Thomas Müller takes control as German old guard plans last job | Germany


For Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels, a climactic night in Gelsenkirchen two and a half years ago seemed an unhappy end. Germany still struggled to shed their funk after the World Cup and the Netherlands had exacerbated matters, scoring twice in the final five minutes to tie a Nations League game. Hummels hadn’t been quick enough against Quincy Promes for the opening goal; there was less he could do when Virgil van Dijk stole the equalizer. The slightly comedic full-time image was of a stone-faced Müller, who had entered the scene in the second half, reluctantly accepting a punch from Paule, the Nationalmannschaftthe costumed mascot of an eagle.

Within weeks, Joachim Löw unplugged his creaky pillars, describing 2019 as “the year of a new start for the national team. We want to give the team a new face. Müller, Hummels and Jérôme Boateng were no longer to be considered for the selection. Oliver Bierhoff, technical director, explained that Germany had to “decide what is best for the team on the way back to the top of the world”.

The German language has not yet developed a 20-letter word for in addition it changes but he has until Tuesday evening. If physical condition allows it, Müller and Hummels will start against England; both were woken up in May for one last dance and it’s hard to say whether their presence at Wembley must be a symbol of might or of weakness.

Calling back the pair, Löw said there was a need to ‘stop a recast’ and that Germany lacked experience, an observation made true by the six goals Spain set against a fragile defense in November. last and the shocking home loss to North Macedonia in March. . It was a fair, albeit unseemly, admission that their absence had not produced the desired results. A first qualifying victory for Euro 2020 in Amsterdam was promising, but the Dutch would retaliate by scoring four times in Hamburg and Germany became rudderless against strong opponents.

Mats Hummels celebrates with the fans after the game against Hungary but he has yet to convince in the tournament. Photograph: Marc Mueller / UEFA / Getty Images

Löw also had short-term goals in mind, as he had recently announced his departure after this summer’s competition. He decided that Germany didn’t have the aura, the ability to draw a double take into the tunnel, which has helped them cross the line before. Perhaps he was right: among the rest of his squad, only Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos and – in a pinch – Matthias Ginter could offer the blind gaze of World Cup winners. International tournaments have a habit of unlocking long memories, invoking ghosts from the past to sow doubt. England, with their more controlled style and theoretically powerful frontline, could be a clear favorite in the last 16 if there was nothing to muddy the waters. Germany, however, has rediscovered an advantage in authority.

This may work with a particular effect in the case of Müller. Pundits and former German players have pounced on themselves to suggest that he, above everyone else, can be the difference between an early exit – and England’s first knockout victory over the Germans since 1966 – and another march towards the end of business. Müller is the self-proclaimed ‘interpreter of space’ (raumdeuter) but “space designer” can more accurately describe his role in Löw’s final adventure. In the smoke-house victory over Portugal, he was the off-camera presence, the outstretched hand, the bellowing exhortation, directing the waves of offensive play that poured down each flank. In his absence for the first hour against Hungary, Germany looked weak and confused. The work of his career was defined by a propensity to ghost out of nowhere and to poach. In this talented but raw side, “Radio Müller” plays more forward by pulling the strings.

Müller’s eyes will shine at the sight of England, and the thought of that brace at Bloemfontein in 2010, three months after the start of his international career, may fuel many German hopes. Against that, he hasn’t scored in a major tournament since the floodgates opened when Brazil were humiliated in Belo Horizonte seven years ago. Winding the Löw clock might take a few turns.

The picture looks less optimistic when it comes to Hummels. He joined Müller among the Ballon d’Or contenders in 2014 but, unlike his resurgent colleague, he’s clearly not the player he was. The home goal that settled Germany’s first match against France was forgivable, despite its comedy; the way Adam Szalai took him off to start a tumultuous night on Wednesday was less so and, whether against physique or pace, the 32-year-old struggled.

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It’s no different story for Kroos, who made his German debut on the same night as Müller but was spared the forced two-year hiatus. He was criticized for his lack of energy after Hungary’s draw and certainly took a while to shut down Roland Sallai as he fed Szalai’s run. Neuer, 35, couldn’t get away without a review either, given his miscalculation when he was beaten with the ball by Andras Schafer later. It has been a long time since German veterans offered any of their old certainties.

The new wave, however, has yet to bring any. That’s why Löw is betting on Müller and Hummels against England, training their team to the top and applying bottles of the old spirit. “I feel like chasing the titles this summer,” Müller said in March after Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund in front of a thoughtful Löw. “I am definitely ready.” He might as well have rubbed his hands as he spoke: despite all the imperfections of Löw’s latest compromise, the fire could still rage until July.


About Norma Wade

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