What a difference a year makes. Last November, Germany were preparing for two friendlies against England and France. Two draws meant that the Nationalmannschaft went through 2017 unbeaten, a record that would eventually end in a 0-1 friendly defeat against Brazil in early 2018 – a run of 22 matches without defeat, equalling Jupp Derwall’s all-time mark set as the coach of the West German team between 1979 and 1981.
Fast forward to the end of 2018, and the picture could not be any more different. Germany have suffered six defeats in this calendar year – the worst ever since records began. The team had also gone four competitive matches without a win – also a record.
The collapse has been spectacular. At the end of 2017, Germany had been unbeaten for well over a year, were ranked number one in the world, and were one of the big favourites to retain the World Cup they had claimed for the fourth time in Brazil in 2018. Today, the team is bruised and broken, still recovering from the pain of a tournament that was the DFB’s worst in eighty years.
After the disastrous 0-3 defeat in the Netherlands – Germany’s worst-ever result against their neighbours and rivals, many of the heroes of Brazil 2014 had been reduced to zeroes. Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw, the mastermind of the team’s success, was left tottering on the precipice.
As 2018 comes to an end, the coach and the team will not want to make these bad records any worse. The first meeting against Russia for almost a decade – and the first friendly for over 24 years – kicks off this November double-header, and the chapter closes with the final UEFA Nations League group match against the Netherlands.
Germany are out of the running in the Nations League, and the mission for both games is simple. To restore much broken pride and build momentum against this summer’s World Cup hosts, and to end their unprecedented barren competitive run with a victory against the Dutch – and hopefully avoid the humiliation of relegation to the B groups.
One has to go back to October 2009 to find Germany’s last meeting with Russia, a World Cup qualifier in Moscow. En route to the finals in South Africa the following summer, the game was settled in the 35th minute by Miroslav Klose.
Germany’s first meeting with post-Soviet Russia was a friendly between the two teams in 1994, which resulted in a 2-1 win for Berti Vogts’ German team – also in Moscow. In all, there have been five meetings between Germany and the current post-Soviet Russian team. The Germans have won four times, with one 2-2 draw in Mönchengladbach in June 2005.
In addition to their five meetings with the post-Soviet Russian team, the overall record includes one match from the pre-Soviet era. This produced the Nationalmannschaft’s biggest-ever win in an international fixture. At the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, the German team romped to a 16-0 win, with Karlsruher FV’s Gottfried Fuchs scoring no fewer than ten goals.
To complete the statistical picture, the former West German team played a dozen matches against the former Soviet Union, winning nine and losing three. There was also the one meeting against the post-USSR Commonwealth of Independent States at Euro 1992, which resulted in a 1-1 draw – and a last-minute free-kick equaliser by Thomas Häßler.
For Germany’s last meeting against the Netherlands, we just need to go back to last month’s fiasco in Amsterdam. The less said about that, the better.
There has been much talk of personnel changes, but the coach has clearly decided to take a more measured approach to squad transition. There are no new faces, and just two enforced changes and one addition to the previous month’s Kader.
Ruled out with a shoulder injury, Marc-André ter Stegen is rested, and Arsenal’s Bernd Leno returns to the squad. Out of form defender Jérôme Boateng is also left out, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah hoping to add to his thre caps. Taking the squad quota up to 24 is FC Bayern München winger Serge Gnabry.
Should he play in both matches, Thomas Müller will reach the landmark 100-cap milestone. He will be the eleventh member of Germany’s centurion’s club, and the fastest to reach the mark.
Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München, 82/0)
Bernd Leno (Arsenal FC, 6/0)
Kevin Trapp (Paris Saint-Germain, 3/0)
Matthias Ginter (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 22/0)
Jonas Hector (1. FC Köln , 41/3)
Mats Hummels (FC Bayern München, 69/5)
Thilo Kehrer (Paris Saint-Germain, 2/0)
Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea FC, 27/1)
Nico Schulz (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 2/1)
Niklas Süle (FC Bayern München, 14/0)
Jonathan Tah (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 3/0)
Julian Brandt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 22/2)
Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain, 49/6)
Serge Gnabry (FC Bayern München, 3/3)
Leon Goretzka (FC Bayern München, 17/6)
Kai Havertz (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 1/0)
Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern München, 36/3)
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid CF, 90/14)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 98/38)
Marco Reus (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 36/10)
Sebastian Rudy (FC Schalke 04, 26/1)
Leroy Sané (Manchester City, 15/0)
Mark Uth (FC Schalke 04, 1/0)
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig, 21/8)