Hansi Flick was sitting on the podium in the Bremen press room and had to feel like he was in a dock. After the next low point in the mood at the 3: 3 (1: 2) against Ukraine, the national coach was bombarded with penetrating questions before he quickly disappeared with the DFB entourage into the secluded Frankfurt base that evening.
Six months after the miserable failure of the World Cup, the former Bayern title maker Flick also lacks a suitable EM compass that successfully navigates the national soccer team in the direction of the 2024 home tournament.
Unintentionally, the 58-year-old, with a direct connection to the 2006 home World Cup, gave the current situation an alarming scope exactly one year before the European Championship kicked off. "In March 2006 they lost 4-1 in Italy and it was an incredibly negative atmosphere. Nevertheless, it has become a summer fairy tale," recalled Flick of the national crisis situation under Jürgen Klinsmann a few months before the World Cup in his own country.
Flick is "convinced of the team"
Flick's intention in this comparison was: don't panic! There is still enough time! He and his team are in the middle of a process. "We know there's a lot of work ahead of us. I'm really confident in the team. We can play good football to some extent. We have to work on the result, preferably by winning the games."
In the association they should be more nervous. President Bernd Neuendorf and sports director Rudi Völler watched in Bremen with petrified expressions. The DFB can't afford a fourth botched tournament in a row, neither sportingly nor financially - certainly not in their own country. Tournament director Philipp Lahm has long been concerned about his major event: "We still have good players. Hansi Flick has to make a team out of them now," he said in a dpa interview - before the game against Ukraine.
The DFB decision-makers could also interpret a year differently after Flick really wanted a second chance after the World Cup and quickly got it from President Neuendorf and DFL supervisory board chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke. Oliver Bierhoff had to go.
Now against Poland and Colombia
"We have a plan for the whole thing. We will continue to follow through with it," announced Flick before the further European Championship tests on Friday in Warsaw against Poland and four days later in Gelsenkirchen against Colombia. Friendly games like the 1000th against Ukraine with all their peace symbolism because of the Russian war of aggression are no longer there. By pulling through, Flick also meant the failed experiment with the three-man chain, which was canceled after the three goals conceded.
But there were even more questions that many of the whistling fans in the Weser Stadium and also the 4.57 million people who sat in front of the television at the family-friendly kick-off time at 6 p.m. must have asked themselves. Is the enormous quality that Flick repeatedly attests to his team possibly a misjudgment? Does he overwhelm you with new tasks, constellations and ideas? No, no, no, Flick replied. The bare results describe a clear trend: After eight wins in Flick's marveled record start as national coach, there were only four successes in 14 games.
The 58-year-old makes himself vulnerable. An EM team, a functioning axis is not visible. In March there were six newcomers. A new system is now being tested. Players such as Leon Goretzka, David Raum, Nico Schlotterbeck and Leroy Sané were in the starting line-up against Ukraine and have not recently performed in their clubs. Kai Havertz, who made it 2:3 and got the penalty converted by captain Joshua Kimmich to make it 3:3 very late, like Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz only came on the pitch when a debacle threatened. The trio embodies the present and the future and can take an audience with them.
National coach upset the Bremen fans
The annoyed Flick with the substitution of local hero and goalscorer Niclas Füllkrug at the break. "I can't take into account that he's playing in Bremen. We just wanted to make changes, we wanted to change something."
The team needs support and anchor points. "The game shows the condition of the team," said Flick himself. "The broad chest" was missing, there were no automatisms. Defender Antonio Rüdiger spoke of the next "collapse" after a good start. "It also has something to do with dedication. You have to win duels," said the Real Madrid professional again after "three free" goals. The waiver of Niklas Süle, which someone like Rüdiger "surprised" noted, now falls at Flick's feet.
Meanwhile, captain Kimmich expressed a clear priority that should now be on the agenda against Poland and Colombia. "Football is and will always be a results sport. And we have to get the results under control as quickly as possible."
Champions League winner Ilkay Gündogan joins the team after the celebrations with Manchester City on Wednesday, as does final loser Robin Gosens from Inter Milan. Maybe Gündogan can transfer leadership and a winning gene to the DFB team after the best club season of his career. Flick faces a troubled and landmark week. The pressure increases. He said to the team: "Cheer up, we'll continue against Poland."