Germany World Cup 2022 squad guide No prolific striker but F
There may not be widespread enthusiasm for thisWorld Cupamong the German public, but that is no reflection on Hansi Flick and his reinvigorated side. After what, by their standards was an early exit from the European Championship last year,Germanyhave quickly rebuilt under their new manager
Hansi Flick knows what it takes to win the World Cup as a coach: the 57-year-old was Joachim Lows assistant at Brazil 2014.
A former Bayern Munich player and sporting director at the German FA, Flick owes his current position to a superb 18 months as coach at Bayern, culminating in their 2019-20 Champions League final win. A very public falling-out with Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic last spring made him the continuity candidate to take over from Low after the Euros.
Flick has transferred a lot of personnel and tactics across from his successful Bayern team. His Germany, too, like to press high and dominate the ball in a 4-2-3-1 system. Fifteen games have brought nine wins, five draws and one defeat, 0-1 toHungaryin the Nations League, where Germany finished third in a four-team group.
Hes both a meticulous worker and a great man-manager. The team are quite enamoured with him.
One of the lesser-known players in the national team is 22-year-old Nico Schlotterbeck. TheBorussia Dortmunddefender has an outside chance of making the starting XI in Qatar after mostly solid performances in his first season at Signal Iduna Park. Before that, he was at fellowBundesligaside Freiburg, alongside his older brother Kevin. Their uncle Niels (Hansa Rostock) and cousin Michelle (Hoffenheim Women) have also played professionally.
An aggressive, front-foot centre-back, Schlotterbecks a bit of a fan favourite for speaking his mind and not caring all that much about the consequences. For his Dortmund team initiation, he chose to a song called Layla a party anthem that had been banned at some venues because of its sexist lyrics.
Theres something of the lovable rogue Kevin Grosskreutz about him even if hes very unlikely to drunkenly urinate in the lobby of a five-star hotel, as the 2014 (non-playing) World Cup winner Grosskreutz once did.
Germany have pace, variety and quality in abundance up top. Thirteen different players have scored a combined 43 goals in Flicks reign, and that was without the new additions of 17-year-old starlet Youssoufa Moukoko (Dortmund) andNiclas Fullkrug (Werder Bremen), the best German striker in the league this season. Both should make up for the loss ofRB Leipzigs Timo Werner, who was the most prolific forward (eight goals) in the national team under Flick before injuring his ankle.
Another traditional quality that will hopefully be in evidence again is Germanys ability to come together as a team, both tactically and spiritually, during a big tournament. Die Nationalmannschaft rarely boast the best individuals but collectively, they tend to gel and hide their weaknesses better than most.
Speaking of which Flick would love to have a superstar centre-forward banging in the goals on a regular basis but in truth Germany havent had that player since Miroslav Klose retired and even the 2014 winner and record scorer at World Cups (16 goals) was mostly happier playing in a deeper role behind another centre-forward.
The national team have found other ways and other players to fill the gap but against deep defensive lines, a more orthodox centre-forward has been missed at times. In Moukoko, 17, and Fullkrug, Flick has options, but itll be quite a gutsy call to start either of them without them having any prior experience at this level.
While Germanys full-backs are solid and functional rather than spectacular going forward, another concern could be the slight lack of depth in central midfield. Germany have three great players in Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka andIlkay Gundogan four if you count Jamal Musiala, who can play in a deeper role but not much behind them.
Its official, Germany are no longer Die Mannschaft (the team). The moniker was introduced in the wake of the 2014 World Cup triumph but fans and media always considered it awfully artificial no one ever referred to them that way, aside from the German FA home page and sponsorship ads. Its always been Die Nationalmannschaft (the national team) or Die DFB-Elf (The German FA XI).
This summer, the unloved nickname was quietly dropped.
Unfortunately, the decision came too late for kit manufacturer Adidas, whose most expensive replica version of the World Cup shirt still has Die Mannschaft printed inside the collar.
In case you were wondering, the black vertical stripe is inspired by the first-ever national team shirt from 1908, not the mysterious monolith from Stanley Kubricks movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There isnt a great deal of enthusiasm about this World Cup in Germany, but thats more to do with it being staged in Qatar than Flick and his men. Theyre well liked, by and large, and expected to give a much better account of themselves than Lows last side, eliminated in the last 16 at Euro 2020.
This being Flicks first big tournament, hes not under great pressure to win it. He will need to qualify for the knockouts, however, and also show that hes developing a side who can compete at the next Euros on home soil in two years time.
A quarter-finals exit at the hands ofBrazilor similar outcome would be seen as acceptable. Anything less than that, probably not.
Read more:See the rest of The Athletics World Cup 2022 squad guides
(Main graphic photo: Getty Images/design: Sam Richardson)
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Munich-born Raphael Honigstein has lived in London since 1993. He writes about German football and the Premier League.Follow Raphael on Twitter@honigstein