Joachim Loew's ego may get him sacked: Neil Humphreys
Germany coach's old strength now a weakness; 6-0 loss to Spain shows how far they have declined
The Germans know their football. That's why they didn't watch it.
Last week, the wonderfully named Bares für Rares (Cash for Rarities) enjoyed higher TV viewing figures than Germany's friendly against the Czech Republic.
The comparison seems fitting. Cash for Rarities is a low-budget show about antiques and Joachim Loew is being labelled a bit of a relic.
His philosophy seems to be fossilising. What was once considered the Germany manager's greatest strength is morphing into a destabilising weakness.
Loew's unyielding belief in his own convictions is doing more harm than good, if the 6-0 loss in Spain yesterday morning (Singapore time) is any indication.
Germany's heaviest defeat since 1931 titillates statisticians, but the scoreline cannot be dismissed as a freakish result or blamed on the draining circumstances of Covid-19.
Die Mannschaft defended like strangers meeting for the first time on an ice-rink. They were skittish, clumsy and astonishingly amateurish, displaying less communication than a couple of tin cans tied to string.
Fullbacks Philipp Max and Matthias Ginter were frequently found in every position around Manuel Neuer's box except the right one, allowing Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo to dominate the flanks.
In central defence, Niklas Suele and Robin Koch might have been more comfortable together on a Tinder date, instead of chasing Alvaro Morata.
Spain conjured 14 shots in the first half. Only Neuer and some wayward finishing stopped the Spaniards from reaching double figures. That's not hyperbole, but an indictment of Loew's dogma when it comes to Germany's squad selection.
Until 2017, his unswerving commitment to youth and squad evolution had mostly served him well. His stubborn streak was a protective shield.
It's worth remembering that before lifting the World Cup at Brazil 2014, Germany's beleaguered coach was permanently one game from the sack.
Indeed, chatting with German sports writers at press conferences in Brazil was a fascinating insight into their national psyche. They expected to win. Everything.
Tournaments are just opportunities to reassert their natural state of winning so Loew never fully convinced until he lifted the trophy.
When he followed up with a Confederations Cup triumph in 2017, effectively winning with a reserve team, he was laying the foundations of a generational dynasty.
He chopped and changed regularly, but was largely left alone, as long as his squad rotations never got in the way of the winning.
And then came the group stage debacle at Russia 2018.
Loew took umbrage and unleashed umbruch - an upheaval, a break with the past. He dumped Mats Hummels, Thomas Mueller and Jerome Boateng.
Against Spain yesterday, Germany missed Hummels and Boateng's experience in defence and Mueller's leadership everywhere.
Even Juergen Klinsmann, Loew's old friend and former coaching partner at international level, acknowledged Germany's uncharacteristic lack of direction, focus and urgency. Neuer wore the armband. But he doesn't wear the crown with the same authority as Mueller.
While it's undeniably true that the form of all three World Cup winners had dipped, Loew's ruthless decision to jettison the lot was in keeping with his coaching practice. Once he commits, he doesn't go back.
And the Germans haven't been quite the same since.
While Spain's victory was Germany's first loss since September 2019, defensive inconsistency remains the grubby blot on the landscape, with only one clean sheet since last November.
Aside from Spain's six-goal margin, both Switzerland and Turkey knocked in three each and Holland smashed in six across two Euro qualifiers (and another five in a couple of Nations League games) to highlight Germany's defensive vulnerabilities.
A patchy unbeaten run, with a number of draws, sustained the illusion that Loew was making progress since he dumped his veterans but the same flaws remain.
Even stranger, Loew's reputation for incubating talent, steering rising stars through friendlies and lesser tournaments before unveiling them on the biggest stage, has taken a hit, too.
At fullback, Max and Ginter are 27 and 26 respectively, not quite veterans, but hardly wunderkinds. While Koch, 24, and Suele, 25, rarely convey the confidence of Hummels and Boateng, despite having age and speed on their side.
Germany's characteristic steeliness has disintegrated.
Even Mesut Oezil leapt into the fray on social media yesterday, calling for Boateng to be recalled.
That's unlikely to happen. After 14 years in charge, Loew has never bowed to popular opinion, let alone sentimentality for dumped legends. He's not going to change now.
So a change may be forced from above.
The Germans prefer to watch their antiques on low-budget TV shows, rather than on a football pitch.