A.hen Joachim Löw made his debut as national coach, there was an all-round festive mood. With 52,000 visitors, the Gelsenkirchen Arena was sold out, the soccer nation was still charmed and intoxicated after the summer fairy tale. And when Bernd Schneider scored the first goal in a 3-0 win against Sweden on August 16, 2006 after three minutes and thirty seconds, the big party that had been disrupted by the Italians in the World Cup semi-finals continued practically seamlessly after eight Minutes it was 2-0 through Miroslav Klose.
In those days, the so-called shoe war caused a little bit of turmoil in the background: Some national players no longer wanted to feel bound by the obligation to wear the shoes of the general supplier Adidas – which today only shows how long ago that was actually.
September 2, 2021 was a perfect day for drinking espresso in late summer St. Gallen, but, as it turned out, not so much for playing football for the German national team. At the beginning there was a touch of home game atmosphere at Hansi Flick’s premiere: Among the around 8,000 spectators who had come to Kybunpark on Thursday evening, the voting sovereignty was with the sympathizers of the DFB selection.
But they quickly lost their joy in singing when, after a brisk start, an excruciatingly tough affair developed. One even had to say: There was incredulous astonishment at how difficult it was for the Germans to face the massively defending 189th in the world rankings – especially after all the whim-and-humor announcements of the past few days. It was just 2-0 after 90 minutes and goals from Timo Werner (41st minute) and Leroy Sané (77th).
Hard work instead of football magic
Even if the commitment and persistence after Sané’s goal were rewarded with relieved applause, also from Flick: From St. Gallen, where the game had been relocated due to the renovation of the playing field in Vaduz, there was no magic for a new German football era, rather the leaden realization that every beginning is difficult. Hardly anyone had thought that the continuation in the World Cup qualification on Sunday in Stuttgart against Armenia and on Wednesday in Reykjavik against Iceland would be an opportunity to forget a mood-dampening start.
With his first statement, Flick was good for surprises. As expected, he returned to a 4-2-3-1 basic order, but the staffing was different than many expected. It began in central defense, where Thilo Kehrer played alongside Niklas Süle and not Antonio Rüdiger, that continued in the engine room, where captain Joshua Kimmich was not assigned Leon Goretzka but Ilkay Gündogan, and in the offensive ranks Flick held for Jamal Musiala on the grand piano as well as for Werner in the front center. Sané and Kai Havertz completed this department. As expected, the outside positions in the back four were held by Robin Gosens and Ridle Baku.
After a good start, there is a lack of ideas
The Germans got off to a brisk start, not much was missing, and Kimmich would even have been a few seconds faster than “Schnix” Schneider in 2006 after preliminary work by Sané, and three minutes later Werner’s attempt was blocked in a similar way from a similar short distance . But then the momentum was already there. The ball ran through the German ranks, but with what aim and purpose it became increasingly difficult to say with increasing duration.
The German players, they spun a little faster, sometimes as if mentally wandering the Rubik’s Cube, the result was the same: the puzzle became bigger rather than smaller. After a good half an hour, the score was actually still 0-0, and Süle’s chip balls in the sixteen did not prove to be a secret recipe.
Even if Flick remained calm on the outside, Goretzka, Reus and Gnabry were already warming up. It then spoke a little for itself that the youngest had to take matters into his own hands. Musiala, who had already caught the eye with one or two pointed ideas, steered his thirst for action in the right direction, in this case centrally, and his vertical pass freed Werner from invisibility – 1-0.
But where all the good intentions fell by the wayside, the pace and the ideas, Flick and his players in the dressing room had to wonder. The effort to do better was noticeable in the second half, but initially it had no consequences. After an hour Flick changed three times, Gnabry, Hofmann and Reus came for Havertz, Baku and Musiala. After an unsuccessful shot from Süle, there were whistles for the first time (67th). Then at least Sané was allowed to stand with the 2-0 as a symbol that a lot of effort is rewarded even if it doesn’t really look like it at the beginning.