For decades German football fans remembered Hansi Flick as the man who helplessly watched Rabah Madjer’s goal. The sequence was a standard of Bavarian folklore. The Algerian received with his back to the Bayern goal and released the purest backheel in the history of the tournament before the ball rolled like a shot next to a frightened blonde who only managed to move his right leg in a convulsive gesture on the line the Gol. The 1-1 draw, the prelude to Porto’s victory in the 1987 European Cup final, portrayed Flick as the anti-hero. Living image of the loser in a country obsessed with the spirit of victory.
Flick is today one of the most beloved personalities in Germany. If he sextet that he conquered with Bayern gave him a new reputation, his move to the national team has generated optimism. The 1-1 draw against England, on Tuesday in the second day of Group C of the League of Nations, did not extinguish the happiness of the fans at the evolution of a team that finished the 2018 World Cup eliminated in the group stage. The new coach of the Nationalmannschaft He left the field declaring his calm faith after a result more related to chance – Kane’s penalty – than to football production. “We play soccer just the way we imagine it,” he said. “And it was spectacular.”
Impassive, without apparent grace, but equipped with a gift for inspiring confidence in others, Flick confirmed what became evident at the Allianz Arena. That Germany, Spain’s great rival in the group stage of the Qatar World Cup that starts in November, threatens to take off like a rocket after five years of rust. In the 13 games he has played —undefeated— after the resignation of Joachim Löw, the successor has shown himself to be very capable of raising the team’s game above the limitations presented by the drought of great talent that scouts see in the national youth academy.
There is no Matthäus in sight, no Möller, no Rummenigge, no Lahm, Kroos or Özil. Nor do Bayern offer the kind of ruling dynasty that cemented the national team whenever success came with it. Only three outfield players from the Bavarian club lined up against England – Kimmich, Musiala and Müller – and yet Germany put on a game that was overwhelming at times. “If we played a ten-game league against England, we would win almost all of them,” said Müller, downplaying the draw and highlighting the “good body language” he detected in his teammates, who were surprisingly comfortable in the 3-4-3 set up by Flick against their habit of forming defenses of four.
“If you have stable central defenders, you can consider playing with a three-man defense,” said the coach, who, relying on Klostermann, Rüdiger and Schlotterbeck, made up for the lack of pure midfielders and top-level full-backs in the Bundesliga concert.
“How do you build your football team if you are a real coach and not the salesperson of an idea?” asks Raúl Caneda, who coached Real Sociedad and Almería, and for years has done reports for Premier clubs . “Look at where your best players are: if you have three extraordinary centre-backs you have to put them to play, because the tactic does not depend on your tastes, but on your best players. When you have centre-backs capable of giving plays an advantage, you do what Liverpool do: finish off both full-backs at the same time as the most advanced men. And if you manage to be dominant with a 3-4-3 against an opponent who presents a system with a defense of four, you can cause great imbalances. We saw it in Germany’s 4-2 against Portugal in the last European Championship”.
Against England, in many phases of the game the deepest Germans were the lanes, Raum and Hofmann, used as true battering rams under the direction of Havertz, who officiated as false nine. The circulation was so fluid that Germany almost always finished the plays inside and without the need to hang centers. If Spain in this League of Nations adds 16 centers in two games, Germany does not exceed eight.
When they turned the ball over, Raum and Hofmann themselves jumped in to put pressure on the English centre-backs in a fit of Flick-style daring. “I am very proud of my team because we have put pressure on England and we have forced them to shoot long and throw balls wide,” celebrated the coach. “These games will help us to know where we are in preparation for the World Cup.”
Germany may have to find a way. Hansi Flick has no doubt that hers begins and ends in Bammental, her town and her place of residence, in Baden-Württemberg, the small homeland of the man that almost no one identifies with Rabah Madjer’s high heel.