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Germany fail to flatter vs. Vietnam as 2023 World Cup looms

Janek Speight in Offenbach, Germany
June 24, 2023

Without captain Alex Popp and five Bayern Munich players, Germany failed to impress in their 2-1 win over Vietnam. But the match was more about fine-tuning for the World Cup as this team embraces its favorites tag.

Germany's makeshift team celebrates a goal vs. Vietnam as their 2023 World Cup preparations continue
A makeshift Germany got the job done against Vietnam, but have lots of work to do if they're to challenge at the 2023 World CupImage: Mirko Kappes/foto2press/IMAGO

There may have been a lack of fluidity in attack, a susceptibility to counterattacks and profligacy in front of goal, but Germany gained exactly what they wanted from their friendly hit-out against Vietnam.

A second-string side took to the field, leaving a complete performance out of the question. Head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg admitted as much afterwards to ZDF.

"That's not how we wanted to play football," Voss-Tecklenburg said. "There is a lot to work on in all areas. We are at 40%. We had to throw the team together today. It wasn't just that we wanted to see certain players, but that we also had to bring them in."

In-house expectations have risen ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off in July. The players know this is a huge opportunity to claim silverware and capitalize on the goodwill and euphoria still lingering from a successful Euros last year.

"We want to push forward and we want to do that with a performance. Everything works much easier when the success is there and that's our responsibility," midfielder Svenja Huth said ahead of the match.

The run to the Euros final in England sparked ambition within the squad and developed a bond that they're hoping will only get stronger as they spend the next weeks together.

Germany embrace favorites tag

Before the Euros campaign, Voss-Tecklenburg had said Germany were "perhaps not anymore" a favorite, and that other nations "may be a bit ahead of us."

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A year later and the shift in language couldn't be more pronounced. Popp has proclaimed clearly that the players want to win the title, while Voss-Tecklenburg has openly labeled Germany a tournament favorite. 

The team's official slogan— "We, who play with pride for our country and for the third star" — directly refers to those ambitions of claiming their first World Cup title since 2007.

The struggle to break down Vietnam suggests it won't be so straightforward; however, forward Laura Freigang said the performance would not affect the belief in this squad.

"Today, you could see that, when we're not 100% there, it affects our game," she said. "We know our strengths, we know we have to be ready defensively. But as a team we believe we belong to that top tier."

Germany not taking minnow opponents for granted

Germany had to wait until 10 minutes from time to seal the win over Vietnam through Janina Minge, who doubled the lead Paulina Krumbiegel had given the hosts in the opening three minutes.

Merle Frohms produced two world-class saves in either half, before Thi Thanh Nha Nguyen beat her one-on-one. It was timely reminder that minnows can prove trickier to break down than on paper.

Players wave to their fans, who contributed to a fantastic atmosphere in Offenbach
Vietnam enjoyed a lot of support in Offenbach and rewarded their fans with a late goalImage: Sebastian Christoph Gollnow/dpa/picture alliance

Similarly, Morocco (No. 72 in the world), Colombia (25) and Korea (17) should provide a relatively easy group stage for Germany to navigate. However, Voss-Tecklenburg is wary of deep-lying opponents and wanted her team to get practice in breaking down stubborn defenses.

That's why the German FA (DFB) hand-picked Vietnam and Zambia for their final warmup matches — in an attempt to simulate the styles of football Germany may face in the group stages. 

"The [Vietnam] game showed it doesn't matter who your opponent is: You have to bring 100%," forward Nicole Anyomi told DW.

"Vietnam wasn't a big opponent like England," she said, "but you still have to fight every second, be brave and bring the basics."

This humility signals a healthy group, one concentrating on building confidence, fortifying their playing style and cultivating team spirit ahead of a huge tournament.

Nothing is being left to chance. And compared to many other nations at this World Cup, Germany's preparations are next level.

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg talks to her team ahead of the game vs. Vietnam
Voss-Tecklenburg (center) is doing all she can to prepare her side for the World CupImage: Beautiful Sports/IMAGO

Meticulous World Cup planning give Germany an edge

The foundation for Germany has started with a two-week training camp at the Adidas Campus in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria. Voss-Tecklenburg said it was a "privilege" to use the facilities, as Germany's women train in a space to which Germany's men have long been accustomed.

It was in "Herzo" that this Germany team fostered their strong bond ahead of the Euros, and many players have described the return as "like coming home."

"We managed to grow together as a team last year. There's the on-pitch aspect as well as off the pitch, and so we're happy to be here again and build on the good feeling from last year," Popp said.

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On top of that, much work has gone into ensuring that the trip Down Under runs as smoothly as possible. Two separate delegations have flown out to Australia to inspect the facilities and accommodation this year, and to finalize logistics for internal flights.

The players are scheduled to arrive on July 12 at their base camp, the €14.5-million ($15.8 million) Central Coast Regional Sporting and Recreation Complex, in a quiet region just north of Sydney. They will have plenty of time to prepare and acclimatize ahead of their first game on July 24.

Competitive World Cup ahead

There's good reason for all the investment. Germany has stuttered recently after dominating European football for so long. The site of Germany's 2003 World Cup winning side receiving a special welcome at the ground was a reminder of that time and how different the current landscape is. Other European nations have caught up.

Though the 2022 Euros was seen as the most competitive in the tournament's history, the World Cup poses a different challenge, with the arrival of the United States, Australia, Canada and Brazil.

Midfielder Huth said there were probably six nations that could win the tournament, meaning that any edge Germany can find over their opponents could prove decisive.

The display against Vietnam may not have sent shock waves around their rivals' camps; however, this period is all about building toward the tournament.

The conditions and environment have never been better for Germany's women. Now, it's up to the players to match their own high ambitions.

Edited by: Milan Gagnon

Janek Speight Sports reporter and editor