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'We're in a sh*tty situation' - Germany facing another embarrassing World Cup group-stage exit against Spain

4:00 PM MYT 27/11/2022
Kai Havertz Germany 2022 World Cup HIC 16:9
The 2014 winners fell at the first hurdle in Russia four years ago and are in big trouble in Qatar, knowing they need to beat Spain to stay alive.

Julian Brandt didn't try to hide it. "We're in a sh*tty situation," he admitted to reporters on Friday. And he's right.

Germany are in a whole heap of trouble at the 2022 World Cup, in very real danger of suffering a humiliating first-round exit for the second successive tournament.

A shock 2-1 loss to Japan means Germany simply have to win their second game to keep their last-16 hopes alive.

The problem is they face Spain on Sunday; the same Spain side that routed Germany 6-0 just two years ago.

"I don't think it's important," Brandt argued. And maybe he's right.

A lot's changed in the interim, of course. Hansi Flick is now at the helm, for starters.

But Spain remain a formidable foe, one brimming with belief, too, after kicking off their own campaign with a 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica.

What's more, the initial wave of optimism that Flick quickly generated immediately after replacing Joachim Low as coach has long since broken.

Germany are going into a must-win game having claimed just two victories from their past nine matches.

Indeed, it's telling that German fans and journalists were more surprised by the impressive first-half showing against Japan, than their late collapse.

The enthusiasm around the national team has been on the wane for months now – and the players know it too.

"I can understand why there is negativity among many fans," Kai Havertz admitted. "There are a lot of people taking shots at us.

"We are aware that, unlike past tournaments, there is not 100 percent support from Germany during this World Cup."

He's not wrong either. Viewing figures in Germany are atrocious.

Only 9 million people tuned in to watch their tournament opener – which is shocking when one considers that their games during their disastrous 2018 campaign never failed to attract more than 25 million viewers.

The controversy surrounding Qatar's staging of the World Cup, and the row over armbands has undoubtedly played a part.

But there is no denying that the current national team has failed to capture the imagination of the public.

"We know that the support is not as good as we're used to," Havertz added. "But we appeal to everyone to get behind us on Sunday."

They'll certainly need all the help they can get.

Flick was right when he argued that Germany dominated the majority of their game against Japan, before shockingly succumbing to two late goals.

However, it's clear that the team has issues, at both ends of the pitch.

Ilkay Gundogan argued that there won't be "an easier goal scored at the World Cup" than Japan's winner, while Flick himself singled out makeshift right-back Niklas Sule for criticism for failing to track and deal with Takuma Asano.

"Niklas simply has to pay attention," Flick said afterwards. "He played him onside because he dropped two or three steps too far. These are individual mistakes that we paid for today."

They were also punished for their profligacy.

Both Gundogan and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer took aim at Kai Havertz and his fellow forwards in their post-match interviews.

And the Chelsea man insisted that he had no issue with his team-mates' comments.

"It was constructive criticism from Ilkay and Manu," he said. "I can understand the guys. We talked about it.

"Such criticism is good for the team because we are developing. Besides, it's just a small snippet of an interview. No one is angry."

Havertz did admit, though, that he's been in a "bad mood" since the Japan game.

This was not how Germany's World Cup was supposed to begin. Qatar 2022 was meant to be different to Russia 2018. Instead, there is once again the same air of impending doom.

Flick will have to be flawless against Spain. He has taken plenty of flak for destabilising his side in the Japan defeat by removing Gundogan midway through the second half.

He is also under pressure to resolve the issue at right-back, possibly with the redeployment of Joshua Kimmich in place of Sule, given Thilo Kehrer is out of form and Lukas Klostermann is only just back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

More than anything else, though, Flick needs his forwards to fire, and that means Havertz proving that he really is capable of the kind of consistency and clinical finishing required to lead a top team.

Indeed, during Friday's press conference, he freely admitted that he has grown weary of being asked about his best position, insisting that he can play anywhere across the front line.

"I really like playing as a No.9," he explained, "but I also know that as a striker you have to score goals."

Indeed, Germany need efficiency rather than versatility from Havertz on Sunday.

As Flick said, they don't have any "more free hits" at Qatar 2022. It's win or bust in Al Khor. They simply have to take whatever chances come their way.

"The burden is shared on everyone's shoulders," Brandt insisted. "We are all leaders in our clubs and have a certain responsibility there. We have to go about this task with conviction.

"Spain come into the game with a 7-0 win behind them. But this is a chance for us. It's a chance to release a lot of [negative] energy.

"A little bit a year ago, we lost to France in our Euro 2020 opener but then we won the second game, against Portugal.

"So, the squad is familiar with a situation like this."

But maybe not one quite so "sh*tty"...