Whenever the German national team negotiate their way from the group stages of an international tournament, they are often among the final four teams standing at the end of the competition.
Since their 1998 quarter-finals elimination in the World Cup, Germany have finished among the best four teams of the FIFA showpiece in the following four editions before their 2018 fiasco in Russia, where they were knocked out in a group that included Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
On the other hand, after their 1996 Euro success in England, Germany suffered two straight group stage exits – 2000 and 2004 – before finishing in top four in the following three editions.
This year, however, the Germans again suffered early exit as they were knocked out in the last 16 of the Euro 2020 following a 2-0 defeat to England at Wembley Stadium.
These statistics speak volume on the pressure that the German national team has whenever they are involved in a major competition.
Wolfgang Rolff has experienced both the upsets of an early exit and the dream of striving towards clinching a coveted tournament.
Rolff, who has collected 37 caps between 1983 and 1989, was part of the Euro 1984 expedition that saw West Germany eliminated in the group stages.
On the other hand, he also played for West Germany in the following European championship when they reached the semi-finals before being dumped out by the eventual champions, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten’s Netherlands.
In between, Rolff played two games in the 1986 World Cup as well with Germany losing the final at the hands of Diego Armando Maradona’s Argentina.
For him, Hansi Flick’s appointment at the helm of the German national team represents a way forward to restore their competitiveness and challenge for the big tournaments.
“Hansi Flick has already served as assistant coach to Joachim Loew and therefore he already knows the German Football Federation and its systems,” Rolff told The Sunday Times of Malta.
“In just a year and a half, he has won a lot of trophies and after a good career as a player with Bayern Munich, he is already looking well in his early stages of his coaching career as well.”
For Rolff, the main problem was not that the team was eliminated in the knockout stages but the lack of playing style that teams like Italy, for example, have shown throughout the whole tournament.
“The German supporters want to see their team be competitive and motivated in these tournaments and the lack of it was the main problem in Euro 2020,” Rolff, who was part of the Hamburg side that upset Juventus in the 1984 European Cup final, said.
“Germany lacked a playing identity for the past three years and the coach did nothing about it, except changing formations and not being clear on in which positions he wanted to put his players in, which was evident in this summer’s European Championships as well.”
Change of style
Rolff also added that at the moment, the German Football Federation might need to change its playing style and that Flick’s choice might represent that kind of thing.
“Flick’s Bayern Munich was based on aggressive and fast football, with a dominant ball possession and lot of pressing and I think that is what he will want to bring to the national team as well,” Rolff added.
“I think although there will be some changes in the team’s playing members, they can still be competitive in Qatar in a year and a half’s time.
“Unfortunately, Loew had to leave after the 2018 World Cup so that the German Football Federation would have had enough time to revise their strategy but instead they continued with him for these three years and that continued to damage the team, because there was a lack of competitiveness and motivation.”
Overall, Rolff was pleased with what he has seen during the European Championships and has heaped praise on UEFA for the well-organised tournament.
“This competition was very interesting and different at the same time, given that it was played in several cities across Europe,” the former Germany international said.
“Italy deserved to win this tournament, having played the best football and were very consistent in all their games as well.
“This reflects Roberto Mancini’s huge work in the past three years, as