Euro 2022 seems wide open: the problem for Germany is also its defense

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A new TV documentary about the Frauen-Nationalmannschaft (sorry, not a catchy nickname for the German women’s national team) will air on July 6. The three-part series about the players’ individual stories and struggles in the year leading up to Euro 2022 is called Born for This, but in terms of the team’s collective travails, Rebirth could have been a more evocative title. After hugely disappointing quarter-final exits in the last two tournaments, the eight-time European champions are on their way back this month.

Germany’s history of success in the competition means that they enter Euro 2022 with high expectations and a degree of confidence, but a group that looks complicated – they will face Denmark, Spain and Finland – will quickly test the sense of optimism that has come up over the last couple of weeks.

National team manager Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and her staff decided not to play too many pre-tournament friendlies, opting instead for a single match with Switzerland and extensive training sessions. There has also been a lot of emphasis on team building, with players doing vocal training sessions with a German actress, shooting TikTok videos and creating a collage.

Sources describe the atmosphere at the team’s base camp in Herzogenaurach as “very positive and calm”, no doubt helped by how convincing the 7-0 win over Switzerland was. “I would be less relaxed if I hadn’t seen so many good things,” Voss-Tecklenburg said after the final whistle, visibly relieved.

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There have been major concerns about Germany’s attacking play following a serious knee injury to playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan (OL Reign) in March and Chelsea’s Melanie Leupolz announced her pregnancy in the same month. Captain Alexandra “Poppi” Popp of double winner VfL Wolfsburg, the fulcrum of the attack, has just returned after a 10-month break with cartilage damage and is still in no condition to lead the line in the starting eleven.

Euro 2022 seems wide open: the problem for Germany is also its defense GettyImages 1371270648 scaled e1648388547288


Jule Brand is just one of several attacking options at Germany’s disposal (Photo: Getty Images)

But against the unlucky Swiss, Germany had little trouble creating dangerous situations, especially from the flanks. Wingers Svenja Huth (Wolfsburg) and Klara Buhl (Bayern Munich) combined well with club-mates Lina Magull (central midfielder) and Popp’s deputy Lea Schuller to completely dismantle the visitors in Erfurt.

The game really highlighted Germany’s depth in offensive positions. Substitutes Jule Brand (Wolfsburg), Sydney Lohmann (Bayern) and Linda Dallmann (Bayern) scored after entering the second half. German FA officials are hopeful that the number of good attacking players at Voss-Tecklenburg’s disposal could be a key factor in his team going deeper into the competition. “We don’t depend on one or two strikers in particular, that’s our strength,” the 54-year-old said.

Marozsan’s absence could be a blessing in disguise in that regard. The 30-year-old has dominated the game in the final third for both Germany and Champions League series winners Olympique Lyon for much of the last decade, but some observers close to the team feel she had started to slow down the game too much. . In the Voss-Tecklenburg 4-3-3 system, there is no longer a natural place for an old-school number 10. the team’s laid-back leadership duo, Magull and Sara Dabritz (Lyon), and allows Huth and Buhl to attack defenders as wide forwards.

Buhl, who scored a hat-trick against the Swiss, could well become one of the rising stars of the competition. The 21-year-old has improved her decision-making, taking her overall performance to another level. She attributes her progress to training in neuroscience with former Bundesliga pro Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, a technique also employed by the Liverpool men’s team. “She is just beginning to discover how good she is and how good she can be,” says a member of the delegation. the athletic.

However, things could get jittery in a much less positive sense at the back end. There are problems in the back four and possibly in goal too, where veteran goalkeeper and popular TV pundit Almuth Schult, 31, of Angel City FC has lost his place to Merle Frohms (Eintracht Frankfurt) following injury. and giving birth to twins. Frohms, 27, is good on the ball but lacks height and tournament experience, making the Voss-Tecklenburg decision a potential sticking point for the media if the results go awry. More worrying still is the fact that the most reliable centre-back, Marina Hegering (Bayern), is only getting back into top form and that Kathrin Hendrich (Wolfsburg) tends to struggle against opponents who push hard with her distribution.

Full back bunks are also problematic positions. Bayern’s Giulia Gwinn is a bit out of shape on the right. Voss-Tecklenburg has repurposed Eintracht Frankfurt striker Nicole Anyomi to help, but in the face of superior opposition that move looks risky. Felicitas Rauch (Wolfsburg), the latest in a long line of contenders for the left-back job, has improved, but perhaps not enough for a team that wants to go far in England. Even against a Swiss team that barely appeared, the defensive movement of the back four was at times out of sync, creating large gaps in front of the area. By the time Germany’s weak defense starts to click, the tournament may already be over.

The uneven distribution of quality players on the field makes it difficult to predict the team’s performances this month with any degree of certainty. Going forward, they seem to have enough to consider themselves “definitely ready to win the competition,” as Frohms put it. But his problems at the back could easily end any dreams of a prolonged stay at his Brentford base.

This schism, in a team that was previously so collectively dominant, adds another layer of complexity to a tournament that seems to be throwing half a dozen serious contenders and nearly as many big losers down. Euro 2022, Germany feels, is wide open. The worry is that they will be too.