Euro 2020 Joachim Low’s last stand as Germany prepare for new era

Veteran manager has enjoyed consistent success followed by dramatic underachievement during 15-year reign

The result felt a timely throwback to Joachim Low’s most famous win. It finished Germany 7 Latvia 1 on Monday; seven years ago, Brazil were on the wrong end of the same scoreline. As Low’s marathon reign in charge of his country nears its conclusion, it can be a time for memories.

In Euro 2004, immediately before Low became Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant, Germany drew 0-0 with Latvia. Taken in isolation, Monday’s thrashing may show how far Germany have come, even though Latvia have fallen to their lowest world ranking.

Yet, as the last year has included a 6-0 thrashing by Spain and a 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia, their heaviest defeat since 1931 and their most embarrassing in World Cup qualifiers respectively and both historic lows for Germany, the overall picture is less rosy.

Thomas Muller has the unique distinction of scoring in both 7-1 wins. Monday’s strike was his first for Die Mannschaft since 2018. That is largely because Low threw senior players such as Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Muller, under the bus to save his own skin after Germany’s worst World Cup for 80 years.

Muller, in particular, made him look foolish with his form for Bayern Munich. With his own departure arranged, with Germany’s defence too porous and their attack lacking a prolific finisher, Low abruptly recalled Hummels and Muller.

Being more clinical, both on offence and defence is what we need

Joachim Low

Germany only have three clean sheets in 14 games. Monday was the first time since 2019 that they have mustered more than three goals.

“Our finishing was more clinical,” Low reflected after he had six different scorers, plus an own goal.

“That's been a topic that's come up often over the last months, and was an area where we made things hard for ourselves. Being more clinical, both on offence and defence is what we need.” Some might deem it being more like the classic Germany sides.

Low was the manager who gave them a more attacking makeover and a more youthful look. He has lasted so long that he pensioned off his own prodigies.

Since his own appointment in 2006, Holland have eight managers and Italy six. Low’s 15-year reign gives him more common denominators with predecessors such as Helmut Schon (14) and Sepp Herberger (28) than his peers.

It is a reign of consistent achievement – five consecutive semi-finals and the 2014 World Cup win – followed by dramatic underachievement. Germany’s group-stage exit in Russia was summed up by the sight of Manuel Neuer losing possession near South Korea’s penalty area before Son Heung-min slotted the ball into an empty net.

The moderniser started to look the anachronism. Germany may have been looking to switch to more of a passing game but failings at either end cost them. Turkey and Switzerland both scored three goals in a game even before Spain got six. Timo Werner’s propensity for horrific misses extended to international duty, as North Macedonia can testify.

Germany fell to 12th, their lowest ever world ranking. They looked less than the sum of their considerable parts. Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Niklas Sule, Serge Gnabry, Neuer and the recalled Muller played in Bayern Munich’s 2020 Champions League win; Antonio Rudiger, Kai Havertz and Werner emulated them with Chelsea this year.

Toni Kroos is the serial European champion. Ilkay Gundogan has had the season of his life. It left Low looking like the weak link. When he announced his resignation in March, it released the pressure and turned Euro 2020 into Low’s last stand.

With no need to think about the future, back came two of the old guard, seeking to revisit more of Germany’s past than just a 7-1 scoreline.

Updated: June 8, 2021 07:59 PM

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