- Style of play and attitude the main reasons behind group stage exit
- Squad announced for matches against France and Peru
- No wholesale personnel changes
Approximately two months after Germany's historic group stage exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ as defending champions, head coach Joachim Low offered a public analysis of his team's performance.
In doing so he highlighted the reasons behind their elimination and also named his squad for September's UEFA Nations League fixture against new world champions France and the friendly against Peru.
Problem 1: Playing style
Low began by observing that the champions of Europe's big leagues - Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona – all employ a possession-based game, before pointing out that competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and the 2018 World Cup were respectively won by Real Madrid and France; teams that took a different approach.
"In 2010 [at the World Cup in South Africa] our side was set up to play on the counter," said the 58-year-old. "In 2014 we found a golden middle way but subsequently more teams started playing more defensively against us. In 2018 we increasingly became a side that tried to win games through possession and by dominating completely.
"My biggest mistake was believing that we would get through the group stage with this possession-based football," Low continued. "The overall conditions weren't right for us in those games. It was almost arrogant of me. I wanted to take it to the limit and perfect it."
Furthermore, the 2014 World Cup winning coach put forth statistics that underlined that his team had covered a lot of ground out on the pitch, but lacked in terms of sprints beyond the opposition defence and playing the ball on quickly.
The consequence: Germany will continue to play a possession-based game and try to dominate matches in future, but will vary their approach depending on the opposition and the period of the game by operating more defensively and directly with quick counter-attacks. The team showed glimpses of this at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017.
Problem 2: Lack of "fire"
Teams often find it harder to repeat success than to achieve it for the first time. Germany's Football Association (DFB) acknowledged that prior to Russia 2018 and it is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the last three world champions have all been knocked out of the next finals at the group stage.
Low and his team were unable to find the right remedy. "If you want to win a tournament you need a lot of enthusiasm and the fire that grows from round to round. We didn't manage to create new stimulus. We had a little flame and my players normally play with fire. It was obviously down to me to do more in that regard." He dismissed rumours of cliques within the squad at the World Cup.
The consequence: "The team will play very differently," said Low, before stating that, "after 14 years, after all this time, we still have the motivation, the energy and the strength to put the things we got wrong in Russia back onto a solid foundation and steer the ship back on course". He is likely to be judged on those words in future.
Evolution not revolution
There will be a couple of changes to the backroom staff, the most notable of which is Thomas Schneider moving from assistant coach to head of the scouting department, but the squad for the assignments against France and Peru shows that Germany's fresh start will largely be undertaken with the same core of players. Sami Khedira was not selected, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gomez have stepped down from international duty, while Mario Gotze was once again left out.
- 17 of the current 23-man squad were with Germany at Russia 2018
- 3 uncapped players have been called up: centre-back Thilo Kehrer (21 years old), who recently joined Paris Saint-Germain; full back Nico Schulz (25) an attacking midfielder Kai Havertz (19)
- 9 players in Low's squad are aged 23 or younger
- 1 player is over 30 - Manuel Neuer
"We now have to find the right mix between experience and young, dynamic and hungry players," said Low. "Experience is still a very important factor in success. With the right blend of experience and youth we'll regain that feeling of wanting success now more than ever."
The consequence: Low has never been one to for quick fixes or big revolutions. With that in mind, it is in character that he has stayed true to himself and not made sweeping changes just for the sake of it. We will find out soon enough whether or not the players can justify the trust he has placed in them.