Not always blessed with the best team on paper, there remained something so predictable about Germany winning the European Championships in 2013, their sheer determination and mental fortitude enough to carry them through the toughest of matches. That, “silver is for losers” way of approaching their games something so typical of the steely German mentality – making the Jones era such an outlier.
In Germany’s last match before the 2017 tournament kicked off, the team looked strong and dangerous; classy as they saw off Brazil in Sandhausen. Yet, by the time they took to the pitch in Breda to square off against Sweden, there was a reticence in the team, almost as if Pandora’s Box had been cracked open just enough for fear to fly out and suddenly take a hold of the Nationalelf.
The results against Italy and Russia weren’t spectacular but were enough to see Germany emerge as group winners and book their spot in the knockouts against unfancied Denmark. When a Silvia Neid team would have stepped up, gritted their teeth and found a way through their opposition, Steffi Jones’ uncertain squad were left slack and confused, their defeat most notable for how mentally feeble the team had seemed.
Jones unexpectedly held onto her job despite the swift calls for her axing, but after a World Cup qualifying loss to Iceland and a SheBelieves Cup without a win, the curtain finally fell on her ephemeral tenure.
Never intended to be a long-term solution, Horst Hrubesch got the team back on track in World Cup qualifying; the side having weathered the storm to come out looking like their old selves again. Whereas Neid might have erred on the favour of conservatism on the pitch – something Jones was encouraging the team away from – Hrubesch favoured the bold and attacking. A Hrubesch team was one that went for the jugular, gnashing at the thorax of their opposition; the side scoring 29 goals over their first seven matches under him. The 67-year-old’s farewell match was a 0-0 against Spain – the only time the nation had failed to find the back of the net and the only blot on his perfect record.
Having joked, “Wenn ich jetzt nicht aufhöre, habe ich ein Problem, dann lässt sie sich scheiden.” - If I don’t stop now, my wife will divorce me - it was clear that Hrubesch wouldn’t be sticking around for the World Cup and the DFB would fast have to find someone to take over from the interim coach. Enter Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.
How do you solve a problem like MVT
An appropriate candidate on paper, there was just one major problem with former Germany WNT player Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: she already had a job. Then the Switzerland coach, Voss-Tecklenburg was announced in April 2018 but wouldn’t be in a position to lead the team until the start of 2019, having to wrap up her duties as the Swiss attempted to qualify for the World Cup [via the play-offs].
Taking charge of any national team, let alone one with such an esteemed history as Germany, is no easy task, but to do so with half a year before the start of a World Cup seems like a daredevil sport. Step up the brave or step up the foolhardy. But with two wins in two (against France in Laval and Sweden in Solna), Germany don’t look transitional or uncertain, they look bold and deadly.
Voss-Tecklenburg isn’t thinking about winning the World Cup nor is she only relying on carrying Hrubesch’s momentum. Her benchmark for success in France, Olympic qualification and the German keen to keep the momentum going from her predecessor but to ease her style into the team. The coach is looking for balance, with the old and the young, the experienced and the inexperienced – a debut for 28-year-old Marina Hegering against Sweden a further reminder of the depth of talent in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
In truth, a 2-1 result for Germany flattered Sweden, Dzsenifer Marozsán’s complaint that the visitors didn’t score enough (they certainly had the chances) smacked of the classic mentality of the team. Yes, we’re only two matches into the Voss-Tecklenburg era and in football, things can change in the blink of an eye, but the early signs are positive.
Germany’s World Cup group (B) is a mixed one that will test the depth of Voss-Tecklenburg’s tactical nous with China, South Africa and Spain as their opposition. Yet none of those games look like they’ll be enough to stop a Germany team in full flow and should they top their group they’ll be gifted a tie against a third-placed team. Win their first knock-out and their quarter final opposition will be either the runner up from Group E or F, and should they come through that match they’ll be in the last four; 90 minutes from the grand final and assured of Olympic qualification – seems easy enough, right?
The upheavals in the German national team have probably seen them cast back in people’s estimations but with that renewed hunger and that cocksure way of taking to the pitch to play, it’s high time to remember just what the two-time world champions are capable of (and to be afraid).