hSitting alone at the top table in Press Conference Room 1, Onsi Flick is a visual presentation of an isolated German manager under pressure. His individual appearance could result in a fine from FIFA, but he’s worth every Swiss franc if he helps the four-time world champion walk away from a humiliating early exit.
Things work differently in Qatar, as you may have heard, and media duties are no exception. The manager as well as the player must appear at a press conference the day before the match – only in this World Cup that takes place not at the stadium or the team’s training ground, but at the main FIFA media center in Doha. For Germany, that includes a 210km round trip from the Al Shamal training base at the northern tip of Qatar. For Flick, who knows defeat by in-form Spain on Sunday will lead to almost certain elimination from the tournament, this is no way to prepare for the biggest task of his international reign. So he appeared on his own.
“We can’t expect a player to come and drive for three hours. It’s a very important game, so I told them I’ll come and do it on my own,” said the Germany coach. “Every player in the 26 is important so I asked them not to come because it’s important that they dedicate their energy for the training session.
“We are disappointed. We have a very good media center [at the training ground] And it was possible for the player [to come] If only the press conference had been held sooner.”
The German Football Association requested that the press conference be moved, but FIFA refused, fearing it would set an uncomfortable precedent. FIFA’s response is also expected to include a fine for the player’s failure to appear.
After his media appearance, Flick headed back north for another training session before facing Spain. There is work to be done after the shocking opening defeat to Japan, and addressing the prolific threat of Luis Enrique’s young side.
“The main focus for me was football,” said Flick, when asked about the many distractions surrounding Germany in Qatar such as the OneLove badge and the team’s subsequent outcry. “I am convinced of what we want to do and how we want to play football, even if we can’t reach 100% and be less intense than our opponents.
“Japan was hard to take, it was bitter and it could have been avoided. But we need to stick to our guns. We have the quality and we’re optimistic. That’s what it’s all about – be brave. We’ll see a team do everything they can to make sure we get to the last 16. The door doesn’t It’s still open.”
Spain has had an inauspicious record recently of closing the tournament’s doors to Germany. Flick was Joachim Loew’s assistant when Germany lost to Spain in the final of the 2008 European Championships in Vienna and the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup in Durban. “I have been present in many matches against Spain in the past, when we lost in 2008 and 2010 as well,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Other games are in the past and tomorrow is the future.”
“If you look at the last two tournaments [Euro 2020 and the 2018 World Cup] We didn’t do that very well and we want to prevent that from happening. Tomorrow is our first World Cup final. And that’s all there is to it. We want to prevent exit.”
Germany finished last in the group that included Sweden, Mexico and South Korea at the last World Cup. In the late European Championships last summer, they were knocked out in the last 16 by England. Those two poor performances paved the way for Flick to succeed Löw, but a change of manager hasn’t changed reservations about the team and fear builds into Sunday’s crucial game at the Home Stadium.
The loss of German self-confidence and prestige is emphasized by Flick’s response when asked if the country can still consider itself a favorite on the international stage. “Sunday’s game will show that,” he said. “Wait and see. Maybe I can answer that question better then.”
Flick was criticized for his starting selection and substitutions against Japan. He’s not losing sleep over what to do next. He said: “I’m not quite sure about the line-up yet, there are many positions open. But I’ll look at training, get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow I’ll know which line-up I’m in.”
We have had clear discussions as individuals and as a team. We need to show the players what to do against Spain, where they can find the gaps and be brave, and I’m convinced they know that.”