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The German national team announced earlier this week that it will play its 1000th international match in the summer when Die Mannschaft take on Ukraine in a friendly.

Among the 999 games that have preceded the charity match scheduled for Bremen on June 12 have been some of the most significant in global and European history. West Germany won the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland upsetting the best team in Europe at the time – Hungary – in the final thus bringing an end to the Magical Magyars' five-year unbeaten run.

A further three World Cups followed (and three European Championships), the first of which came 20 years later on home soil, the in 1990 in Italy and again in 2014. The last of those victories was trumpeted as the beginning of an era – one to rival the dominant three-tournament run of victories enjoyed by Spain around the end of the first decade of the 21stcentury. Joachim Low's backroom team had left no stone unturned in their efforts to secure victory in Brazil, it was a victory that had been years in the making both in a literal sense and a figurative one. Those finals represented the culmination of a plan that had begun in the early 2000s when the DFB (the German FA) had instigated a great reset following the nation's disastrous showing at Euro 2000. The overhaul focused on how clubs trained their players. The Germans built 52 centres of excellence but also 366 regional coaching bases in which 1300 full-time coaches taught young players the basics of modern football. The initial spend was E48m per season, a figure that has since doubled.

And so 2014 came to be viewed as a launchpad for total dominance of international football. It was a belief that was franked by Germany's win at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, which acted as a precursor to following year's World Cup finals.

A shadow team comprised of young, promising players and squad members from the established squad beat Chile – the South American champions – in the final, while providing the player of the tournament in Julian Draxler and the tournament's top scorer – an award shared by three players: Lars Stindl, Timo Werner and Leon Goretzka.


The theory went that if a second-string Germany could win the dress rehearsal then surely the first team – supported by those such as Draxler, Goretzka and Werner – would have little trouble in replicating their feats a year later. 

But the 2018 World Cup finals turned into a debacle for Germany with a first round exit. The European Championship performance was only marginally better resulting in a last-16 departure at the hands of England.

There has been humiliation in the Nations League, too, with them only narrowly avoiding relegation from the A League because of UEFA's decision to increase the number of teams in that section from 12 to 16 teams. Unsurprisingly, there has been a number of toe-curling results along the way – such as the 3-3 home draw with Turkey in a friendly, the 6-0 defeat by Spain in 2020 and a 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying for Qatar 2022.

Then, at that latter tournament came further disbelief as Germany conspired to crash out at the group stage for the second World Cup in succession.

It has caused a new crisis in Germany football but one that had not been foretold many times before. Two schools of thought prevail. One is that players aren't as good as people think they are and the other is that the coach Hansi Flick is trying to extract a style that doesn't suit his players.

It runs deeper than that, of course, but probably has more to do with the former than the latter since Flick's problems were also shared by Low in his final years in charge.

“The problems we have had at the World Cup are not only at this World Cup,” noted the team manager Oliver Bierhoff, who left his post in the aftermath of Germany's exit. “It has been happening for the last three years.”

Once more the issue is connected to youth football. Where once Germany led the way and were innovators there is a sense they have been left behind, a suspicion that is backed up by the fact that the country's youth teams have been missing out on international tournaments for some time. 

“I joined in 2016, I'm personally connected to this failure,” said Joshua Kimmich, in the aftermath of Germany's exit in Qatar. If it sounded like an overly harsh self-assessment by one of the world's best holding midfielders, it also contained a kernel of truth. Kimmich is the identikit German player. Functional, good in possession and an excellent passer but he is also a midfielder who lacks real flair. The belief now is that the source of success in 2014 is now the reason for Germany's downfall. The production line has produced too many one-dimensional players who all play the same way. 'Where are the street footballers?' the coaches, analysts and experts ask.

As such changes to how players are developed are now under way but it will take Germany well past match 1000 in June before the nation's football fans begin to see the fruits of those labours.