The sight of Rudi Völler on the touchline felt like a throwback to the early 2000s, when was stumbling its way forward and glory was something Germany’s women knew much more about.
Twenty years on, Völler’s hair is a little whiter and the average age of the squad a little younger, but the former Germany striker once again finds himself at the center of a defining moment in German football history.
For a side facing a fourth straight defeat — something Germany have never experienced since that first World Cup win in 1954 — the 2-1 win against was very welcomed, but it was the manner of the performance that mattered more.
Perhaps inevitably, Rudi Völler made sure Germany side delivered the kind of committed performance that has been absent in recent months. To the delight of the home crowd every tackle won, corner prevented, shot blocked was celebrated by Germany’s players with high fives and chest bumps. Most fittingly of all, even Thomas Müller scored on his 122 appearance — his 44th for Germany.
It would be sensationalist to say that after one night in Dortmund under Völler, Hannes Wolf and Sandro Wagner Germany had finally turned the corner. But a day after Germany captain Ilkay Gündogan said he and other teammates felt they had “let Hansi [Flick] down” because they were unable to translate his drive into good performances, Germany did look like were having fun playing football again.
“The fans were with us in Wolfsburg too and they’d have revelled in a result and game like tonight, but here in Dortmund it’s another level and this is how it should be,” said Thomas Müller as he soaked in the post-match atmopshere whilst talking to ARD.
“We executed things well on the pitch, we were fluid and rewarded ourselves at the right time — when you do that and win it’s a lot of fun.”
The last time that looked the case was Italy last summer. In the 12 games since, they have steadily declined, weighed down by pressure to perform and represent. By the end, Germany under Hansi Flick began to feel like Germany under as the familiar sight of a coach lost in his steadfast belief he could still save the team returned. It’s why , and why now the rebuilding must begin.
One might argue, from a psychological perspective, that first step was taken in Dortmund. The joy of play freeing the side up to play as they can and have on occasion.
With Völler to return to his role of sporting director having fulfilled his duty and added to his legacy, the stage is set for a new coach to take the side forward. The job is to be filled by the time Germany head to the US in mid October which is just a month away and the task is to build a sense of euphoria around this team ahead of a home European Championships next summer by delivering more of what was on show in Dortmund.
“We beat a world class team tonight even if it was a friendly, it does us a world of good,” explained Völler. “In Wolfsburg we got the feeling that the supporters want it to come together for us at the EUROs. Here [in Dortmund] we knew that we’d have great support from these incredible fans.”
“But tonight it wasn’t all about the result. It was about the way we played, the passion we displayed and the way we were set-up — I liked what I saw.”
Germany have never appointed a foreign coach but perhaps now is the time. Louis van Gaal offers international experience and knows Germany well. The Dutchman is a favorite amongst former Bayern Munich stars Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm. is without a job, but still under contract at Bayern — although Uli Hoeness recently suggested the Bundesliga champions wouldn’t stand in the way of the young head coach if he wanted it. Whoever is chosen, their primary task will be to create a team out of this talented group of individuals.
“The best teams are those that trust each other fully,” Gündogan said before the France game. “We always have a positive atmosphere but I think we can be better and more unified… There is some timidness, not everyone is able to be the way they are in their private life or at their club. That is noticeable, particularly with younger players who don’t have the courage to fully open up on and off the pitch.”
If players don’t feel comfortable then the natural question is why? Perhaps it’s because they don’t feel understood — motivational videos of grey geese would certainly support that theory. In Dortmund, Germany looked untroubled by the issue of comfort perhaps because they had just been asked to play.
Tonight might well have provided a much-needed spark in the form of a positive result. Now, the real quest will be to find someone who can keep the flame burning. The next four weeks will provide the answer and whoever the new coach is will then have nine months to hold on and make sure the European Championships at home turns out to be a tournament Germany can look back on proudly.
Edited by James Thorogood