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Germany are fatally exposed, headless chickens without Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng

This time, Joachim Low couldn’t polish the turd. In recent months, the Germany coach has been at pains to stress that his side are a team in transition. That they need time to gel. That behind the mediocre results and cramped performances, there is a long-term plan which would eventually bear fruit.

But on Tuesday evening, none of those arguments were going to fly anymore.

‘It is a black day,’ said Low robotically after his side were demolished by Spain on Tuesday evening. ‘Nothing worked today. There hasn’t been a game like that in a long time.’

Joachim Low admitted it was a ‘black day’ after his German side were thrashed 6-0 by Spain

That was an understatement. The 6-0 defeat in Seville was Low’s worst in 14 years as Germany coach, and the lowest ebb in a miserable three years for the 60-year-old.

That it should have come in the Nations League was hardly surprising. Until last month, Germany had not won a single game in the competition. Launched just after their calamitous defence of the World Cup in 2018, the new tournament has been the backdrop for Germany’s continuous decline since then.

On Tuesday, the reaction to the latest low point centred predictably on calls to reinstate 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, all of whom have returned to their best form in club football since Low dropped them from the national team in early 2019.

The defeat in Seville was Low's worst in his 14 years as manager of the national team

The defeat in Seville was Low’s worst in his 14 years as manager of the national team

‘These are German players who have won the treble with the best team in Europe. Why aren’t they playing for the national team?’ demanded fellow 2014 hero Bastian Schweinsteiger from the pundit’s sofa on Tuesday night.

The question of Muller, Hummels and Boateng has loomed large over Low’s failures since 2018. The disaster in Russia was partly down to a discord between the younger and older generations, and in the months that followed the World Cup, Low was under immense pressure to jettison ageing stars who many thought had become toxic in the dressing room.

When he eventually did so, it proved to be an ill-judged and ill-timed act of populism. While many saw the need for fresh blood, unceremoniously booting out three World Cup winners seemed like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It left Low isolated, under attack from all sides and with considerably fewer options in defence.

BILD reported that Joachim Low is wobbling while former player Bastian Schweinsteiger questioned why the players were not performing for the national team

BILD reported that Joachim Low is wobbling while former player Bastian Schweinsteiger questioned why the players were not performing for the national team

The front page of the paper branded the game 'The Jogi disaster' and tore into the coach

The front page of the paper branded the game ‘The Jogi disaster’ and tore into the coach

Stubbornness has always been one of Low’s defining characteristics. Having stayed too loyal to his veterans for too long, he has since resolutely refused to back down on his decision to drop them. Even on Tuesday, he insisted there was no need to reinstate the rejected trio, saying that ‘we trust the players we have’.

The uncomfortable truth, however, is that Germany could have done with a Muller, a Hummels or a Boateng on Tuesday night. As they scampered around like headless chickens, the lack of a vocal, marshalling presence was obvious.

‘What really annoyed me is that they didn’t defend themselves. There were no orders. You could only hear the Spanish speaking,’ said Schweinsteiger after the game.

Yet this goes deeper than a simple lack of leadership. Tactically too, Low is fatally exposed without Hummels and Boateng. For while Muller too is world class, Germany have no lack of quality in attack even without him.

It is a different story in defence, where Low is yet to establish a new order. He has faced sustained criticism for his use of a back three, which many feel is overly cautious and stifles what could otherwise be a world-class attack. 

There have been calls to bring Jerome Boateng back into the squad

Many also believe Mats Hummels should be recalled to the team

There have been calls to reinstate defenders Jerome Boateng (left) and Mats Hummels (right)

Ex-Germany star Mesut Ozil tweeted that it was time Boateng was recalled to the squad

Ex-Germany star Mesut Ozil tweeted that it was time Boateng was recalled to the squad

That Low feels the need for more stability is perhaps understandable, but it makes even more of a nonsense of his decision to drop two highly decorated centre-backs in Hummels and Boateng.

To some extent, the controversy over the snubbed stars is also a simple question of nostalgia. Until 2018, Low’s reign coincided with an era of unprecedented popularity for the German national team, with many seeing the World Cup winning generation as a reflection of a modern, progressive Germany.

That mood has soured in recent years, fuelled by poor marketing decisions and corruption scandals at the heart of the German FA. Now, each international break brings more hand-wringing over the dwindling interest in and sympathy for the national team. Increasingly, Low has been the primary victim of this disillusionment.

Each international break brings more disillusionment with Low's previous popularity fading

Each international break brings more disillusionment with Low’s previous popularity fading

Once a national hero, he now enjoys little support. On Wednesday morning, Germany’s most popular newspaper Bild called for him to be sacked. In a reader’s poll in Kicker magazine, 94 percent of fans said that he was no longer the right man for the job.

It remains unlikely that Low will face the chop anytime soon. Before the game against Spain, Germany’s sporting director Oliver Bierhoff insisted that he would support his coach until at least after the European Championships.

Yet his days are now undoubtedly numbered. As Kicker wrote in its editorial on Wednesday, Low’s task is now to set ‘a clear direction before the return of international football in March’. No more excuses, no more dithering, no more turd-polishing.

The coach is not likely to be sacked soon as he has the backing of Germany's sporting director

The coach is not likely to be sacked soon as he has the backing of Germany’s sporting director

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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