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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s the early hours of the first of October, 2018. One year ago, to this day, the Spanish region of Catalonia held an independence referendum of contentious legality. I won’t go too much into the detail – this is a place for football, not politics – but suffice it to say that Catalonia is still part of Spain.
But what if they weren’t? What would the national team of Catalonia look like? I’m gonna take a stab at a Hypothetical XI. Here goes.
In goal, it’s Real Madrid’s Kiko Casilla.
Casilla was born in Alcover, in Catalonia’s southernmost province, Tarragona. His career has seen him go from Real Madrid to Cadiz to Cartagena to Espanyol and back to Real Madrid, and he’s been capped once for Spain. However, it’s likely Casilla would take this chance if it arose to get back into playing international football. Competition for the Catalan gloves would mainly come from Jordi Masip and Pau Lopez.
Our wide defenders are Martin Montoya and Victor Alvarez.
Montoya is uncapped for Spain and would be eligible through his birth in Barcelona Province. His career’s seen him play for five teams in three countries and he’s still just 27, making him a good addition to this Catalan side. Victor Alvarez would take the spot on the left of defence, with the Arsenal Tula defender perhaps a little weaker than his counterpart. Whilst Jordi Alba would be eligible, it’s hard to see him changing allegiances to play for a weaker side he probably feels less connected to.
In the heart of defence, we’re playing Marc Bartra and captain Gerard Pique.
One would be forgiven for thinking Pique’s in the same boat as Alba, but the Barcelona defender has made himself known as a vocal proponent of Catalan independence and you’d think he’d offer himself up straight away. With over a hundred international caps and four Champions Leagues, his experience would be vital for the side. We’ve paired him with former Barcelona teammate Marc Bartra, who has thirteen caps for his national side but hasn’t played since 2017 and would be forgiven for leaving the Spanish set-up for that of Catalonia. Backups include Jordi Amat and Marc Muniesa.
The midfield trio is – believe it or not – Cesc Fabregas, Sergi Roberto and Xavi.
Where’s it all gone wrong for Cesc Fabregas? He wasn’t picked for Spain’s World Cup squad for Russia and he’s still not played a minute in the Premier League this season. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll get into Luis Enrique’s Spain squads, and since he would be eligible for Catalonia, I’d hazard a guess he’d take the call-up. In Sergi Roberto’s case, he’s been on the outer of the Spain squad, with four caps and a goal to his name in two years. It’s difficult to tell how much quality he’s really got, but some international football is almost always better than no international football.
Yeah, Xavi is still playing at the age of 38. Whether or not he’d be willing to play international football again after a four-year absence is questionable, but we certainly hope so. After all, it’s the greatest midfielder of our generation, coming back (at least sometimes) to Europe. This is something we need to happen. In case it doesn’t for some incredibly disappointing reason, we have two options: tempt Sergio Busquets out of playing for Spain, or replace him with Victor Rodriguez or Gerard Deulofeu (although some structural changes may be needed for the latter).
Our two wingers are Cristian Tello and Aleix Vidal.
Looking at Vidal first: we’re going to play him on the right wing. Vidal’s now at Sevilla after three uneventful years at Barcelona, and he should be expecting more regular club football. Regular international football on the other hand isn’t happening for Spain, with Vidal picking up just one cap. Opposite him we’ve placed Cristian Tello, another one of the one-cap lot. Tello’s now at Real Betis alongside our centreback Marc Bartra, and he seems to be getting regular football there. International football would be a step up for him.
And banging in the goals, it’s none other than Jonathan Soriano.
Yes, he plays in China. Yes, he hasn’t excelled in a “big” league. But his goalscoring record speaks for itself. In five years with Salzburg, Soriano scored 172 in 202, and now at Beijing Sinobo Guoan, he’s got thirty in thirty-four. Bear in mind that he hasn’t exactly got the greatest teammates in the world either, with only Renato Augusto and Cedric Bakambu that stick out. Soriano could do wonders for this Catalonia team.
And there you have it, folks. This could be a decent team with a couple of years of international football behind it. I’m almost disappointed I’ll never get to see it in action. But ultimately, it’s all Hypothetical.
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.
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.
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.