A decade ago German football reached its modern peak in Brazil. Winning the World Cup, defeating the hosts 7-1 with the unsettling precision of a programmed machine and competing at the top level of club football with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

There’s been a lot of soul-searching since. In the two subsequent World Cups Germany have exited at the group stage and their latest era, led by Julian Nagelsmann, is only seven games old following the failed Hansi Flick reign. There’s far healthier optimism than this time last year that a first European Championship since 1996 can be lifted, and on home soil.

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The tournament, and the pressures of playing as host nation, will offer a true barometer of where this team are placed in comparison to where they’ve been – emerging from one of the most difficult eras in recent memory. And it all starts with Friday’s opening match against Scotland at the Allianz Arena in Munich. Like Steve Clarke’s side, Germany play a system to get the best of two players who occupy the same position at club level and have a squad stock-pilled with midfield talent that’s misbalanced elsewhere. But there’s a clear identity and new-look group that breaks from recent failed campaigns. Have Germany found what they’ve been looking for? We’ll find out in a fortnight.

Wins over France and the Netherlands in March provided Naggelsman with some much-needed shoots of potential heading into Euro 2024. The 38-year-old replaced Flick under a year ago and has made big, bold decisions to stamp his ideas and identity on this German team. Notable names – such as Mats Hummels and Leon Goretzka – were omitted while much like Gareth Southgate, Nagelsmann opted to pick players on form and merit. Toni Kross will bow out of an exceptional playing career at the base of midfield having been brought out of international retirement alongside Robert Andrich, who earns his place on the back of an invincible domestic double with Bayer Leverkusen. Left-back Maximilian Mittelstadt only made his national team debut in March but is now first-choice, demonstrating his manager’s ability to turn over a new leaf.

Germany are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 that morphs into variations of a 3-1-6 in possession. Nagelsmann is the embodiment of a modern tactician and if able to provide club-level playing cohesion on the international stage, given the obvious talent Germany possesses makes them a guaranteed favourite already, a title is very possible. However, the team is young collectively and a final warm-up 2-1 win over Greece provoked as many questions as it provided answers. Only after a shift in system did the goals arrive.

Manuel Neuer, despite a few recent high-profile errors, will play behind a back four of Joshua Kimmich, Anthony Rudiger, Jonathan Tah and Mittlestadt. With Kross and Andrich propping up a midfield completed by Ilkay Gundogan at No.10 with the prodigiously talented Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz operating in tandem on either side. Kai Havertz, as Mikel Arteta made possible last season, will lead the line. Nicolas Fullkrug, who has 11 goals in 15 national appearances with nine arriving from the bench, offers a more direct focal point if required up top. Leroy Sane can give width in the midfield, Thomas Muller has been there and won it all. While lacking depth in defence and variation in attack this is not a national side without individuals, although many, exposed to the brilliance of Harry Kane on home soil this season, note the lack of one or two more. Naggelsman’s task over the next month is to make Germany an effective team on the big stage.

As aforementioned, like Scotland, Germany’s system is based around two players – Wirtz and Musiala. Both are No.10s and rather than playing one of the two, Naggelsman has worked a formula enabling both to operate in central areas alongside Gundogan. “The three of them have a lot of freedom that they can enjoy," said Nagelsmann on his trio of No.10s speaking in March.

Discussing his role in said tactical set-up, Gundogan explained recently: “We now play with three No.10s up front. Each of us has a similar drive towards goal, makes similar runs, and wanting to dribble with the ball. It’s all the more important that I pay attention to what Flo and Jamal are doing. How can I adjust my runs so that we find the right balance?”

With width largely generated by full-backs Naggelsman wants to create an environment in which his most talented players – Musiala and Wirtz - can operate in unison close to goal, accessing familiar channels of the pitch. Coinciding with the intelligent movement of Gundogan to drag and drop his way around the pitch and Havertz’s multi-faceted forward play, Germany have a front four that could prove devastating. Their offside goal against Greece last week provides some insight into the dynamics outlined.

Notice the 3-1-6 shape occupied on the ball as they shift possession wide. Germany’s full-backs are stationed to provide width but rather than acting as direct attacking outlets Nagglesman wants to go wide in order to create space for his ‘Three No.10s’ to make the difference.

As the ball is worked wide to left-back consider the positioning of each player. Wirtz makes a countermovement to create space for Gundogan, who receives a pass from Havertz who drops deep. Musiala, the third No.10, then makes a well-timed countermovement again to get the ball in his favoured area and create a chance for Havertz.

Gundogan adds on his role, as outlined above: “Flo and Jamal, for example, often come from the half-left position in their club teams. If one of them plays half-right in the national team, he naturally moves a bit more towards the centre. My job is to recognize that and move to the right side, where space is created but also where a counterattack against us might occur if we lose the ball. Flo and Jamal shouldn’t have to worry about that; they should focus entirely on their artistry. I adapt to them so that we can be successful.”

Similarly, notice the configuration of players leading up to the leveller – again it’s the left-back (now Raum) providing width on the left while Sane moves close to Gundogan to progress through the Greece defence before Havertz’s turn and finish.

The freedom afforded to Musiala and Wirtz should not be mistaken for the structure and tactical complexity that define all aspects of Nagelsmann’s football. Rather it is Germany’s structure, defined by Gundogan’s awareness, that defines the autonomy awarded to their standout individuals.

Germany’s narrow attacking compliment in possession can see much of their play operate in areas where opposition blocks are well stocked. Especially if defences sacrifice some control out wide, where Germany in theory pose less of a threat, for numerical superiority in the centre.

This can lead to a lack of natural width working against the host nation. Their system relies on specifics clicking and connections forming. If not, as experienced in both of their most recent friendly matches, the formation designed can lead to Musiala, Wirtz and others receiving the ball in crowded zones. Admittedly having one of the best creative midfielders in Kroos firing passes forward, Gundogan’s intelligence to open space and two of football’s finest ball-carriers should compensate the risk. What’s more, Nagglesman wants his sides to dominate the centre to guard against transitions which marries nicely with his on-ball approach.

That same method expands to the defence which has only played a handful of games together. Germany want to invite pressure and play through pressure which carries natural vulnerabilities. Consider the origin of the goal they conceded against Greece. While only a Neuer mistake made the concession of an opening goal possible, it was well-timed pressure that created the opportunity.

As was the case for an excellent second-half sighting when Rudiger was caught with his back to goal.

There is no doubt that Nagelsmann has the technicians to wriggle out of these situations and punish opponents who gamble to press. However, with only a handful of games under his tutelage the details required to make this system work are still being refined and will have to now be formed on the biggest of stages.

There’s no denying that defensive stability has normally been the hallmark of major tournament-winning teams on the international stage with less time training to make attacking margins count. Germany remains very much a work in progress with narratives to be written over the next month.