Football is, as the cliché goes, a funny old game.
For a period of time in the noughties, Germany was almost unstoppable in major international tournaments. They reached the final of Euro 2008, won the World Cup in 2014, and reached a series of semi-finals of both events in a reign of terror between 2006 and 2016.
And then, well, nothing.
The Germans were humbled in the inaugural version of the UEFA Nations League, failing to win a single game and finishing bottom of Group A1 – but for the subsequent revamp of the competition, they would have been relegated.
Around the same time, they were also rather unceremoniously dumped from the World Cup in 2018 in the group stage, again finishing bottom of their group after losing two of their three engagements.
This is not how one of the perennial giants of sport goes about their business.
There were questions that such poor performances might cost the formerly lauded head coach Joachim Löw his job, but the decision-makers of German football ultimately decided to keep their faith in a man that had brought so much glory in the past.
And it seems that was a rather savvy decision.
Having significantly reduced the age profile of his squad by introducing some exciting new talents, Löw has rebuilt a side capable of challenging for honours.
Prior to the tournament being postponed, Germany were set to feature highly in most Euro 2020 predictions, and that is a testament to the confidence that football watchers and pundits have in this renewed force of the international game.
So, can these former giants of international football return to previous heights?
Back in the Groove
When you’re in the footballing doldrums, it is imperative that new heroes emerge to lift you out of the mire.
And that’s exactly the scenario that Germany has found themselves in. With deadwood removed and replaced with a squad of up-and-coming stars largely aged 25 or under – that ensures they will be peaking heading into the next couple of years and the major tournaments on the horizon.
Joshua Kimmich has emerged from the wreckage of the World Cup campaign to become a key figure for this Germany 2.0. He has been joined by fellow youngsters Timo Werner – who has been a revelation for RB Leipzig, Niklas Sule, Serge Gnabry, Julian Brandt, and Lukas Klostermann in creating a dynamic and exciting team.
They blitzed 30 goals in just eight Euro qualification matches – 12 of those coming from Bayern Munich’s Gnabry, conceding a paltry seven times, and only tasting defeat once to an improving Netherlands side.
Typically, the major argument against such an almost exclusively under-25 approach is that your players lack experience on the big stage. Yet, despite their fledgling years, many of this German side have tasted disappointment at Euro 2016 and the World Cup in Russia.
Furthermore, crucially, many have been involved in the business end of the Champions League – as you would expect from a squad drawn from the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Manchester City.
It just seems as though everything is falling into place for Joachim Löw, and, finally, Germany has a squad capable of stepping out of the shadows of their former greats.
Good for the Sule
With the European Championships delayed a year, it gives players who might have otherwise missed the tournament through injury a chance to recover in ample time.
One such player could well have been Niklas Sule, who suffered a season-disrupting cruciate knee ligament tear in October.
The road back from an injury that can end careers is often painful, frustrating and littered with setbacks, but the good news for fans of Bayern and Germany is that the cultured defender is back on the training pitch and raring to go again.
How much game time he will get between now and the end of the season remains to be seen, but the 24-year-old will enjoy a summer of rehab and preparatory work ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
He has established himself as a key component in Germany’s footballing renaissance, and so Joachim Löw will be delighted to see Sule and the rest of his exciting teammates fit and firing.