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German football is at a crossroads

A year ago, all appeared to be well in German football. Now, in view of the failure to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup in Russia, coaches are trying to figure out how things went so terribly wrong.It’s been more than a month since South Korea sent the national team crashing out of the World Cup in Russia and still everybody connected wth German football is still shaking his or her head. In Dresden this week, the federation of German football coaches (BDFL) has been hosting a congress to discuss what went wrong, and what can be done to fix it – with a particular focus on Germany’s development system.

Despite the bitter disappointment about the World Cup, Stefan Kuntz, the former Germany striker who coached the under-21s to a European title last year, said he sees opportunity in the men’s national team’s failure.

A wakeup call

“One can only hope that this regrettable elimination serves as a wakeup call and opens us up to thinking about changes and finding solutions,” he told the SID news agency.

Kuntz said apart from the 2017 U-21 title, he was encouraged by what he saw when Joachim’s Löw led a relatively young and inexperienced team to the Confederations Cup title last year, but that these successes may have been misleading in terms of what is to come in the future.

“What about the 15, 16, 17, or 18-year-olds? We see a vacuum there, and we need to close that by starting with the 10, 11, 12 and 13-year-olds,” he said.

Kuntz also wondered whether young players in Germany have had things too easy in some ways.

“They don’t have to resolve conflicts themselves anymore. And if things don’t work out with one club, they simply move to another. And then at some point they wind up going up against a player who is just as good as them, but also has the required self-assertiveness.”

A lack of real stars

Before Germany were knocked out of the World Cup, Argentine superstar Leo Messi criticized Joachim Löw’s side for lacking a real star, while at the same time praising them for being “very solid” as a team. The “very solid” part turned out to be a myth, at least regarding the 2018 version of Germany, but some at meeting at the BDFL in Dresden think Messi may have been on to something when he criticized the lack of stars or individualism.

Joti Chatzialexiou, who the DFB appointed in January as the sporting director of the national teams, named individual class as one of the four main factors that brought success to World Cup finalists France and Croatia – the others being attitude, variability and speed.

“Let’s get the street footballers into the clubs,” Chatzialexiou said, referring to players who at an early aged develop their individual skills on the ball unencumbered by structure and defensive responsibilities.

Kuntz also noted that he has been observing a downturn in the number of talented young individuals.

“We have noticed that in our junior national teams the really highly talented players coming through each year are becoming fewer and fewer. This is alarming,” he said.

Rather than recruiting individually talented “street footballers,” Kuntz said he favored getting them into clubs at the earliest age possible and focusing on the basic skills like how to receive a ball, dribbling, and passing and shooting.

A new cycle?

Although the congress, which wraps up on Wednesday, may not provide any concrete recommendations, Chatzialexiou said he believed that German football was now at a crossroads, perhaps similar to when the national team crashed out of the 2000 European championship.

The process of renewal that followed that disappointment led to changes that helped spawn the generation that won the 2009 under-21 European championship and the 2014 World Cup. While it’s up to Löw to fix what’s wrong with the national team in the short term, in the ever further evolving world of international football, Germany may simply be at the start of a new cycle of development.

pfd/ (SID, dpa)

Topics: German football

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