Germany at Euro 2024: European giants could flop at home tournament

 | December 28 | 

6 mins read

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2024 has nearly arrived, and with it comes another major international tournament. After the discombobulating event that was Qatar’s winter World Cup, the sun will shine on Europe’s greatest nations in Germany. But the hosts themselves are hardly basking in warm rays at this moment in time. 

In fact, there’s a very serious risk that they could become the first European giant hosting a major tournament to head home early. If an early exit does materialise, Germany, world champions a decade ago, will have to watch the rest of the party take place on their doorstep.

It’s a harrowing thought for the DFB and new boss Julian Nagelsmann. The 36-year-old is one of the greatest young managerial talents, but he’s only managed four matches at international level, winning just one of those. It feels like a question of when, not if, Nagelsmann will turn things around for Germany, but so far it’s been a mess, both in terms of results and team selection. 

They lost their two matches in November’s international break to Turkey and Austria, as Nagelsmann tested out Kai Havertz at left-back. Yep, you read that right, attacking midfielder or stand-in number nine Havertz played on the left side of a back four against Turkey, and it briefly looked like a masterstroke. 

EURO 2024 Betting Odds

  • England to win the tournament @ 7/2
  • France to win the tournament @ 7/2
  • Germany to win the tournament @ 6/1

Havertz scored the opener early on after charging into the box, but from there he looked completely lost. It was an experiment for Nagelsmann, and one he won’t be repeating. “It won’t happen anymore although it was not a failure,” he said after the break. “I’m convinced by Havertz in various positions.”

The thing is, Germany have just two more friendlies before the Euro 2024 curtain-raiser against Scotland. France and the Netherlands await, and there’s simply no more time for experiments. Nagelsmann needs to nail down both a starting XI and a formation. In comparison to their upcoming opponents they are simply miles off it - France have known the spine of their best XI for two or three tournaments now.

As other nations have progressed, Germany have regressed - but how did we reach this stage? Lionel Messi’s tears turned to triumph between 2014 and 2022 - yet for Germany it was the complete opposite. The antithetical feelings between the world’s greatest ever player and the Euro 2024 hosts encapsulate a decade of decline for one of football’s powerhouses.

Joachim Low actually had Germany in pretty good shape at Euro 2016. The majority of their World Cup-winning squad had been retained and they only lost at the semi-final stage to host nation France, who were by some stretch the best team at that tournament - even if they failed to win the final. 

By 2018, however, Father Time had caught up with Low’s squad and, unlike in 2014, the experienced heads could not galvanise the dressing room. The German press used the world ‘Fuhrungsspieler’, which in English means ‘lack of leaders’. It was the perfect description. 

Miroslav Klose, the top scorer in World Cup finals history, Per Mertesacker and captain Phillip Lahm all retired after 2014, and by 2016 Lahm’s successor Bastian Schweinsteiger had also called it a day. Germany were out of form by the time 2018 came around, and Low wanted to rely on players like Sami Khedira who simply were not good enough to compete at that level. 

Their first World Cup group stage exit since 1938 was a national disaster in Germany, but Low stuck around until 2021, when they were well-beaten by England at Wembley, before Hansi Flick took charge. He had just won the treble with Bayern Munich and hopes were high that he would be the perfect man to lead Germany’s rebuild.

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But it all went disastrously wrong in Qatar. Die Mannschaft secured four points from three games, which was only enough to ensure a second consecutive World Cup group stage exit. If 2018 was a national disaster, 2022 was a catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale. 

“The football world used to tremble in front of us…” Bild wrote. “We were praised as a tournament team. Now, Germany is just a football dwarf."

Flick was sacked in September 2023 after a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Japan, which brings us back to the present day. Nagelsmann is clearly still trying to find his feet in the role, but there are shoots of promise. Attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz has been one of the best players in Europe this season and is flourishing under the guidance of club manager Xabi Alonso. His Bayer Leverkusen team currently sit unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga, and Wirtz is their key creator.

He’s just 20 years old, while Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala is the same age. He’s a precocious talent looking to make his mark on the world stage alongside countryman and clubmate Leroy Sane, who is enjoying another excellent season. Their starting line-up on paper is strong, featuring Joshua Kimmich, Antonio Rudiger and Serge Gnabry - and although they lack an elite number nine, they should be able to get into the latter stages of the tournament.

On home soil, it’s the minimum expectation for any major European nation. The four semi-finalists of Euro 2020 all hosted three group matches, while France reached the final of their own tournament in 2016. Portugal did the same in 2004, while the Dutch got to the last four at Euro 2000. 

England reached the semi-finals of Euro ‘96… the list goes on. No major European nation has flopped as hosts at a Euros, and every European host of a World Cup has been involved late on. There is simply no precedent for a country with the footballing heritage of Germany flopping at their own tournament. 

Back in 2006, Germany came into their own World Cup with relatively modest expectations. They’d been knocked out in the group at the Euros in 2004, but a new generation of players almost took them all the way to the final. Only a late, late show by Italy in extra-time of the semi-final prevented them from going the distance. 

It’s difficult to see that feat being repeated here, but the young shoots of promise in the form of Musiala and Wirtz could finally heal the wounds of the last six years. They have been given a winnable group featuring Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland, and, if they top Group A, they will face the runners-up of England’s Group C, likely to be Denmark should Gareth Southgate’s men avoid any hiccups. However, Spain, Croatia or Italy await in the quarter-finals, which will be a true test of how far Germany have come in seven months. Perhaps the lower expectations will work in their favour, but as Euro 2024 approaches they clearly still have a lot of issues to iron out. 

Germany were historically so good at turning up in major tournaments that they even invented their own word for it. Turniermannschaft. This summer, it’s time for the ridiculed football dwarf to grow into a giant on German soil once again. 

Check out all of our other Euro 2024 Betting Tips on our dedicated hub page. 

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