Defeated by France in the first match (1-0) then winner of Portugal (4-2), Germany will qualify for the round of 16 in case of victory or draw against Hungary.
Wednesday around 10:45 p.m., Joachim Löw will be a hero … or a retired trainer. Facing Hungary for their third Euro group game in Munich (9:00 pm), Germany will advance if they win or draw, but face elimination if lost.
Three years after the humiliation of leaving the road in the first round of the World Cup in Russia, here we are again the Mannschaft in an almost identical scenario: four points after two matches, and a decisive meeting against the presumed weakest team of the group.
On paper, in front of their home crowd, captain Manuel Neuer’s side are favorites. But so was it, and more widely, for her third game in Russia, before losing 2-0 to … South Korea. “Three years ago, we also won our second game, and we were eliminated,” recalls Matthias Ginter, the strong center-back.
Difference with the 2018 World Cup: if Germany is beaten but Portugal loses against France, it will be third in Group F. It would then have a chance of being drafted among the four best thirds, according to the results in other groups.
From this Wednesday, every game can therefore be the last for coach Joachim Löw, who will bow out after the Euro, 15 years after taking the reins of Mannschaft.
His untimely exit or his success this summer will determine his place in the history books: a great coach, 2014 world champion, victim of an “accident” in Russia. Or a man blinded by his success who failed to see his decline coming.
The momentum gained against Portugal (4-2) will be invaluable against the catchy Hungarians, over-motivated after their 1-1 draw against France, and who need a victory to qualify. Especially since the Mannschaft risk playing without their attacking host Thomas Müller, who was injured in a knee.
His absence would weigh heavily. Sportingly: faced with a team folded into its 30 meters, its mobility and creativity would be welcome. “The game is likely to be even tougher (than against France and Portugal) because the Hungarians are defending low with eight or nine players,” the manager warned.
Psychologically: Müller’s leadership charisma, ousted after the World Cup and then recalled for the Euro, gave the team a new confidence and lightness that they had lost over the past three years.
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Earlier this week, training at Herzogenaurach Base Camp (home of Adidas) suddenly seemed less bubbly than usual. Less loud voices, less laughter, less confabulation … The absence of “Radio Müller” was audible.
“We all hope, the whole country, that he will be restored,” Leon Goretzka blurted out. Even if the package of his teammate would undoubtedly offer him the place of holder. “I have played in this position before and I have confidence in myself. But of course I hope Thomas can play, “he added.
Four other executives have been left in training this week: Toni Kroos, tired, Ilkay Gündogan, with a calf injury, Robin Gosens, in his adductors, and Mats Hummels, who has a knee pain. Their participation on Wednesday does not appear to be compromised, however.
The Germans have promised not to be distracted by the “rainbow-gate” which agitates the media and public opinion. UEFA on Tuesday banned the city of Munich from lighting up its stadium for the rainbow-colored LGBT community match, in protest against a law deemed discriminatory recently passed in Hungary.
Manuel Neuer, on the other hand, will be well allowed to wear his rainbow captain’s armband, which he has worn since the start of the tournament to display the values of “openness and tolerance”, explained the German federation, because it is not specifically a political message directed against a country or a government.