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After Euro 2024: New-look Germany poised for exciting future

July 11, 2024

Germany may not have won Euro 2024, but head coach Julian Nagelsmann, his team and their fans have every reason to be excited about the future.

Germany celebrate scoring in the opening game vs. Scotland
Germany have every reason to be excited about their future despite losing in the quarterfinals of Euro 2024Image: Federico Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance

Was Euro 2024 a success for the German team?

For a side who had ambitions to win the tournament, losing in a quarterfinal doesn't sound like success. Yet, there is an overwhelming feeling that Euro 2024 was very much a positive tournament for the German national team.

The European elections, held just days before the start of the tournament, showed Germany to still be a divided nation in some respects. While the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party took the most votes in eastern Germany, the center-right CDU/CSU coalition won in the west and the state of Bavaria.

The nation's football team cannot close such societal gaps, but this multicultural squad aspired to symbolize a more united Germany — even amid far-right attempts to undermine it. This aspiration awoke something within its fanbase after years of emotional disconnect.

It helped that the team rediscovered its mojo on the field, playing exciting, risky, attacking football. Attackers Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz brought the guile and the flair. Defenders Antonio Rüdiger and Joshua Kimmich celebrated defensive actions like goals. Head coach Julian Nagelsmann proved himself a superb appointment, a man always looking to change things in his team's favor at any point in the game.

It's not wrong to say Germany's tournament from a football perspective was "not outstanding," a description Fabian Hürzeler, German head coach of Brighton and Hove Albion in England's Premier League, used in a recent interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Hürzeler cited that the national team didn't beat a top opponent in their five tournament games and had problems against Switzerland in the group stage.

And yet, after three straight tournaments where Germany was disappointing and looked short of quality and luck, Euro 2024 was a step in the right direction. Unlike the country's trains, this team's return to the elite was right on time.

Two Germany fans with their faces painted black, red and gold.
Germany's fans have rediscovered their love for the teamImage: Ariel Schalit/AP Photo/picture alliance

How do the fans feel?

Overwhelmingly positive. German sports magazine Kicker ran a poll in which over 94,000 people were asked whether the national team had pulled them in emotionally. Over 78,000 said yes.

Obviously, the disappointment of losing to Spain will remain, especially with many feeling the match referee denied Germany a handball in extra time. Nonetheless, pride in this team has returned, and the grumblings of the Russia and Qatar World Cup performances are banished.

What has replaced this discontent is joy. German fans all over the country celebrated their team's performances, an inclusive squad announcement, Saxophone player Andre Schnura's viral performances, the team's pink away uniform and the friendly nature of traveling Scotland fans.

Bengt Kunkel was one of the leading figures in generating that atmosphere in the stands at Germany games, and the 25-year-old called the tournament "a dream journey for us fans."

"It had a very special magic to it," Kunkel told DW. "I believe that a foundation has been laid on which we can grow, and that Germany is keen on this national team again."

The relationship has returned to being symbiotic. Fan support often played a role in the flow of Germany's games, which was in turn acknowledged by the team in an open letter after their tournament ended. The letter said that despite missing out on delivering a title for Germany in Germany, the emotions on show from their fans is what remains.

"We have missed your affection in recent years. Now we have earned it back," it read. "And hopefully what stays in your memory is how we played for you, how we battled and scored."

Julian Nagelsmann hugs Toni Kroos after the defeat to Spain
Julian Nagelsmann has emerged as the right coach at the right time for GermanyImage: Tom Weller/dpa/picture alliance

Has Julian Nagelsmann proved himself to be the right coach?

The former Bayern Munich head coach arrived with doubts hanging around him. Was he too intense, too detailed? Did he care too much about what he was wearing on the sidelines? All of that has been swept aside as Nagelsmann confirmed his coaching abilities and emerged as the right leader at the right time.

Nagelsmann constantly reacted to the ever-changing nature of games, often correcting his own mistakes. He regularly talked about how privileged it was to work under such pressure. He spoke out against racism. His tears after Germany's exit were genuine and a reminder of just how much it matters to him. In his final press conference, he also transferred all of the togetherness around the team and its fans to the nation.

"Being together must become more important again. We must not be consumed with envy, always paint everything in a negative light and not begrudge our neighbors anything," Nagelsmann said in an emotional statement. "If everyone in their small circle, on their street, starts to help and support their neighbors, not always seeing the negative, integrating people. That is important."

Germany's players wave to the crowd after their loss to Spain
Germany will now move on from the likes of Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer,Image: Markus Ulmer/Teamfoto/IMAGO

What happens next?

International football will be put to bed until a month after the domestic season starts on August 16. Germany's schedule is consumed with Nations League games in September, October and November, where they will play the Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary both home and away.

Thereafter begins the 2026 World Cup cycle. In December 2024, Nagelsmann will find out who is in Germany's qualifying group for the next World Cup, and the campaign to secure their spot in the final tournament starts in March 2025 if Germany are in a five-team group, September 2025 if they are in a four-team group.

The World Cup trophy held aloft in Qatar 2022
It will be 12 years since Germany won the World Cup when they try to lift the trophy in the USAImage: Mike Egerton/empics/picture alliance

Does Germany have a chance of winning the 2026 World Cup?

After Euro 2024, Germany's chances are much higher than before. Nagelsmann has settled on a group and a style of play and will spend the next two years making sure the team transitions smoothly following the retirement of some of its legendary players (Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer, for example) and is better equipped to beat top nations.

"It hurts," said Nagelsmann after the loss to Spain. "As does the fact we have to wait two years before we win the World Cup," he added with a smile.

Clearly, Nagelsmann is ready. Goalkeeper Alexander Nübel and midfielders Aleksandar Pavlovic, Brajan Gruda and Rocco Reitz are all contenders to emerge to join an already talented and tight-knit squad.

The extra challenge will be the expanded World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada that awaits them, with 48 teams set to take part across 39 days — 10 days longer than in Qatar and a week longer than the 2018 edition.

Edited by: Chuck Penfold