Steven Caldwell Breakdown: How North Macedonia beat Germany
Germany's campaign promises to be one of extremes: either a triumphant departure for outgoing manager Joachim Low, who is leaving after the Euros, or it will be an unmitigated disaster. In a group with France, Portugal and Hungary (the latter sadly without the brilliant Dominik Szoboszlai), Germany will have to show a remarkable improvement if they're to finish at the top of Group F.
They've endured some humbling results already in 2021 -- a 6-0 hammering to Spain, along with a 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia that was labeled by Bild as Low's third great failure following the 2018 World Cup debacle -- but a brief glance through their squad shows they're reliably packed with quality. The spine of the team comes from Bayern Munich, with Niklas Sule, Joshua Kimmich, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane all likely to start. Muller and Mats Hummels are back in, having been publicly exiled after the 2018 World Cup. They pick themselves, but then it gets a little complicated. Low will only have space for one of several brilliant midfielders in Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz, Ilkay Gundogan, Florian Neuhaus and Toni Kroos, though the smart money is on Kroos to win that spot. But defense remains their Achilles' heel.
Then come the issues of just who is going to score. They could comfortably operate without a clear out-and-out striker, but with Timo Werner struggling for confidence after a dismal first season at Chelsea, and Sane and Gnabry out of form, goals could be a real problem.
Low has been emphasising the importance of a winning "mentality" in his pre-tournament news conferences, and he wants that to be the theme of this campaign. With Hansi Flick confirmed as Low's replacement, the outgoing Germany manager is adamant he's focused on a winning finish to a remarkable 15 years in charge. "I'm going into this tournament with the same focus, concentration and anticipation," Low said. "There isn't anything I wouldn't do differently." -- Tom Hamilton