Germany fell to a shock 1-0 defeat against Hungary at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena last night, sealing their fate in the UEFA Nations League and making it impossible for Hansi Flick’s men to win the group and reach the finals of the competition.
A wonder strike from 34-year-old veteran striker Ádám Szalai in the 17th minute was enough for Marco Rossi’s Magyarok to steal all three points on their travels and continue their improbable run which now sees Hungary needing just a draw against Italy on Monday to claim top spot in a group where no one thought they had any chance in.
“The first half was our worst since I’ve been here. Low confidence, little intensity, few chances, many mistakes. I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone has to work on themselves. The time for experiments is over.”
Though Germany’s fate in the group is not as shocking as England’s, who were relegated to Nations League B after a loss against Italy in Milan, the result means that previous plans for Flick to utilize the Nations League final as a way of extracting additional competitive fixtures after the 2022 World Cup to help Germany prepare to host Euro 2024, and thus not having to go through qualifying, has ultimately fallen short of the mark.
In the aftermath of the loss, the nation’s first in fourteen fixtures under Flick since his arrival on the national team touchline, players have shed light on the nature of the performance with a trip to Qatar just two months away, including Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, and Jonas Hofmann.
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Jonas Hofmann was tasked in an uncharacteristic right-back role on the night with Flick wanting to have attacking quality on both sides of the back line but admitted that his plan backfired while taking full responsibility.
“We wanted to try something with Jonas Hofmann in the right-back position. I have to take a bit of the blame for that. We wanted to go into the game with two attacking full-backs, but we never got what we wanted. It didn’t work.”
As for Hofmann, his assessment was in line with that of his manager.
“The first half was really sh*t. Unfortunately, you have to say it as it is. We tried to play faster in the second half, but we still didn’t create a lot of chances. Today’s game must be a lesson for us.”
Bayern Munich star midfielder Joshua Kimmich mentioned the disappointment of Germany’s failure to win their Nations League group while offering up an honest assessment of the team’s failure to assert themselves appropriately in front of the home support in Leipzig.
“We were far too slow in our passing game and made way too many mistakes. Winning the group in the Nations League was our goal, but it wasn’t noticeable in the first half. We did nothing and lacked everything in the first 45 minutes. We still have the last Nations League game against England before the World Cup. We have to do better and we will do better.”
And it would not be a reflection on a German performance without Thomas Müller’s usually eye-opening thoughts, with the Bayern and Germany veteran suggesting that struggles at club level - perhaps a shot at the situation in Bavaria at the moment - being levied as a possible reason for a lack of hitting performance levels carrying over into the national team camp.
“The first half was really disappointing. We made way too many mistakes. A lot of players are not having the easiest time at their clubs at the moment, we didn’t bring the power on the pitch today. We continue to stand together even when things don’t go well.”
With nothing but pride left to play for at Wembley when Germany and England once again meet on the international stage, it is imperative for Flick to generate a response against an old rival from a group of players that are slated to be one of the heavyweights in Qatar.