In the 13th minute, a Poland player sprinted step by step through the stadium in Warsaw – and for a moment only German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen was in his way. So far, so to be expected. But when you saw who the player was by his shirt number, you thought: That can’t be true!
But it was true. It was player number 16. It was Jakub Błaszczykowski, 37, who has played a total of 16 minutes this season for his football club Wisla Kraków due to a cruciate ligament rupture, who has not played for his national team since September 9, 2019 played and who, because he spent most of his sporting life in Germany, should be dismissed that evening against this opponent.
Poland’s plan: Błaszczykowski should play in the first 16 minutes. And the joke would have been too good to be true. If only he had scored a quick goal in those 16 minutes against Germany, against the team that wants to become European champions next summer.
It’s pointless what the Germans play
The joke was too good to be true. Because Jakub Błaszczykowski sprinted as fast as a man who has played 16 club minutes since his cruciate ligament rupture can sprint, German centre-back Malick Thiaw caught up with him. Błaszczykowski was substituted three minutes later. There were more than 57,000 people in the stadium.
And it didn’t get any better that evening in Warsaw. It was again pointless how the German national team played. And it was not undeserved that she lost 0-1, despite all the ball possession and an increase in performance in the second half. As a result, she has only won one game out of four since the World Cup in Qatar: against Peru. And what should probably mean that the pressure before the next game against Colombia next Tuesday (8.45 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for international matches and on RTL) will continue to grow.
In the stadium in Warsaw – if you interpret the language and atmosphere around the national team this week correctly – there seemed to be more at stake for national coach Hansi Flick and his players than should be at stake at this point in their European Championship mission . You could tell that the evening before, when Flick presented himself almost aggressively in his first press conference in Poland.
He made several statements to his players – and especially to Joshua Kimmich, his captain, who has been the focus of criticism for weeks. “I would like to speak to Jo because it is important to me,” said Flick when it came to the role of İlkay Gündoğan. He then launched into a defense speech that compared Kimmich’s mentality to that of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, who are among the biggest winners in basketball history.
Kimmich was in the starting XI on Friday. This time, however, it was not Leon Goretzka who played at his side, but Emre Can (Ilkay Gündogan sat out in Warsaw, he will play in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday). And Flick also changed his team in other ways, as announced. In the back three he used Malick Thiaw and Thilo Kehrer alongside Antonio Rüdiger, who played from the start in the 3-3 win over Ukraine. Jonas Hofmann and Benjamin Henrichs started on the outside positions. And then there was the offensive trio in which so much hope is placed in Germany: Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz and Kai Havertz.
But on this evening, when the Germans often had the ball but rarely knew what to do with it, the three could not hope. It was therefore not surprising that a defender shot on target for the first time: Thilo Kehrer in the 20th minute. But the attempt was no problem for Wojciech Szczesny, the Polish goalkeeper. Then it was Havertz’s turn. Again from long range and although his shot was much more accurate than Kehrer’s, Szczesny was able to steer him around the post with his left arm.
And the Poles? A corner kick was enough in the 31st minute to win the game. In the penalty area, defender Jakub Kiwior headed the ball, which bounced off the ground and into the top corner.
At the start of the second half, Flick then brought on Robin Gosens. And with it came some momentum. For example, he initiated the attack when Joshua Kimmich shot the ball to the crossbar. The Germans only came closer to equalizing once after that: in the 88th minute, substitute Marius Wolf headed the ball on goal. Szczesny just saved on the line. And somehow that sums up the game of the Germans since the World Cup quite well: Something is just missing at the moment.
“The result is absolutely disappointing. We were too shaky in the first half, the pace wasn’t great and we didn’t create enough convincing chances to score. We improved in the second half and created chances, but Szczesny made an excellent save. The team tried in the second half but had to make more compromises in front of the goal. We need results. The conviction is simply not there yet, we have to get there,” said Flick on ARD: “We are in a phase that is not that easy. But we will get out of there.”