“TThe tournament can begin ”, as Toni Kroos observed dryly. And certainly, after the disappointment against France on Tuesday night, it was impossible to see Germany’s victory over Portugal on Saturday without wondering if it might just be the beginning of something: a shock, an awakening, a team and a system and such. once even an idea that came to life belatedly.
As the goals piled up, as the German forwards slashed and smashed the defending champions, Rúben Dias, Pepe and all, on their way to a 4-2 win, the temptation was to declare that this was a movie we had all seen. prior to. Just at the right time, and with perfect timing, the Germans (and for some reason always it is The Germans, never just Germany) have finally appeared. The Germans are coming. Never, never discount the Germans.
Naturally, this is a soccer instinct conditioned and honed by decades of true history, imperfect memory, and flawless creation of national myths. The idea of Germany as the ultimate Tournament team – the sober and imperious “tournament team” that controls its energies, remains calm and manages to peak just when it matters – remains a potent and irrepressible trope to Germans and foreigners alike, one that has resisted well beyond the point where it is justified by reality.
It is worth remembering that many of the sinister pronouncements now being made about Germany also came in 2018, following Kroos’s thrilling last-minute free kick in the second group stage match against Sweden. That triumph turned out to be illusory; this may not be so, and yet, in a way, the same fallacy sustains both. For a supposedly unmatched tournament pedigree team, Germany have arguably underperformed in the last 25 years – a win, two finals and at least three semi-finals strangle a slightly disappointing performance from such an abundant generation of talent.
However, the broader point is not so much what Germany has achieved as how it has achieved it. Over the past decade, Joachim Löw’s side has become the antithesis of the Tournament team, the sober and reliable tournament participant. Instead, with their relentless full-throttle approach, their acceptance of chaos, and vulnerability to counterattack, they have become the popular entertainers of international soccer: highly talented, crowd pleasing, and often wildly inconsistent from game to game. . This is a team that can lose 6-0 to Spain and 2-1 to North Macedonia and yet somehow retain the ring of potential champions.
Is this the funniest German team ever? The 2014 team was certainly better on paper (and they even went from 1-0 to 7-1 to 1-0 in three straight games). The 2018 team beat them out of sheer insanity from Manuel-Neuer in half the opposition. But there were flashes and passages against Portugal that in their expressiveness and exuberance equaled almost everything that a recent German team has produced.
Fighting for their lives in the tournament, Germany did not retreat into their shells, but exploded out of them. The 3-4-3 that was actually a 3-2-5 pushed boldly high up the field, spiked the ball from flank to flank like freestylers playing keepy-uppies on a six-lane highway, flooded the penalty area with white t-shirts. The five German goals, four of them legal and one, a spectacular volley by Robin Gosens that was ruled out for offside, originated from the wings or were finished by them, or often both.
Atalanta Gosens’ left-back is a pleasantly handsome character – the fullest expression of this modern-day Germany, yet one has not played a minute of top-notch German football, a recognizable human character in an industrialized and polished team. The academy. Elsewhere you had the unflappable genius of Joshua Kimmich on the opposite flank, the tireless desire of Serge Gnabry, the impeccable instinct of Kai Havertz at the helm, who looks like a Habsburg prince going through his difficult Gothic phase.
It was brilliant and insane fun. And yet, in an oddly protective way, you still care a bit about this team – especially when up against opponents less receptive to their high-performance style. Portugal essentially freaked out in Munich: Fernando Santos retired the dangerous Bernardo Silva at halftime and changed formation at least twice. Still, they managed to score two ridiculously easy goals, one at half-time and one on a set piece, and they could have had more. Germany’s next rival Hungary managed to hold world champion France to a 1-1 draw by relying almost entirely on those two tactics.
This is not 2018 and Germany is (probably) not about to come out of its own match. But many of Russia’s underlying flaws have not been addressed: a slightly chewy center, strange lapses of concentration at the rear, a coach who seems increasingly unsure of himself. Equally, they are a friendlier, more enterprising and funnier team than any of their recent predecessors. It could crash and burn, or it could fill the sky with flames. Either way, he suspects it will be a lot of fun to find out.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism