Defending World Cup Champions in 2010 – Italy. First round drop out. Defending World Cup Champions in 2014 – Spain. First round drop out. Defending World Cup Champions in 2018 – Germany. First round drop out. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Defending Champions do not progress to the second round of the World Cup. Even if they are German. Might be time to accept this as fact?
1. The Writing has been on the Wall
The two managers most accused of failing their teams have been France’s Didier Deschamps and Belgium’s Roberto Martinez. This is accepted by most without thought or question but following Germany’s capitulation let’s put forth a new name. Jogi Low. Those who only cater to the EPL and do not follow either the Bundesliga or Germany will use this elimination as fuel for the “SEE LEROY SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!” flame but let us be clear. Germany, despite boasting the talent they possess, have been poor and those paying attention have been saying it for a while. The signs were there in 2016 at the Euros. While still a great team it was clear that they had cleared their peak and the only way to go was down. They came into the competition with the worse run of form they have had in what? Two decades? More alarming than the results was the dire nature of the performances (with Leroy Sane playing, pipe down EPL fanboys).
This Germany team has gone from fresh faced and exciting in 2010 to the best around in 2014 to stale in 2018. No one should be blamed more for failing to spot the weaknesses than Jogi Low. Unlike his counterparts in Belgium and France he is able to call upon a host of players of varying skillsets who, crucially, are of the required quality to make a positive impact on the German team.
2. If you stand still in football you will be passed
In Low, Germany possess a manager who strictly believes in the idea of finding a system that best represents a chance of success. When people argued Sami Khedira wasn’t the right player to be starting in 2014, he stuck with him because Germany possessed no player who would fit the system better. When one wondered how a more talented Marco Reus or Mario Gotze couldn’t dislodge Miroslav Klose or Thomas Muller it was because the system came first and was working. Would Sane have made a difference for Germany this World Cup? The evidence suggests no because when the Man City winger has played for Germany he has been instructed to fit the system and he has shown he has no ability to do as such.
In truth all managers are like this – they adhere to a system. However where he differs is that in having found a successful winning formula he has stuck to it with such resolve that he has sacrificed any form of innovation. It cannot be understated, the writing was on the wall in 2016 and it seems even Low knew that hence why at the 2017 Confederations Cup a somewhat new looking Germany team was selected that allowed younger players a chance to show what they could do while the experienced guys took the summer off. Leon Goretzka, Julian Brandt, Timo Werner, Sebastian Rudy all left the tournament impressing and probably securing their spot in the long term thinking. All four were selected for the World Cup. However, only Werner was given significant playing time and, with teams knowing Germany’s weaknesses, they camped deep thus stifling any chance of Werner impressing. Khedira in a pivot deep? Mesut Ozil back in the midfield three? Mario Gomez and Muller still seen as options? The ‘experienced’ Germans were back, the old system was back. The weaknesses the world noticed creeping in around 2016 were back and exacerbated. Germany were there for the taking and it was Jogi Low who offered them up for sacrifice.