Euro 2024 host Germany looks to rebuild after World Cup
Germany's National coach Hansi Flick, right, talks to Florian Wirtz during the national team's training session at the DFB campus prior to the international match between Germany and Peru, in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday March 22, 2023. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)
James Ellingworth, The Associated Press
Published Friday, March 24, 2023 2:45PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 24, 2023 2:48PM EDT
DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Another World Cup failure, another rebuild for Germany. This time there's even more at stake.
Germany will host next year's European Championship and is desperate to avoid another debacle at its home tournament ahead of playing Peru in a friendly on Saturday.
But the new era for the national team begins with disruption at Germany's biggest club after Bayern Munich abruptly fired coach Julian Nagelsmann on Friday and hired Thomas Tuchel in his place.
Germany coach Hansi Flick, who won the Champions League at Bayern in 2020, said earlier Friday he was “very surprised” to hear a change might be in the works at Bayern, and added he was discussing the situation with the three Bayern players in the team.
Bayern is the club of new Germany captain Joshua Kimmich, who praised Nagelsmann's coaching skills on Friday, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka, as well as other Germany regulars rotated out of the squad for the upcoming games.
The Germans once took pride in having a “tournament team,” one that could put distractions aside to perform when it mattered. Following group-stage exits at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and a round-of-16 loss at the last European Championship, however, Germany has not won a knockout game since the now-defunct Confederations Cup in 2017.
The current rebuild — with Germany able to skip qualifying as Euro 2024 host — starts with friendlies against Peru on Saturday and Belgium on Tuesday, both at home.
Flick's squad is a mix of regulars such as Emre Can, Timo Werner and Kimmich, and some more experimental picks. The six players getting their first call-ups include two right backs, Josha Vagnoman and Marius Wolf. There is also AC Milan defender Malick Thiaw and 21-year-old winger Kevin Schade, who is a bench player for Brentford in the English Premier League.
“There is new energy in the team,” Flick said on Friday of his new selections.
Just like predecessor Joachim Löw after the 2018 World Cup, Flick has left out Bayern forward Thomas Müller. The 33-year-old Müller signaled his international career might be over in an emotional interview at the World Cup in Qatar, but then changed tack to say he was still available for selection.
Müller has been here before. After Löw dropped him in 2018, he ended up being recalled in 2021 in the aftermath of a 6-0 loss to Spain.
“We appreciate each other and will continue to be in good contact,” Müller posted on Instagram last week after it was confirmed Flick would not select him.
Some other big names are out of the squad temporarily, whether because of injury (goalkeeper Manuel Neuer broke his leg while skiing) or personal reasons (midfielder Ilkay Gündogan became a father last week). The reasons for dropping Real Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger and Bayern forward Leroy Sané are less clear-cut, but seem to be part of Flick’s experiments in the rebuild.
Flick already bet on youth in his World Cup squad by selecting forwards Jamal Musiala, Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko, which made the latter the youngest player to ever appear for Germany at the tournament at 18. All three will be missing from the upcoming games with injuries.
Another promising youngster, Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz, will return after missing the World Cup due to injury.
Löw spent 2019 and 2020 working on his own failed rebuild. That means there is already a large pool of players who have been tried in the Germany team and discarded, especially at problem positions such as left back, where Flick seems to have settled on Leipzig defender David Raum over other potential candidates like Inter Milan's Robin Gosens.