Seven months ago, Germany were at sixes and sevens as they were demolished 6-0 by Spain. This week, they were in seventh heaven after running riot against Latvia.
Their 7-1 triumph might have been a friendly against a team placed 138th in the FIFA world rankings, but it was a result this damaged nation needed more than you might think. Next Tuesday they head into the Euros in uncharted waters – approaching a major tournament without being one of the front runners.
The Germans are only the sixth favourites to lift the trophy with Betfair and can enjoy a rare underdogs tag when they come up against the tournament favourites France in their opening game.
Germany were back to their old selves after putting seven past Latvia in a friendly this week
Thomas Muller notched in the perfect preparation ahead of a tough Euro 2020 opener
Joachim Low – who knows he is a dead man walking with Hansi Flick already in line to replace him after the competition’s end – has endured a rocky couple of years on board this ship after captaining it for 15 years.
But after witnessing signs of life from his squad against Latvia, he has taken a more positive outlook ahead of the Euros, admitting the team have become more ‘stable’ after ‘making like difficult for ourselves’ during a sticky period.
‘We were more consistent today in taking advantage of the opportunities,’ he said.
‘In the last few months we have always made life difficult for ourselves. Today we were very stable, both offensively and defensively.’
Veteran coach Joachim Low believes the team are looking more ‘stable’ after a turbulent year
Germany are still reeling from their 6-0 thumping by Spain in the Nations League in November
The problem with Low’s Germany is that he has always demanded perfection from this team since taking it over in 2006. The team have gone from the highest of highs in Brazil as they lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 2014 to the lowest of lows in Russia – miserably dumped out in the group stages.
Finishing bottom of their standings, below South Korea, was a lowly benchmark – previously Low had never failed to deliver anything less than a semi-final spot at any major tournament.
They came third at the 2006 World Cup, third at the 2010 World Cup and won the 2014 edition. At the Euros, he came runner up in 2008 and then reached back-to-back semi finals in 2012 and 2016.
That level of consistency on the international stage – across a long period of time with various different generations – is seriously impressive. There was always going to come a time when the house of cards came tumbling down.
Low is the victim of his own consistency – there was always bound to be a sticky patch
He delivered the biggest moment in the country’s history – the World Cup triumph in 2014
But Germany’s spell of dominance ended in 2018 as they failed to qualify for the knockouts
And it was all going so well, too. Germany breezed through their Euro qualifying campaign – coming top of their group having lost just one game. The Nations League, then, was a chance to show how the next batch of stars were shaping up ahead of the next tournament.
They failed with flying colours. The final game against Spain was a chance to clinch top spot – instead, they were thumped thanks to a hat-trick from Ferran Torres, with his Manchester City team-mate Rodri and Alvaro Morata also on target.
The result – Germany’s heaviest defeat for 90 years – was lambasted by the country’s media, with one outlet saying the team had ’embarrassed itself to the bone’, with another said Low’s job ‘won’t work anymore’.
Certainly, Low moved to ring the changes, particularly at the back after a dreadful showing. Left back Philipp Max, who started the game, was benched for the next game against Iceland and not even selected the final 26-man group.
Low has looked to reshape his team – focusing on a solid defence with Rudiger at the back
Low brought Ginter and Rudiger into his back four for game, which they won 3-0, with Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann at right back. Struggling Chelsea forward Timo Werner had also started but was jettisoned for fellow Blues star Havertz in the next game, with Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry in support, and the coach has more or less stuck to this blueprint ever since.
A 1-0 victory against Romania came next, buying them time to sew their wounds – but they were split back open again with a humiliating 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia.
That was followed up by a 1-1 draw at home to Denmark – which is why the precious commodity of momentum was so key after thumping Latvia.
Seven goals, seven different scorers – including Werner. He showed signs he could be transforming into the player the Blues paid £53m for with an impressive display in the Champions League final – as he started in their triumph over Man City alongside centre-back Antonio Rudiger and Havertz, who scored the winner.
Germany are blessed with a squad of winners who are coming off the back of positive seasons
Germany might not be favourable with the bookies at the Euros, but Low still has a core group of players who are winners. Gundogan – on the losing team in the final – has just come away from a double winning season with City where he finished as their top scorer.
Manuel Neuer, Josh Kimmich, Gnabry, Sane and Muller just won the Bundesliga and Toni Kroos has won everything in sight with Real Madrid.
That mentality will be key as they prepare to wade through their ‘Group of Death’ – being pitted against the French, Portugal and Hungary.
Coming up against the reigning world champions first will be a true test of Germany’s mettle and how much they have learned from their 6-0 hammering, but with the pressure firmly off their shoulders – it could play into their hands.
The squad should relish their underdogs tag as they prepare for their ‘Group of Death’
Low and his players can focus on the task at hand with one goal – to come home with the trophy
It should remembered too, that Germany – like England – will play all their group games on home soil, at the Allianz Arena. That effectively gives them home advantage against two strong teams hoping to put them to the sword.
Even if Germany put in a poor show in the group stages – they still have a good chance of making the knockouts, where anything can happy. Four third-placed teams will advance to the Round of 16 this year.
With Flick incoming after this tournament, Low and his players have one task at hand – come home with the trophy. Premature appointments can often be a distraction but after more than a decade in charge, Low has a chance to bury a difficult period and end his reign on a high.