The sudden decline of Die Mannschaft is no joke

The sudden decline of Die Mannschaft is no joke

It hasn’t been a great year for the Germany national team and their fans. After the shock exit of the World Cup (and the embarrassing defeat against South Korea), Joachim Löw’s side recorded only 1 win in 3 games.

They managed to hold a goalless draw against France in the newly-formed UEFA Nations League (UNL), won 2-1 against Peru in a friendly and most recently, lost to the Netherlands away 3-0 also in the UNL.

Without a doubt, even not being a fan of Germany, I’m genuinely disappointed by the performance of the whole squad. There are no excuses for that since the whole squad is to be blamed. The same goes to Joachim Löw, who’s in charge of managing it.

To analyse the downfall of the Germany national team, there are a few questions to be asked:

  1. Why is Neuer still in goal? After the injuries, his form has been greatly weakened. He’s clearly not the older self he used to be. So why are chances not given to ter Stegen or Leno, who are two young in-form GKs deserving the place?
  2. Why is the frontline so weak? Werner is consistent in disappearing from the field. Mark Uth is clearly overrated. Müller isn’t scoring in the Die Mannschaft jersey. Even van Dijk, a defender, scored more goals than them. What a shame.
  3. How come is the whole defence unchanged? I get it, Bayern Munich is one of the best teams in Germany. However, Hummels and Boateng are clearly not in their best. This is why they concede. Stubbornness doesn’t always work, Joachim.
  4. Why is the squad playing with a poor mentality? The squad failed to seize the chances to score and clearly lost motivation to fight on after making mistakes. This isn’t the Germany squad we know for years.
  5. Why are the problems not fixed? My gut feeling was right. Germany didn’t win the World Cup. But the thing is, there was no real improvement in the 2014 WC winning side after the tournament. And it seems that it’s not going well for them.

I am no expert on the Germany national team. However, these are, clearly, the five areas are the problems that Löw will need to address. It is not only for the away game against France but also, his job and the future of his managerial career.

For Germany fans, I believe that the fall would only be temporary and they will come back stronger. Yet, the questions may only be unanswered prayers if Löw and the DFB don’t take action, which will leave Löw’s successor a huge mess to clean up.

Denmark’s squad is less experienced than any you’ve seen before

Denmark’s squad is less experienced than any you’ve seen before

Denmark, the side currently ranked ninth by FIFA, have announced their squad for their friendly match against Slovakia and their Nations League tie against Wales. Here it is:

Morten Bank, Christian Bannis, Mads Priisholm Bertelsen, Christian Bommelund Christensen, Rasmus Gaudin, Adam Fogt, Anders Fønss, Victor Hansen, Anders Hunsballe, Oskar Højbye, Christoffer Haagh, Christopher Jakobsen, Nicolai Johansen, Rasmus Johanson, Kevin Jørgensen, Kasper Kempel, Victor Larsen, Daniel Nielsen, Troels Cillius Nielsen, Christian Offenberg, Kasper Skræp, Daniel Holm Sørensen, Louis Veis and Simon Vollesen

Safe to say, it’s not the most experienced squad you’ve ever seen.

At the last World Cup, the most experienced team were Panama with a handy 1,398 caps. Denmark themselves managed just short of 600 while the least experienced side, England, had 465. But this Danish side has less still. New Zealand, my own country, took twenty-three players to India in early June with a combined total of just 145 caps – this Danish team has even less caps than that. In fact, Christian Eriksen by himself, with 82 caps, has more international experience than this side.

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This team, twenty-four players strong, has a grand total of zero international caps. No, we’re not joking. What’s more, they’re mainly taken from the third and fourth tiers of Danish football, and five of them are futsal players, not footballers. How did this happen?

Basically, Danish players have got themselves in a dispute with the Dansk Boldspil Union, the football association of Denmark. They’re unhappy over their commercial rights, and they haven’t been able to reach an agreement with the DBU. The original squad picked, including Kasper Schmeichel and Christian Eriksen, have been sent back to their clubs. However, with Denmark unwilling to forfeit, they’ve plucked a squad out of the lower leagues to play Slovakia and Wales.

The star player, if you can call him that, is Christian Offenberg of BK Avarta. The 30-year-old has scored almost a goal per game so far this season, putting him at the top of the scorers’ list in the Danish third tier. Other top players include Daniel Holm, who has eight age-group international caps, and Simon Vollesen who has played once for Lyngby.

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Understandably, other teams are not particularly happy about this. Jan Kozak, the Slovakian manager, said, “What’s the point of traveling here with a team like that? From the sport’s point of view, we won’t get anything from the game.” They’ve also dropped ticket prices to just one euro and are planning to go to UEFA about it. And it’s not like Denmark can cancel the game – they may be forced to sit out the Nations League or the 2020 Euros if they do.

It’s not entirely clear how Denmark have got themselves into this mess. And at the moment, it’s looking increasingly difficult for them to get out of it.

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The Nations League: A look at Europe’s newest international competition

The Nations League: A look at Europe’s newest international competition

The date is the 6th of September, 2018. It’s a cold, winter evening at the Astana Arena in Kazakhstan. Bauyrzhan Islamkhan and Jaba Kankava, captains of their respective national sides, meet in the middle of the pitch with the referee and his assistants. After the coin toss has been performed, the captains and officials have shaken hands and the players are ready, Kazakhstan v Georgia kicks off – and so does the UEFA Nations League.

The Nations League is a new competition adopted by UEFA in order to put meaningful matches into the international window slots. Gone are the days of pointless, half-hearted friendlies in the middle of October – there’s now this competition, involving all fifty-five of UEFA’s national teams in four divisions and with a competition spanning eight months. Here’s how it all works.

The teams have been divided into four divisions, with League A having the best sides in Europe, including all four World Cup semi-finalists, plus Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Iceland. At the other end of the scale, Group D has the weakest sides, like the aforementioned Kazakhstan and Georgia, as well as Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Macedonia, those sorts. Every league has then been divided into four groups, and every team plays every other team in the group home and away – yes, you get a fancy map for that too.

So, now that that’s all sorted, how’s it actually work?

Well, as I mentioned before, every team plays every other team in their group home and away, as per usual. The teams who finish top of their groups in Leagues B, C and D are promoted for the next season (2020-21) whilst those who finish bottom in A, B and C go down (there’s a technicality in Group C, but that’s not super important). These group games are played from September to November.

For Leagues B, C and D, that’s it for now. There’s promotion and relegation, like I’ve mentioned, and that’s it. The group winners of League A play semi-finals, and then a third-place match and a final. The winners of the final get a trophy and presumably an open-top parade just like any other tournament win. This will be at the start of June 2019.

Now 2019-20 won’t have a Nations League, because of European Championships qualifying being on. However, there’s a slight change to the way qualifying works. As always, the fifty-five nations of Europe are drawn into ten groups, and the top two teams from each group after qualifying will make it to the 2020 Euros. But there are still four spots left. This is where it gets weird, so hold tight.

Let’s imagine that these teams qualify for the Euros: Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Spain, Croatia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Scotland, Hungary, Greece and Norway. Long list, I know, but bear with me.

What now happens is the top teams from each group that have not yet qualified for the final tournament go into a playoff. In League D, since no teams have qualified in this scenario, it’s simply the group winners. In Leagues B and C, it’s simply whoever comes top of each group, excluding teams who have already qualified.

There is one slight problem – in League B, one group (Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic) has all teams already qualified. In that case, a team from a different group will get that spot.

Finally, in League A, the top team from each group that has not yet qualified will get the playoff spot. In Group 1, that’s the Netherlands, and in Group 2, it’s Iceland. In Group 4, England takes the spot. In Group 3, since all three teams are qualified and there are no other teams left in League A to give it to, then it will pass down to League B for their best team without a spot to take it.

OK, so finally we have the playoffs sorted. What now?

Well, each league has its own playoff. There are semi-finals and a final, and the winners of the playoffs will be going to Euro 2020. This guarantees a Euros spot to every league, meaning that a team from League D will be going to the European Championships. Only one of these teams (Latvia) has ever been to the Euros before, in 2004, meaning that it will almost certainly be this League D qualifier’s first time at the event.

And there you have it. It’s a complicated system, sure, but it should all become more clear in the coming months as the inaugural Nations League kicks off. It may be a success, it may turn to disaster, but we can’t wait for it to get underway. Nations League, bring it on.