Hansi Flick processed his worst Qatar memories while baking apple pie with his grandchildren and doing yoga exercises during his Christmas vacation. Before the restart of the national soccer team, the national coach has not yet shed the great burden of the World Cup failure.
Nevertheless, the focus is on the home European Championship in 2024 and Flick promises a DFB team that will bring fans and football joy again, even if winning the title is not trumpeted as a goal.
The question of guilt for the group knockout Flick is still concerned and there is a big lesson for the 58-year-old: It has to be about football again, not about politics and social issues. "There must never be so much pressure again - neither on an individual player nor on a team," demanded Flick in an interview with the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" in memory of the debate about the One Love captain's armband.
Flick has not yet been able to make a final hook to the World Cup trauma. The national coach knows that this will only work with good results on the pitch. "The most important thing is that we show good football, passionate football. If the fan notices that we give everything for Germany and play with heart, the mood can quickly change again," said Flick in an interview with "Kicker". He has high hopes in the new DFB sports director Rudi Völler - as a buffer against too much public fuss.
When the national coach names his first squad for the international season with the games on March 25 in Mainz against Peru and three days later in Cologne against the other World Cup disappointment Belgium, he just wants to be a football coach again. And the first decisions have already been made. Proven forces get a break. First and foremost Thomas Müller. The Bayern veteran will not be there this season - i.e. at the dates in March and June.
"That's been discussed with him, I want to give younger players a chance with the national team," said Flick. The Bayern veteran will return to the DFB circle shortly before his 34th birthday in September at the earliest, provided Flick then sees a need. The agreement in no way means "that his DFB career is over and that he doesn't play a role in the European Championship. Why should I close the door on a player like that forever?" said Flick. Veteran Ilkay Gündogan (32) from Manchester City is said to not be part of the squad, at least in March.
Captain Manuel Neuer does not get a free ticket either. The Bayern goalkeeper, who will be celebrating his 37th birthday at the end of the month, has yet to make a comeback after breaking his leg. "The focus is on performance. Nothing is set in stone - Manu knows that," said Flick. However, the national coach assumes that Neuer will return. "I am convinced that he will reach his performance limit when he becomes 100 percent fit again," emphasized Flick. Representative Marc-André ter Stegen (30) from FC Barcelona senses his chance again.
What predecessor Joachim Löw tried with a roar in the spring of 2019 after the first World Cup disaster with the retirement of Müller, Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng - namely to blame younger forces - Flick is now doing with a protective tactic. He has not yet named the names of potential newcomers. But one thing is clear: now the generation around Joshua Kimmich (28), Leon Goretzka (28) and Antonio Rüdiger (30) must finally show leadership and performance.
Flick also has Kai Havertz (23) from Chelsea in particular in mind, whom he believes can do great things - especially in the offensive Müller position. "Kai is a brilliant footballer, very reflective and very mature in his personality. Our job is to help players like that take the next step and also take on responsibility in the national team," said Flick. In Jamal Musiala (20) and returnee Florian Wirtz (19), the DFB head coach also sees two big trump cards for the future.
However, Flick sees no reason for imminent title dreams. "If you ask about our goal for the European Championship - I'm not giving the European title as a goal at this stage. There is no guarantee. We can only guarantee that we will do everything we can to be optimally prepared for this tournament," he said . A sense of proportion when considering sporting ambitions is advisable. "Of course we practice the sport in order to be successful. And I always have high goals. But a bit of humility is really good at the moment. We have to do our basic tasks first," demanded Flick.
For him, these basic tasks also included coming to terms with the events in the Gulf Emirate. Flick did not want to hide his own mistakes. He was only able to convey the defensive style of play to the players “in theory”. "As far as the automatisms in the back four are concerned, we have to set clear priorities from now on," announced Flick. This year he also wants to experiment in the international matches until June, possibly also using players who are not regular players in their clubs. After that, starting in September, the system and formation for the home European Championship in summer 2024 will have to be imported.
His personal WM processing program included the search for inner contemplation. "Doing breathing exercises in peace in the morning instead of looking at your cell phone - I can only recommend that," said the national coach, who immediately got a new cell phone number for better isolation. Otherwise the family helped. "Baking apple crumble cake with the grandchildren - you forget everything that's bothering you," said Flick.