Losing matches at big tournaments is something Germany will never come to terms with. Perhaps such losses are more acutely felt than by most other nations, and the only proper remedy for the annoying itch caused by a defeat is to win the next match.
Take away the frustration of leaving the pitch empty-handed against France on Tuesday, however, and most of Germany’s players sounded rather positive. The refrain “If you can’t beat the world champions, make sure you get it done against the European champions” probably sums up quite well the response to the 1-0 Group F reversal in Munich.
“The ambition and the determination of the team remain exemplary,” coach Joachim Löw stressed. “That’s why we know we can turn things around. If we can be more vigorous up front, we will be able to beat Portugal.”
Fans and pundits didn’t unanimously reach the same verdict, though. “Too harmless, too slow, too technically limited” one observer posted on Twitter while former Germany captain Michael Ballack argued: “They could have lost 2-0 or 3-0 against France with the chances they allowed in the second half.”
Okay, but when are there not two sides to a coin? In football, that may only be the case when you stand on the winners’ podium holding a shiny trophy. Right now, Germany must realise that the performance against France was a step in the right direction. Indeed, Löw’s men looked like they were from a different planet compared with their 6-0 defeat by Spain last November in the UEFA Nations League.
Getting distracted by criticism has never been a problem attributed to Toni Kroos, so one can turn to the experienced midfielder to point out the obvious: “There are six points left up for grabs. We implemented many of the things we had planned against France and played a good match.”
That will likely be Löw’s takeaway, too. Results are important on paper, but the daily work for a coach revolves mostly around which rehearsed items of the training agenda can be executed when the limelight is turned on. And the good news is that they will not need to start from scratch. The Germany coach reckons “fine-tuning” is what will be required to get the desired result against Portugal on Saturday.
Optimism remains. The versatile Joshua Kimmich believes Germany just have to follow the French lead and lay down a marker of their own this weekend in Munich. “France are the biggest favourites in this tournament and – in the next match – we need to show that we can be a favourite as well,” he said.