Flick's fringe players make case as Germany beat Peru
In the modest setting of Mainz, hosting only its third ever men's national team game, a similarly modest opponent, Peru, gave Germany the chance to take risks. Some of which were rewarded.
A first-half brace from Niclas Füllkrug sealed a comfortable 2-0 win in Germany's first match after their failed World Cup campaign. But crucially, Hansi Flick's team, at times, showed an intensity and energy which has been lacking during the coach's tenure.
Fringe players ignite Germany attack
In the absence of star names such as Thomas Müller, Ilkay Gündogan and Jamal Musiala, supporters saw some of the squad's fringe players inject some much-needed life into a previously lackluster attack.
Flick called up six new players to his squad for this first of a run of friendlies ahead of Euro 2024. Having previously crashed out of the Nations League, Germany are left with no competitive fixtures before they host the tournament.
However, the only new face to start was Dortmund right wingback Marius Wolf who, along with David Raum on the opposite flank, pushed up to great effect, winning possession and harrying the opposition. The rangy former winger was rewarded with an assist, as his dynamism and overlapping runs perfectly complimented Germany’s narrow roaming attacking midfielders.
In his postmatch press conference, Flick praised Wolf, whose whipped low cross set up Füllkrug's second. The forward was certainly grateful: "I don't know if I can get him nice cold drink as we're playing again in two days," Füllkrug said. "The move for the second goal shows what we've been working on in training. I tried to hold the center back to give Kai space. Marius and I have been talking about that sort of delivery ahead of the game. He plays it perfectly and I have the perfect timing."
The Werder Bremen striker once again made his case for leading the line. The 30-year-old was a surprise call-up to the Qatar World Cup, but was woefully underused despite scoring two goals. "I always get my opportunities in the box here and get the service. I'm well integrated into the system now," Füllkrug told German broadcaster ZDF after the match.
The most interesting role was played by Emre Can, who was playing for Germany under Flick for the first time. The coach has dabbled with a back three during his tenure, mainly sticking to a 4-2-3-1. But he used this occasion to field a 4-2-2-2 formation, in which Can fluidly moved between a central midfield role and the heart of defense to form a back three when needed.
Flick changes tack
Meanwhile, Germany's attack was set off its leash, with players showing an eagerness to move off the ball and switch positions which has been a rare sight during Flick's tenure. The team looked more disjointed later on as a barrage of second half substitutions upset their rhythm, but for Flick there is a clear lesson to be learned.
At Bayern Munich, he relied on star power to secure a boat load of titles. Now he would be well advised to focus on the fringe players best suited to this glimpse of a free-flowing and energetic playing style.
Further debutants Mergim Berisha and Kevin Schade are unlikely to break into the starting eleven. But Flick went into the World Cup not knowing his best team, a mistake he cannot repeat at the Euros. Along with the usual suspects, he has a chance to put his trust in a selection of outsiders who may lack clout but could turn Germany into a well-oiled machine.
A friendly match against Peru is hardly the litmus test that will determine the future of this team. The opposition, a 21st-ranked team which missed out on the 2022 Qatar World Cup, rarely threatened and couldn't capitalize on its opponents', at times, sloppy play.
However, the setting of Mainz with its humble Bundesliga club could serve as an inspiration. In modest surroundings, Germany showed bravery, intensity and a willingness to take risks. Qualities much needed to galvanize success starved supporters ahead of a home tournament.
Edited by: Matt Pearson