptuousness of Kroos, self confident to the point of arrogance, ran through this team.
Sami Khedira looks past it at this level. Thomas Müller probably has been for three years, now. Mesut Özil never really got to it. The younger players aren’t yet ready. Joshua Kimmich is currently a triumph of exuberance over ability.
A ponderous team, with Jerome Boateng looking tentative at the back, was constantly exposed by the energy of Mexico. The nondescript manner in which the German football federation (DFB) reappointed Joachim Löw before this tournament – regardless of its eventual outcome – suggests that the status quo is enough in German football. Today showed that it’s not.
German teams often start tournaments slowly, but you have to go back to 1982 for the last time Germany lost its opening game – and 1986 for the last time it didn’t win. Julian Draxler and Timo Werner look lightweight. Without leaders like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, and Philipp Lahm, this German side looked to Müller, Khedira, Kroos, and Mats Hummels. None of them stepped up.
The last 20 minutes of the game, which featured a barrage of German pressure, reminded one of Bayern’s impotent rage against Real Madrid in the Champions League. All foreplay, no penetration. Getting out of this group is no formality now. If they do, Brazil may well await. Perhaps that’s the kind of game that this team can now only shake itself out of its lethargy for. Even so, if we get to see that, Germany will surely realise that, like so much else that they’ve taken for granted, the status quo of Belo Horizonte no longer applies.
German campaigns have foundered in Russia before. The difference now is those ones looked like being quite successful, for a while.