After his substitution, Leroy Sané put on a performance that clearly set him apart from his colleagues. Unfortunately, the Nations League game against England was already over at this point. Immediately after the final whistle, a very young man jumped over the gang and illegally gained access to the interior of the Munich Arena. He had a cell phone in his hand and used the carelessness of the law enforcement officers to pose for a photo with Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry.
He then tried it with Leroy Sané, but he just shrugged his shoulders and simply let him stand with a clever body deception. Finally, two men in yellow vests took the very young man between them and escorted him off the lawn.
Leroy Sané didn’t have too many opportunities to draw attention to himself that evening. He was on the pitch for a good ten minutes, including stoppage time; it was the minutes in which the Englishmen first vehemently pushed for an equalizer and finally scored it with a penalty kick converted by Harry Kane to make it 1-1. So not the best time for a striker like Sané.
With him, however, one has the general impression that it is not the best time for him. After his rather poor performance against Italy at the weekend, Sané found himself on the bench against the English – along with six other colleagues whom Hansi Flick had eliminated from the starting XI.
Nevertheless, the national coach contradicted the interpretation that his personnel decisions were causally related to the performance in Bologna. In fact, in view of the tight program with four games in just eleven days, his main concern should have been the necessary load control.
However, the fact that the seven newcomers had led to a significant increase in the quality of the German game was at least a pleasant side effect. “We had the intensity in the game that the coach demanded,” said Jonas Hofmann, one of the seven newcomers in the starting XI and who scored the opening goal. “We were active, had good ball relays, combined well, created chances.” In short: It was “a nice evening of football”.
Despite all the anger about the lost victory, he brought the national coach one or the other positive realization: that his team is capable of learning, for example because it drew the right conclusions from the sluggish performance against the Italian national team.
And that Flick can initiate internal processes with his personnel decisions that have a positive effect. “We have huge potential in the squad. Accordingly, nobody should rest,” said Ilkay Gündogan.
Officially, the last four games of the season operate under the Nations League label. There has traditionally been a heated debate about their importance. Some now see it as a serious competition, while Thomas Müller spoke of “friendly games packed into a tournament format”. In reality, at least this year, it is a tightened casting for places in Flick’s World Cup squad. “Competition is sometimes not so bad,” said the national coach.
Flick did not want to talk about the World Cup yet. Even so, the game against England may have shed more light on his ideas. It wasn’t just interesting who was no longer there after the performance in Bologna (Sané!); It was also interesting who was allowed to stay in the starting XI: Manuel Neuer, the goalkeeper and captain, Antonio Rüdiger in central defence, Joshua Kimmich as a midfielder and Thomas Müller in attacking midfield.
These four untouchables form something like Flick’s World Cup axis, which runs from the back to (almost) the front. Everything else is negotiable, even the position of Thilo Kehrer, who had previously started in each of the ten games under Flick. Kehrer also appeared to be one of the untouchables, but that turned out to be a fallacy.
The Paris Saint-Germain defensive all-rounder is more like a wild card for the back row. But Kehrer, who wasn’t even used in Munich, has to face up to the competition: at the back left her name is David Raum, who showed a strong performance against the English, at headquarters Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck and on the right Lukas Klostermann and Jonas Hofmann , who in turn, like against the English, can also play a row further up.
“We are in a meritocracy. It’s all about performing,” said Flick. The newcomers did well against England (Musiala, Hofmann, Raum) or at least satisfactorily (Klostermann, Gündogan). Only Nico Schlotterbeck dropped a bit. The central defender often seemed agitated, and he also owed the penalty kick that robbed the Germans of victory with a clumsy foul on Kane.
Kai Havertz, the seventh newcomer, had a difficult time, as expected. Havertz played as the central striker in place of Timo Werner. He is an attacking midfielder by training, but for the national coach he is above all “a gifted footballer” who has also acquired a completely different physicality in England.
Havertz did not give away even in header duels with Harry Maguire. “It’s just fun to watch,” said Flick. And yet: Havertz will definitely no longer be a breaker for the opposing penalty area. The occupation of the storm for the national coach remains one of the trickiest questions that he still has to answer before the World Cup. “We have quality in this position too,” he said. It almost sounded a little defiant.