MUNICH, Germany — Three years on from their disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup, very little seemed to have changed for Germany as they began their European Championship campaign in limp fashion, looking unable to score and out of ideas in their loss to France.
Two losses from their three group matches saw Germany eliminated early in Russia in 2018, and things have not improved much since, with coach Joachim Loew taking the decision to step down after Euro 2020.
The outgoing coach said before the tournament that he wanted to sign off with “something special”, but hopes of reaching the latter stages this summer could turn out to be forlorn, based on the evidence of Germany’s display in Munich on Tuesday.
Their 1-0 loss to France was the first time Germany have been defeated in their opening match at a European Championship finals, but what was most worrying for Loew was his side’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal in the Allianz Arena.
Germany’s last two games at the European Championships have both been defeats at the hands of France. They have had 28 shots across the two games without managing to score: 18 in 2016 and 10 more on Tuesday night.
Not one member of Loew’s squad has scored a goal at a European Championship finals – a lack of knowhow in the final third that was clear for all to see as the hosts got into dangerous positions in Munich but failed to really test Hugo Lloris in the France goal.
They had more shots, more than 60% possession, and they put five times as many crosses into the box as France. But somehow they could muster only one effort on target throughout the match, a header from defender Antonio Rudiger.
In their so-called group of death, with Portugal to come next, Germany could be facing another early tournament exit before they know it. Loew’s unrivalled experience will be needed now more than ever.
The France encounter was the coach’s 18th game as manager in the European Championships – a record. Loew has led Germany to the semi-finals in five of his six previous tournaments, the only exception coming at the 2018 World Cup.
With only two strikers in his squad, however, Germany have limited options in attack, so the outgoing coach is going to have to be creative.
He does have Champions League winner Timo Werner as a strike option, along with Monaco’s Kevin Volland, but with neither in good form in front of goal, Loew may have to conjure something from another source.
Overall, it looks like German hopes of progression, even just to the first of the knockout stages, rest on such a move.