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Monday, July 15, 2024

Germany Exit From Euro 2024 Feels Like The Beginning And Not The End

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It wasn’t meant to be for Germany… In the end, the reloaded Sommermärchen ended in the same heartbreaking fashion as the original. While Germany crashed out in extra time to Italy at the 2006 World Cup, this time, the heartbreak arrived in the form of Spanish midfielder Mikel Merino (119’).

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The late Spain goal is even more dramatic considering that Germany managed to barely stay alive after 90 minutes. Florian Wirtz had equalized Dani Olmo’s lead (52’) with a beautiful finish with just one minute to go in the game.

Then came extra-time, during which both teams had opportunities. But while Jamal Musiala had a shot blocked by Marc Cucurella’s hand, Merino would find a way through. There is no doubt that Cucurella’s block will fill the airwaves and talk shows in Germany, and without a doubt, the laws governing handball need to be clarified.

With all that in mind, Germany didn’t exit the tournament because of that one moment. This was a game of fine margins and Spain just looked a tad more mature over the full 120 minutes and will be now favorites to win their fourth European Championships.

When one considers that France, Portugal, England, and the Netherlands have all disappointed at this tournament, this fixture very much felt like a final. And that is a win for Germany.

Indeed, Germany’s presentation at this tournament encapsulates a remarkable turnaround—a turnaround that started with the appointment of Julian Nagelsmann as head coach and the installation of Rudi Völler as sporting director.

With the two in charge, Germany has transformed over the last few months. That transformation started in March when Germany beat France (2-0) and the Netherlands (2-1).

From then onwards, Nagelsmann started coaching this team like a club team. The addition of Toni Kroos gave Germany further structure. Fans might disagree over players like Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gündogan, but Nagelsmann’s sticking to his conviction was admirable.

Does that mean all his decisions were necessarily spot on? No. Nagelsmann is still a very young head coach and will learn from this tournament.

In fact, there are some parallels to 2006. Then, too, Germany gathered itself after a period of weakness and started to regain some structure. The 2006 tournament was followed by a final loss at Euro 2008, a semifinal defeat at World Cup 2010 (both times to Spain), and then a semifinal defeat to Italy at Euro 2012.

Under Joachim Löw, Germany took something away from every one of those tournaments. There are some signs that this home tournament again can be the start of a new beginning. A period of strength in which Germany returns to the top of the pantheon of world football.

Some changes will have to happen first, however. Kroos will retire. Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, and perhaps Ilkay Gündogan also might have played their last international tournaments.

In Aleksandar Pavlovic, Germany already has a Kroos clone ready to step up. Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz already surpassed Müller at this tournament. Havertz, who was often wrongly criticized by fans, has emerged as one of the planet’s most interesting hybrid no.9/10s.

Spain v Germany: Quarter-Final - UEFA EURO 2024

Other talent is also on the way. RB Leipzig recently signed Assan Ouédraogo, one of the most talented young midfielders in Europe and certainly Germany’s biggest talent. Mainz attacking midfielder Brajan Gruda has been labeled the next Müller.

Those names are exciting, but they alone won’t be able to usher in a new era. The DFB and Bundesliga clubs are now tasked with helping the next generation. The U17 has recently won the Euros and the World Cup, but those kids now need to play to eventually supplement Wirtz, Musiala, Pavlovic, and Co.

Still, it feels like a first step has been taken. Although today’s defeat against Spain is disappointing, it doesn’t feel like the end but rather the beginning.

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