Germany suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday night. The defeat could — and should — spell the end for coach Joachim Löw, writes DW's Michael Da Silva.
Sometimes it's not the defeat, but the manner of it that resonates greatest.
Germany traveled to the Dutch capital looking to build on last month's goalless draw with France and an unconvincing win over Peru as they embarked on the long road to redemption following their World Cup failure.
But now, the short journey to Paris to face France on Tuesday will feel like a funeral procession for a squad whose ageing players no longer cut it and whose coach must accept his limitations sooner rather than later.
To put this defeat in perspective, the Netherlands failed to qualify for the last World Cup or European Championship and are supposedly going through a crisis of their own. On a night when the Netherlands could have won by five or six, Germany made Ronald Koeman's side look world-class.
Loyalty has become favoritism
The problems are stacking up for head coach Joachim Löw. He has a core of senior players whose best days are behind them. Jerome Boateng appears disinterested and hopelessly off the pace, Thomas Müller's long run of poor form is beginning to look like slow decline, and strong arguments can be made against the long-term international futures of Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer.
But this is nothing new. The debacle in Russia was unfairly pinned on Mesut Özil, but he was not Germany's worst performer in Russia. And not by a small margin. Instead, the problem is that Löw's loyalty to certain players has strayed into the territory of favoritism. The likes of Leroy Sane, Julian Brandt, Niklas Süle and Leon Goretzka must be wondering what more they need to do to start under Löw. And they would be right.
Löw decided to field an entire squad of young rising stars at the 2017 Confederations Cup in a progressive move that appeared to be aimed at readiness for the World Cup. Instead, the stars of that team — Goretzka and captain Julian Draxler — have been marginalized ever since.
During his 12-year period in charge of Germany, Löw has done a remarkable job of regenerating the team year-on-year, and that knack for evolving his squad reached a crescendo on that famous night in Rio de Janeiro. That's when Löw should have gone.
Ballack comments ring true
Fast forward four years and Germany are in complete disarray. The 58-year-old's inability to react to Germany's World Cup shortcomings and his persistence with a group of declining players rather than blooding the young talent should be a defining aspect of his tenure.
Michael Ballack may have had an axe to grind when he told DW that he was "surprised" that Löw is still in his job, but many of those who disagreed with Ballack before may now be converted. Ballack said that "sometimes things don't work anymore, when you're so long with the same team" and those comments couldn't ring any truer than they do right now.
No one at the DFB wants to fire the man who ended Germany's 24-year wait for a World Cup, but football is a results business. Unless Löw can dramatically turn things around against the world champions on Tuesday and demonstrate that he is the man to lead Germany forward over the next four years of his contract, he must make way for a coach who can.