Liechtenstein 0-2 Germany, Kybunpark, St. Gallen
(Werner 41′, Sane 77′)
In his first game as Germany head coach, Hansi Flick wanted to excite people with attacking football again. Instead, Germany failed to push on after a refreshing first quarter of an hour and spent most of the game looking cramped and hesitant in the final third, unsure of where or how to thread the needle.
“It was a strange and difficult game, they sat really deep but I don’t think I’ve experienced something like that before,” Joshua Kimmich told RTL afterwards. “We’ll take the win but we’d love to have scored more.”
Having had just three coaching sessions before this game, Flick might have been overly optimistic with his declaration. But Liechtenstein is ranked 189th in the world and this was a chance to start a new era with a statement win.
“We have to score more goals,” Flick said afterwards, who stressed he wanted to take the victory as a positive. “Those who played know it’s not easy to score against teams who sit that deep. We needed too long to score but it’s a process. I won’t let one game take us off track. We’re going to go our way. This was a start.”
Before Timo Werner’s neat finish after a superb assist from Jamal Musiala, a goalless scoreline at the break looked a real possibility. Few real chances followed, with even Leroy Sané’s fine solo turn and finish somewhat of a surprise as a few signs of the labored Joachim Löw era lingered. Werner and Niklas Süle missed good chances in the air as Germany failed to play themselves free of what has been a painful year.
The small margin of victory will likely be met with criticism, although so long as qualification is secured how it was achieved becomes insignificant. After three games, Germany was third in their group. It was time to start winning.
With the World Cup next year Flick may not have a lot of time, but Germany can take solace from the fact the 56-year-old appears to excel when the clock is ticking. In just 86 games in charge at Bayern Munich he won seven trophies, including a treble in his first season. However uninspiring Germany’s win against Liechtenstein was, getting Germany back to being contenders again in just over a year does not seem beyond Flick’s capabilities.
Everything about Flick suggests he is a man who likes to get the point quickly. He changed his backroom staff, bringing in the highly regarded coach Danny Röhl as an assistant, Swiss goalkeeping coach Andreas Kronenberg to take Manuel Neuer to even further heights, and Dane Mads Buttgereit to specifically help with set-pieces. Benedikt Höwedes, a member of the 2014 World Cup winning squad, has also arrived in a team manager capacity. In his first squad, he wasted no time in welcoming three new players and he rarely wastes words when he speaks.
His teams tend to reflect this desire for speed, and that his first Germany team spent more time deliberating than being dynamic will have frustrated him. There were signs of change though, Niklas Süle and Thilo Kehrer, Germany’s central defensive pair, were noticeably quicker in moving the ball wide or forward, for example.
It’s clear Flick wants his team to play fast, attractive football but if an unspectacular win against Liechtenstein suggests anything it’s that it’s going to take him a little longer to get Germany where they want to be.
Re-live Germany’s win against Liechtenstein on page two: