Germany fanatics search new 'summer season fairytale' however desire a workforce to consider in
"B"ring at the new Sommermärchen," read a banner that was unfurled at the Rhein-Energie Stadion just before kick-off on Tuesday night. Almost two decades Germany is looking for a new'summer season fairytale' after the 2006 World Cup ended with a 2-0 loss to Belgium in Cologne. The tournament has been imbued with an almost alchemic power, with the players still bruised after last year's Qatar World Cup and its road of many miseries. Twelve fixtures separate Germany from the opening game in Munich in June 2024, and all are friendlies, which is less than ideal. The team is also trying to build a challenge as important and as important as the one they face on the pitch.
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“B”ring at the new Sommermärchen,” read a banner that was unfurled at the Rhein-Energie Stadion just before kick-off on Tuesday night. Almost two decades on, it’s hard to overstate what a cherished place the 2006 World Cup still holds in Germany’s collective memory. The “summer season fairytale”, they call it: a summer of golden memories and national euphoria, of street parties on scorching evenings, a summer that has spawned films and books and songs, despite ending in the semi-finals for the hosts.
“All the streets were full, everything with German flags, public viewing was practically invented,” remembered Matthias Ginter last week. Ginter was a 12-year-old boy in the summer of 2006 and is now a 29-year-old defender in the squad that will be expected to recreate the Sommermärchen in 2024. And ever since Germany was awarded the right to host next year’s European Championship the tournament has been imbued with an almost alchemic power: a chance to unite and dream and make magic again.
For the players, still bruised after last year’s Qatar World Cup and its road of many miseries, a Euros on home soil offers a clear redemptive arc. Twelve fixtures separate Hansi Flick’s side from the opening game in Munich in June 2024. All are friendlies, which is less than ideal. No host nation has won a World Cup or European Championship on home soil since France in 1998, and perhaps the lack of competitive practice is one reason. The indeterminate 2-0 win over Peru last Saturday was one example: friendlies may show you how bad you are, but they won’t necessarily show how good you are.
Nine minutes into their game against Belgium in Cologne, Germany were discovering exactly how bad. They were 2-0 down, Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku with the goals. Kevin De Bruyne, as well as collecting two assists, was taking Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka for a joyride in central midfield. Virtually every Belgian attack seemed to generate a shot. Dodi Lukebakio missed a one-on-one chance. Lukaku hit the bar with a header. Belgium could quite conceivably have been 4-0 or 5-0 up within 20 minutes.
“The first 35 minutes were the worst I’ve seen in my long career,” grumbled the never-knowingly-understated Lothar Matthäus on RTL afterwards, and for all the comic pratfalling it already felt like an early point of crisis for Flick, who had by no means been guaranteed to keep his job after the Qatar shambles. And again it was the habit of conceding unbelievably soft goals that had undone them: an incontinent pressing system that somehow left them overcommitted up the pitch but without adequate pressure on the ball. “This must be a one-off,” Flick warned.
But it was what happened next that arguably made even less sense. Half an hour in, Flick had seen enough. Florian Wirtz, the teenage prodigy from Bayer Leverkusen, was hooked along with the injured Goretzka. Emre Can came on in midfield and began to lock things down. On the stroke of half-time the totemic Bremen striker Niclas Füllkrug – a man who always looks as though he’s going to hoist you off the ground for no reason – won and scored a penalty to pull a goal back. Gradually the crowd, who had greeted the opening period more with bemusement than genuine anger, began to swing behind them.
This is the fragile connection Germany is also trying to build: a challenge as important and intractable as any they face on the pitch. Reconnecting this team to its public – particularly a younger public with strong allegiances to their Bundesliga clubs but only a passing interest in the national side – is one of the Deutscher Fussball-Bund’s central missions before next summer.
And yet in a country riven by public sector strikes, forced in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the end of the Angela Merkel era to reconsider its identity and place in the world, the prevailing note is skepticism rather than optimism. “Woodstock cannot be repeated,” veteran television commentator Bela Rethy said recently. “In 2006 Germany was a different country, more relaxed, more tolerant. Not so dogmatic. Not so demagogic.”
Not so shoddy in protection, both. On 78 mins De Bruyne made it 3-1 with some other easy counterattack. But even now Germany refused to lie down. The exceptional Serge Gnabry hit the put up after an electrifying run that took him previous 4 avid gamers. With 3 mins last he transformed from shut vary after some other fast raid down the left by means of Kevin Schade of Brentford, putting in a rousing finale and about as heroic a 3-2 defeat as it’s conceivable to conceive.
And as they left the stadium, everybody appeared glad sufficient. There used to be wide acknowledgment that this can be a transitional workforce, a workforce with lots of its stars (Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rüdiger, Ilkay Gündogan) rested or injured. Flick bemoaned the loss of coaching time afforded him, which he stated contributed to the scruffiness of his workforce’s tried urgent.
Twelve extra experiments. Twelve extra video games to get this proper, in opposition to a backdrop of apathy, a leaky defence, an increasingly more divided country and a definite loss of full-backs. And but if the Sommermärchen taught us anything else, it’s that the German public don’t call for victory as a non-negotiable. They will forgive their workforce even the sour tablet of final failure if it might cause them to dream. Flick’s toughest process over the following 15 months isn’t to win, however to present Germany a workforce they are able to consider in.