Home advantage can be key for rejuvenated Germany

In September, Hansi Flick became the first Germany manager to be sacked since the role was created in 1926. The looming Euro 2024 tournament was a daunting prospect at that point but the mood has changed under Julian Nagelsmann.

With a mix of youth and experience, bolstered by some promising results in the build-up, there is not only belief again that the hosts can enjoy themselves at their own party but a feeling that the timing could be just right for this team.

It is in sharp contrast to the emotions one summer ago when Germany lost back-to-back games against Poland and Colombia, the latter on home turf in Gelsenkirchen. A shocking 4-1 defeat to Japan on an autumn evening in Wolfsburg finally did for Flick.

The turnaround since has been, as the saying goes, both sudden and gradual. In the immediate aftermath of Flick’s exit, there was a confidence-boosting win over France. But it is since the appointment of Nagelsmann that progress has really taken shape.

That was evident in March when France were beaten again – this time in Lyon – before a come-from-behind victory over the Netherlands underlined the improving form. Now, that home advantage this summer looks like a gift rather than a curse.

It is a huge opportunity for Germany,” Jurgen Klinsmann tells Sky Sports. “If they do well at the Euros, getting their fans behind them, creating a very special spirit in the country from hosting this competition, it could turn out in a wonderful story.”

Klinsmann knows from his own experience that the location of this tournament could have a galvanising effect. He was the coach when an unfancied Germany side rode the emotions in front of their own fans to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2006.

“It made a huge difference. We won the opening match and from that moment on there was so much positive energy everywhere. The German people started to put their flag out of the window, put it in their cars, which we never did, obviously because of our past.

“Somehow, the fans kind of connected with that young team. I hope that this European Championship can be a little bit similar to that, making the people proud, having the team put out some good performances. The further they go, the nicer it would be.”

Germany’s Group A fixtures

Jun 14: Germany vs Scotland, Munich

Jun 19: Germany vs Hungary, Stuttgart

Jun 23: Switzerland vs Germany, Frankfurt

There are reasons to believe because there is undoubted talent within the group. Tournaments are so much about timing and there is something serendipitous about this summer. There is a blend of youth and experience – and in the right positions too.

“In the last two friendlies they have found a little bit of the balance in the team,” says Klinsmann. Toni Kroos has returned ahead of his retirement from the game. “He came back as kind of a bit of leader. Ilkay Gundogan played a fantastic season.”

Ahead of them, there is the twin threat of Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala in those playmaking roles. “Younger players who want to shine.” Both have had spectacular seasons. “Musiala and Wirtz, they are ready to rock the boat. The team has a lot of quality.”

Germany's team for the 2-0 win over France in Lyon in March 2024
Germany’s team for the 2-0 win over France in Lyon in March 2024

The line-up that beat France highlights that. The goals were scored by Wirtz and Kai Havertz, the latter playing as a mobile centre-forward that suits the group. Kroos and Gundogan bring the control but there are energetic options around them. It could really click.

Joshua Kimmich and Antonio Rudiger bring experience but with players such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah and Stuttgart’s Maximilian Mittelstadt also involved after their respective sides’ stunning seasons, it adds to the sense that the blend is right.

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Even the fact that the 36-year-old Nagelsmann was available for a job in international football feels fortunate. It is relatively unusual for an elite club coach at the tactical vanguard to take a national-team job. It could be a point of difference for Germany.

So fledgling is the improvement, however, that a strong start will be imperative. All eyes will be on the hosts when they face Scotland in the tournament’s opening game in Munich. “When you play at home, you have to start well,” insists Klinsmann.

“Scotland will be a tough one to play right at the beginning with their fantastic fans. When they roll into Munich, it will be loud, it will be noisy. They need to win that one. It is really important. Get the fans behind them and the atmosphere all positive.”

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Kris Boyd on how Scotland will approach their Euro 2024 opener against Germany

From there, Germany will make the short trip to Stuttgart to face Hungary before taking on Switzerland in Frankfurt. Win Group A and they can look forward to Dortmund in the round of 16 with the ultimate aim being securing their spot in the final in Berlin.

This too could favour them, fostering a burgeoning sense that an entire nation is alongside them in this journey. It is 40 years since there has been a home winner of this tournament and while there are other strong candidates, the case for Germany is growing.

“I am very positive about what can happen at this Euros. I see Germany as one of the favourites and then I look at other countries like England, like Spain, like Portugal, like Italy. And there is France. They can field two teams if they want to.

“Those are all fantastic football nations, all capable of winning the Euros. But it would be nice if the home side plays a very nice, positive role because the further the home side goes the higher the energy will be in the country during the Euros.”

The fears of one year ago have faded. Germany would always have played the role of perfect hosts, regardless. But from nowhere there are now signs that they have fashioned a football team worthy of winning the tournament too. A mood transformed.

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