Hansi Flick's fledgling young stars point to bright future for Germany after dark spell

With the likes of Havertz, Sane, and Gnabry - along with teenagers Wirtz, Musiala and Adeyemi - there is plenty of optimism around the future of the Germany national team

A scoreline like 6-0 always feels emphatic. Ten months ago, Germany lost by half a dozen unanswered goals to Spain, a thrashing deemed among the lowest of low points in the long reign of head coach Joachim Low. It was a shocking measure of how far his 2014 world champions had fallen.

On Sunday, Low’s successor, Hansi Flick, oversaw a 6-0 victory in his first home match in charge. Granted, a frail Armenia were the opposition in the 2022 World Cup qualifier, but Flick can hardly be happier with his start: two matches played, eight goals scored, none conceded en route to Wednesday night’s trip to Iceland.

“I felt some goosebumps,” Flick said, as a Stuttgart crowd cheered the sight of a slick, six-goal Germany.

The new national manager may have felt some almost paternal pride, too, at the sight of so many footballers he has nurtured over the last few years excelling in the national team.

Flick gave up the head coach’s job at Bayern Munich – where he won seven trophies, including the Champions League in barely 18 months in charge – and knew, when he left, that many of his Bayern players wanted him to stay. He would see them again soon enough.

Bayern form the backbone of every Germany coach’s plans, and the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich and Leroy Sane have so far responded very favourably to being under Flick’s watch in national colours.

Against Armenia, Gnabry had scored twice in the first 15 minutes. Sane marked his industrious, inventive showing in the opening period with a shot against the post. That pair, 26 and 25 years old respectively, were part of a starting line-up in which only one outfield player, Marco Reus, was over 30.

The evening ended with a flourish for three teenagers, Bayern’s Jamal Musiala, Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, and Karim Adeyemi, who, when he was named in Flick’s first Germany squad, some fans found hard to place. Adeyemi has played all his senior football in Austria, for RB Salzburg. He had played 19 minutes for Flick’s Germany when he registered his first international goal.

That trio are already being hailed as flag-bearers for a new, youthful Germany, as symbols of change. When Low first came into Germany’s management set-up, initially as an assistant coach to Jurgen Klinsmann, Musiala and Wirtz were one-year-olds. Adeyemi, the Munich-born son of a Nigerian father and Romanian mother, was two and a half.

Seventeen years on, they look bright, bold international footballers, quickly on one another’s wavelength. Or at least they were against a tiring, deflated Armenia. Musiala and Wirtz might have set up the sixth goal from their neat left-flank interplay. Wirtz set up Adeyemi’s injury-time strike, after a zig-zag of passes between the two.

Flick knows all about Musiala, the prodigy who spent much of his childhood in England, was enrolled at Chelsea’s academy for a period, and represented England at youth level. Earlier this year, persuaded by Low, he committed his international career to Germany, where he was born. Low took him to the summer’s European championship, where Germany were beaten by England at the last-16 stage.

His senior club debut came just a year earlier, when Flick made him, at 17 years and 115 days old, the youngest Bayern debutant in the history of the Bundesliga. Musiala has no doubt about the faith Flick has in him. His challenge is to gain enough playing time in attacking midfield at Bayern, where there is intense competition for places, to keep lifting his status in the national team.

Adeyemi, meanwhile, acknowledges it seemed “crazy” to him to be suddenly drafted to play alongside world champions like Manuel Neuer, the Germany goalkeeper and captain. “I’m still in shock”, he beamed after his dream debut.

“He showed he has self-confidence and composure in the penalty area,” said Flick, who called up the 19-year-old because of his compelling club form. “He did just what he has been doing in Austria,” said Flick. For Salzburg, Adeyemi has scored six league goals in as many matches so far this season.

Ademeyi may get more minutes on Wednesday night. Reus, whose career with Germany has been hampered by a series of injuries, will miss the match with Iceland because of a knee problem, though Chelsea’s Kai Havertz has recovered from the illness that ruled him out of the victories against Liechtenstein and Armenia.

Havertz, who only just turned 22, has a key role in Flick’s turning the page for Germany, who crashed out of the last World Cup at the group phase and won just once in four games at Euro 2020. Flick’s Fledglings have some wounds to heal, but they have embarked on the challenge with gusto.

Updated: September 8th 2021, 3:00 AM
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