According to a tenet of football science, penalty shoot-outs cannot be practiced. The influence of the spectators in the stadium, the special situation in the game, the personal stress of the shooter and the many other micro and macro factors cannot be simulated in the laboratory.
As himself recently Hansi Flick met Jogi Löw for lunch, according to the host Flick, it was not just about the menu and shared memories, but also about a question that is similar to the ability to train penalties. The new national coach wanted to know from the old national coach what it’s like when you, as an individual and football coach, are responsible for the hopes and expectations of the entire nation at a World Cup. Flick asked his former boss for helpful advice, and Löw actually had advice: “The main thing is not to let yourself be driven crazy”.
As much wisdom as there may be in Master Jogi’s message, it is of little practical use to Hansi Flick. Over the next few weeks he will have to find out for himself how he will cope with the burden of leading his team at a World Cup as head coach for the first time. As Löw’s adjutant, Flick has already experienced several major national tournaments from the perspective of those involved, but the difference remains an elementary one: As if, to stay with the penalty kick example, you don’t have to shoot yourself, but just watch your colleague do it.
The one and a half years of experience that he has gained since taking up the job only give an idea of the level of difficulty that he is now supposed to master himself. The World Cup is an exam of a completely different dimension than international matches in qualifying against North Macedonia or in the Nations League against England. It was not for nothing that Löw withdrew so deeply into his Breisgau after tournaments because of exhaustion that the DFB wanted to declare him missing to the police.
In the German camp, they are committed to the goal of “winning the title”
As the official first names of contemporary national coaches suggest, the Germans have a tender relationship with their national coaches. Apart from the stray Sir Erich (Ribbeck), there was Berti, Rudi, Klinsi and Jogi, and now there is Hansi. But as is well known, the Germans are not to be trifled with if they don’t get what they demand – and that is often more than they are entitled to according to their strength. Especially in football. “Everything other than the semifinals is disappointing,” said Jürgen Klinsmann in his BBC column, not a German regular or even Mario Basler. In the camp of the national team, it has long been recognized that he is expressing a realistic assessment. Whether Oliver Bierhoff, Manuel Neuer or Hansi Flick – all of them are committed to the goal of winning the title more out of a sense of tradition and duty than out of sporting ambition.
After the triumph that Flick was able to celebrate with FC Bayern at the 2020 Champions League tournament, his colleague Thomas Tuchel, who lost in the final, praised him for having coached the team to its maximum with precision. In addition to his professional skills, the players also say that he has a special art of communication and personal closeness.
With FC Bayern, Flick, who is not much of a rhetorician, won what there was to win in his inconspicuous but authentic and purposeful way. Some mediocre results at the DFB have hardly touched his good reputation. Here and there he has been spared dealing with phases of crisis. That could change suddenly, even a draw in the opening game against Japan could require Flick to re-test his resilience. World Cup stress is untrainable for German national coaches.