Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Germany’s lack of a ‘tough guy’ nearly costs them again

Germany’s 2-2 draw against Ghana on Saturday once again exposed the team’s lack
of a true leader, a charismatic player who will take charge when the chips are down.

Exciting, dominant, and entertaining as they often are, Germany’s lack of a “go-to” player in times of trouble has haunted them through the last two World Cups and two European championships.

After bright runs through those four tournaments, they were soundly beaten in one final, at Euro 2008, and three semifinals.

That lack of an inspirational leader almost cost them dearly again in their Group G match against Ghana on Saturday before two players with a combined age of 65 came off the bench to save the day.

With Germany suddenly and shockingly trailing Ghana 2-1 thanks to a pair of defensive blunders – one from captain Phillip Lahm – Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger turned the game around when they got on the pitch in the 69th minute.

Klose got the equaliser with his first touch less than two minutes later to avert what would have been a humiliating defeat to Ghana in what is arguably the World Cup’s toughest group.

“They both came in and enlivened the match right away,” a relieved Loew told German TV. “The team showed strong morale to come back after we were down.”

Strong leader?

But where was the strong leader?

Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng stuck his finger in the wound before the match when he said Germany’s problem was it lacked a “Typen” – tough guys who take charge.

Boateng was once such a “tough guy” and natural leader for the nation’s under-21 team but he was a bit too much of an independent spirit for Germany’s liking.

With such a deep pool of talented players to choose from, the German FA (DFB) tends to promote those with squeaky clean images who stick to what might be called the “corporate line” – stay modest, stay out of trouble, and don’t criticise anyone.

Boateng read the writing on the wall and so switched allegiance to Ghana.

His criticism before Saturday’s match certainly struck a nerve in Germany.

For years, fans and football pundits have been warning about the perils of not having someone to look to in tight spots – a leader in the mould of Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn or Stefan Effenberg.

Germany played brilliantly at times in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups but lost in the semifinals – 2-0 to Italy in 2006 and 1-0 to Spain in 2010.

They also lost to Spain 1-0 in the Euro 2008 final and 2-1 to Italy in the Euro 2012 semifinal.

The nadir for Germany came in a qualifying match in 2012 against Sweden in Berlin.

Germany were leading 4-0 well into the second half but ended up with a 4-4 draw – and smouldering criticism at home about a lack of leadership on the pitch.

Before Saturday’s match, a television camera captured Loew and Boateng standing next to each other in the tunnel before going on to the pitch.

Loew kept glancing at Boateng out of the corner of his eye but Boateng stared straight ahead, essentially ignoring the Germany coach. – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Erik Kirschbaum
Erik Kirschbaum works from Berlin. Author, Journalist & Executive Director of non-profit German-American exchange program RIAS. Latest book: "Soccer Without Borders" about Juergen Klinsmann. Erik Kirschbaum has over 1009 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

High court reinstates Umgeni Water board

The high court has ruled that the dissolution of the water entity’s board by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was unfair and unprocedural

Mkhize throws the book at the Special Investigating Unit

It’s a long shot at political redemption for the former health minister and, more pressingly, a bid to avert criminal charges
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×