Hansi Flick was hailed as a tactical genius when he guided Bayern Munich to six trophies in an epoch making 18 month spell. On Wednesday, he came across as a rank amateur when his Germany side were upstaged 2-1 by Japan in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. Flick must take the flak for this defeat because the four time World Cup winners declined considerably with each substitute he made. Matter of fact, all five substitutes failed to click, handing the initiative to Blue Samurai.
Ilkay Gundogan’s replacement with Leon Goretzka denied Germany midfield control, with Japan running directly at Die Mannschaft’s back three from then on. Jamal Musiala was the game’s standout player before he was replaced by an anonymous Mario Goetze. The 19-year-old was creating a chance every five minutes with his sharp dribbling, probing one-two passes and outstanding overall vision. Goetze may be the World Cup hero from 2014 but you cannot bring him on when chasing goals because he plays a low intensity game and hasn’t been in top form at Eintracht Frankfurt.
This begs of the questions: Can the Japanese side that beat Germany be able to pull off a similar feat if they faced Flick’s former side, Bayern Munich? In all probability, no. This owes mostly to the fact that the Bavarians have a better defense. French trio Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez could never have allowed such spaces to the opposing strikers.
Three other issues One: Nico Sclotterbeck may not be national team material. At least not as a starter. Two: Antonio Rudiger is an excellent defender but he can’t anchor a back three. He’s at his best playing on the left side of a back three, or on the left as part of a back four. Three: deploying Niklas Sule as a right back denied Germany an attacking outlet as the Borussia Dortmund defender lacks the natural forward thrust of a natural wing back like David Raum.
Kept reminding myself as the game slipped away from Germany that lightning never strikes twice. Yet it did exactly that. The 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 World Cup winners lost to a lowly ranked Asian side playing on the counter at pace four years after Son Heung Min’s South Korea inflicted wounds on Joachim Low’s side. It’s simply unforgivable that a country that once boasted as the paragon of consistency can lose group games in successive tournaments in a near identical manner.