Germany’s Nations League draw in Bologna means they have still never properly beaten the Squadra Azurra in a competitive setting. Hansi Flick wants to see improvements in the next three games – and his players know it.
https://www.dw.com-Hansi Flick has little time and opportunity left to tinker and was well aware that this, more than any other, was a test his short tenure would be judged on.
Before the match, the Germany head coach had promised to “go out and win with the best eleven possible” and the team he fielded, with some minor tweaks, looks set to be his starting line up come November’s World Cup.
On a hot and humid night, Bologna’s Stadio Renato Dall’Ara matched the nostalgia of the tie. With its red brick facade and wooden fencing, it boasts the rustic flair so often lacking in newer sporting arenas. But Germany could not deliver a vintage performance in a 1-1 draw.
“I don’t think we can be satisfied,” Flick told broadcaster RTL. “The first 25 mins were fine, but then we started making mistakes and lost our rhythm, and Italy did well to get back into the game.
“We didn’t have enough tempo and made too many mistakes. They’re the things we want to improve on against England.”
Flick’s tenth match in charge provided him with his toughest test yet on paper, even though his Italian counterpart Roberto Mancini, tasked with a rebuilding job after missing out on World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022, fielded a team featuring not a single outfield player who started the Euro 2020 final.
Starting his tenure with eight straight wins against modest opposition, Flick’s Germany had most recently played out a 1-1 draw away to the Netherlands in March, the only blot on his resume so far. The performance in Bologna upholds the narrative that Flick still has plenty to prove before the World Cup.
“It was too little,” admitted goalscorer Kimmich. “We wanted to win. We know that Italy are in transition at the moment and didn’t necessarily have their best team on the pitch, so we wanted to win. We didn’t always manage to play our game, we weren’t as intense as we wanted to be, perhaps that was down to the humidity and heat.”
Flick abandons ‘best eleven’
Following a fairly toothless first half performance, Flick abandoned his “best eleven” through a total of five substitutions, and the tie risked gaining the character of being just another friendly.
Few of those substitutes on will have a realistic shot at starting in Qatar. In the heart of defence, Antonio Rüdiger and Niklas Süle are nailed on unless things drastically change at their respective new clubs.
Flick holds Thilo Kehrer in high regard so only the left-back position is still up for grabs in the backline. RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Henrichs, who was given the nod after his DFB Cup final heroics, put in a composed if unspectacular performance. However, his closest Germany competitor David Raum lacks experience at the highest level.
With the midfield pairing of Goretzka and Kimmich essentially assured their spots, the main headache for Flick is presented by his wealth of attacking options. Kai Havertz could make a claim to start for most national teams, but who to drop? The Bayern trio of Sane, Müller, and Gnabry will take some beating, especially as they bring the added bonus of club chemistry to the table.
Timo Werner, for all his faults and lack of goalscoring prowess at Chelsea, still has the confidence of his national team coach. But after another toothless performance, he may just be the man to shift to make room for Havertz.
‘More ambition, more intensity’
Apart from these lineup adjustments Flick’s biggest job remains how to inject zip and creativity into the attack, especially against sides as shrewd and organised as Italy – and his players know it.
“We want to be more ambitious, more penetrative going forward, with fewer errors,” said Thomas Müller.
“We need more intensity,” added Kimmich. “We need to control the game more with better possession.”
Still, Flick remains aware of the bigger picture – namely that his players have just finished a long season and that Italy was just the first of four Nations League games in ten days.
“Maybe we needed that today,” said Flick. “Now we know what we have to work on.”
While this bogey team won’t be at the World Cup, Flick has precious little time and few tests remaining to show Germany can boss big games.
Their squad and track record means they will be among the favourites in Qatar. But Flick has yet to prove that Germany can be counted on.
Edited by Matt Ford.