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Belgium’s golden generation, Germany’s gen next seek to avoid humiliation

Germany need a win against Costa Rica not just to qulify for the knockout stages, but to not lower their international football standing any more.

Eden Hazard (L) of Belgium and German players look dejected. (AP, Reuters photos)

831 players, 32 teams and four matches per day – following the football World Cup can get a little overwhelming. For the next month, The Indian Express will cut through the clutter and handpick the biggest storyline of the day every morning.


Showcase game
Germany vs Costa Rica (Group E)
12.30 am (Friday), Al Bayt Stadium

When journeyman Niklas Fullkrug came on to score a decisive equaliser against Spain to earn them a 1-1 draw on Sunday, German football fans all over the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.

His goal was not an act of heroism. He simply kept them in the running to avoid another humiliating World Cup elimination.

A must win match awaits them against Costa Rica on Thursday, as it does Belgium’s ‘golden generaton’ against Croatia. Roberto Martinez’s side have had a terrible World Cup, failing to create much in their opening two games, their star man calling them “too old” to win the tournament, reports of a dressing room bust up emerging, and crashing 2-0 to Morocco. A win, and only a win, will be enough for them.


The same fate befalls Germany, who for all their history of efficient success, have looked tame in yet another international tournament. So tame that since lifting the World Cup in 2014, they have only won one match in 5 at the showcase tournament, and risk getting knocked out at the group stage for the second consecutive edition for the very first time. After the 2018 World Cup debacle, they struggled to make it out of their group at last year’s Euros, and have been similarly indifferent this year.

Not to say that Germany have a dearth of ability. German football has been on the rise ever since they picked up the title in Rio eight years ago. Bayern Munich, then managed by current German coach Hansi Flick, did the European treble in 2020. Their players play for some of the best teams in the world, under the best coaches, and German tactics of high and hard pressing and verticality have left their influence all over the top European club sides.

Yet, in the last few years, the national team has disappointed. The football – of slow possession and high pressing – has enthralled at times, but also looked ineffective otherwise. Their defensive structure no longer looks unbreakable, and despite having a clear-cut philosophy on how to play on and off the ball, they seem to have no balance.

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They controlled most of their opener against Japan, and were wasteful with their chances, but also looked very vulnerable at the back every time they were on the back foot. Japan merited their 2-1 win for the pressure they created, but both their goals were soft by lofty German standards.


Against Spain, in a game that was tactically tight and intriguing, they challenged and contended for the most part. But again, after going for an extra man in midfield, looked light going forward both in terms of their press and attacking threat, and when they went a goal down and threw everything at it, they looked a few passes away from breaking down in defence.

Fullkrug salvaged a draw, but the ‘hail mary’ type substitution only pointed to their problem further – despite having a talented set of players, this is no complete team.

They can, however, wait to address their problems in balance, since Costa Rica are likely to be predictable. Keen to sit back and let Germany hold the ball, they will wait and see if they even try to get out of shape and counterattack. So, the onus lies on Die Mannschaft.

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They can, however, wait to address their problems in balance, since Costa Rica are likely to be predictable. Keen to sit back and let Germany hold the ball, they will wait and see if they even try to get out of shape and counterattack. So, the onus lies on Die Mannschaft.

Leroy Sane’s return may do them well – he looked bright in the 20-odd minutes he played against Spain – and they will rely on Jamal Musiala. The 19-year-old impressed massively in the last two games and has the opportunity to become a national hero with another star turn.

Watch out for Ilkay Gundogan, his presence in Germany’s midfield is huge when they hold the ball. He is able to link up play, break midfield and defensive lines with both his passing and dribbling on the half turn, and be composed in the middle of the park. His substitution against Japan is arguably what led to the loss of control and ultimate capitulation.

For Germany, this is more than just about qualification to the knockouts. Another loss and humiliation would be confirmation of them losing their international standing as a footballing power.

Other fixtures of the day:

Croatia vs Belgium, 8.30 pm, Al-Rayyan Stadium

Morocco vs Canada, 8.30 pm, Al Thumama Stadium

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Spain vs Japan, 12.30 am, Khalifa International Stadium

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 08:44 IST
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