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Is Germany Heading for Humiliation at the Euros?

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Both theories have merit, and both have appeal: We like nice, rounded narratives. Neither quite explains the issue. Germany, after all, may not have as many good players as it did a decade ago, but it still has plenty. If a clear strategic vision at executive level was important for teams in international soccer, Italy would not have four World Cups.

Given the failure of successive Germany coaches — and dozens of players, some old, some young, some creative, some industrious — to get to the root of the problem, though, it seems increasingly clear that the problem is likely structural. It is worth considering if Germany’s system, so long its strength, is now its weakness.

The percussive, high-octane style first ushered into vogue by Rangnick, Klopp and the rest is now the default in the Bundesliga. It is how all of Germany’s players are raised. It is, though, complex: Each team will spend hundreds of hours fine-tuning its pressing strategies, adapting them to its needs and its resources.

The sort of time required to make it work, though, is not available in international soccer; it is why the international game tends to be less slick, less smooth and to appear, at times, less refined than its club counterpart. At the same time, asking players to change habits that have been inculcated in them since they were children for the sake of a few weeks every other summer is likely to end in failure.

And so Germany finds itself caught in a bind: an unbalanced but nonetheless gifted squad, unable to do what it knows but unable to do anything else, too, tasked with meeting the lofty expectations set by previous generations.

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