Monday 14 June 2021
The EM preview: Group F
At the very end, Löw ran out of luck
By Till Erdenberger, Munich
For Joachim Löw, it’s about saving his legacy through the DFB’s toughest years. But the EM must not go in the pants. That will be difficult in this group F. Also, because two iron rules of the regulars’ table no longer apply.
The EM 2020 has been running a year late for a few days. The tournament, which is held across Europe, will be played for the first time with 24 teams. From a total of six groups (A to F), up to three countries can qualify for the round of 16. Little is clear before this European Championship, but one thing is certain: The final round with the two semi-finals and the final will be played from July 6th in London’s Wembley Stadium.
You should definitely know:
No, the successes that Joachim Löw has organized for German football have nothing to do with luck. You don’t become world champion by mere coincidence, nor do you become vice-European champion. And yet: at the end of a great 15-year era, the national coach lost his luck. When the groups for the premiere of the Nations League were drawn at the beginning of 2018, Löw was still cheering about the group opponents France and the Netherlands: “Yep! Finally no luck, thank God. It’s super interesting.” You were still the reigning world champion and EM semi-finalist.
But the wind has long since turned, a World Cup disaster in 2018 later, Löw now has to save his legacy. And then world champion Philipp Lahm dissolved this EM group for him at the end of 2019. Joshua Kimmich was amazed: “France is world champion, Portugal is European champion, we were world champions before that and Confederation Cup winners. To be honest, one wonders why one actually wins the group (the European Championship qualification, ed.).” Löw didn’t feel like cheering back then: “It’s good when you have to go all out right from the start – and we have to do that in this group. That is for our young team, which is just at the beginning of its development, a very interesting group. “
The development that the national coach had announced after the preliminary round at the 2018 World Cup, he cashed back in time for the start of the EM. The calibres France and Portugal are too big, the development steps that his once young team made too small. And so, in the last friendly against Latvia (7-1), Löw sent the DFB’s oldest starting eleven for almost 20 years onto the field. The conditions under which you are now competing are completely different from what you would have wished for at the DFB. The returnees Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller are supposed to bring mentality to the troupe, which is actually so strong. Because in Russia in 2018, when the legendary German luck of the draw had not yet left Löw and his team, the second iron German football certainty collapsed: that of the tournament team, which always delivers results when it matters.
At this European Championship, Löw is at the end of a development, very different from what he had once imagined. In his upheaval process, Löw had insisted that the Kimmich / Gnabry / Sané generation would probably only be “at the peak of their careers” at the European Championships in 2024. Now this time an axis of the world champion generation has to straighten it out: Neuer, Hummels, Müller. For Löw, this is an admission of a failed plan. Müller and Hummels are the guarantee that at least there won’t be any nasty surprises. Against the French noble ensemble, against defending champions Portugal, where even the 26-time Bundesliga goalscorer André Silva is fighting for playing time and against Hungary, the designated point supplier of Group F. Fortunately, the end of Löw’s era will not gild the end of Löw’s era. That is clear.
Here’s a player to watch out for:
While the comebacks of Müller and Hummels in the DFB team were barely presented in a subtle way for a long time, there was no alternative to sporting and therefore hardly more than one – at least benevolent – shrug of the shoulders after completion, the French have a much more spectacular return to report: Karim Benzema will be with of the EM. The news, announced on the day of the nomination, was a great surprise. Benzema has not been allowed to play for France since autumn 2015. Not for sporting reasons, but because he is said to be involved in an extremely unsavory blackmail story. The case – it’s about a sex video with which Benzema’s former Real Madrid colleague Mathieu Valbuena was supposed to be blackmailed – has not yet been clarified. On the contrary: the process will start in the autumn, and Benzema will then have to answer in court.
In terms of sport, Benzema is undoubtedly an asset to any team in the world. But the real professional can also be a burden: Benzema constantly mocks world champion Olivier Giroud, these days both will be fighting for a place in the attack. Coach Didier Deschamps apparently does not believe that the returnee could cause trouble, otherwise he would not have brought him to all the spectacular offensive artists. One thing is clear: Benzema is controversial in France, his return did not cause euphoria in the team or in the country. And the memories of rebellious, self-destructing French at major tournaments are vivid. As Benzema once said of his “favorite competitor” Giroud: “It won’t be spectacular, he won’t do anything amazing, but he has his thing. Does everyone like the way he plays? I don’t know.” Benzema is now responsible for the amazing things. In France they hope: only on the pitch.
Don’t miss this game:
France against Portugal, the world champions against the European champions. In no other preliminary round match is the superstar density higher at this European Championship, there should be very few games in world football where more offensive shine is gathered on the pitch. Ronaldo Mbappé, Joao Felix, Griezman, Benzema: It could be wonderful, a spectacle. And then the dramaturgy wants the duel to take place at the end of the group stage. It’s about winning the group, maybe even against the elimination, at least about a good starting position for the round of 16. There the third party could face tough chunks like England. After the “group of deaths” you don’t have to fear anyone if you advance, but you don’t have to make your way to the title unnecessarily complicated either.
Here is played:
When UEFA made it clear in the spring that they would only play where associations and authorities can guarantee a proper audience, the country of the three-time European champions was tough. No, there are no guarantees in the ongoing pandemic, they were left with benevolent promises. Because Munich is not Bilbao or Dublin, but the city of the 1974 World Cup final, the 2006 World Cup opening game, the venue for the 2024 European Championship and home of FC Bayern, whose officials UEFA had during the short but violent Super League storm look good, is played there anyway. And in Bilbao and Dublin, the guarantees also remained owed, just not. The up to 14,000 spectators, depending on the incidence value, will not stream into the Allianz Arena for the three group matches and one of the round of 16, but rather into the Munich Football Arena. If anyone makes any money here, it’s still UEFA, if you please!
The situation was completely different in Budapest, the second venue for Group F. The country’s rather liberal corona hygiene policy catapulted Hungary suddenly up numerous places on the UEFA positive list. Whenever a stadium was needed at short notice, the Puskas Arena opened its gates. Gladly for a large number of viewers, when that was still unthinkable in the rest of Europe. FC Bayern was able to cheer for winning the European Supercup in front of well-filled stands and fans of their own who were willing to travel. And when Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig were looking for an alternative location for their Champions League round of 16, both ended up naturally in the arena in Hungary’s capital, which opened in 2019. In Germany, the opponents Manchester City and Liverpool FC were not allowed to compete due to entry regulations. Because Hungary only qualified for the European Championship in the playoffs, they have to travel to Munich for the game against co-group hosts Germany.
Now it is your turn! Who will win the group?