Emre Can let go of the first, second as well, and even the third couldn’t stop him. Then he was gone. The German national football player was already wearing civilian clothes, a black jacket, black trousers and a black woolen hat, and all attempts by journalists to get a few words out of him came to nothing. “Not today,” said the Dortmund midfielder, who had been the man of the evening, at least on the German side.
He was not intended for this role. Because unlike at the weekend, in the 2-0 win against Peru, Can was only on the bench against Belgium. But after just 30 minutes he was sent onto the field by national coach Hansi Flick, together with international debutant Felix Nmecha. Because the German national team had tumbled across the lawn up until then in a way that a German national team hadn’t tumbled across the lawn for a long time.
“After that, a lot more took hold,” said center forward Niclas Füllkrug. The causal link to Can’s substitution was obvious. Can gave the team support, he ensured balance and created a stability on the basis of which the Germans became more dangerous on the offensive from then on. “We won a lot more duels. Everything stands or falls with that,” said Füllkrug.
Nmecha also played his part in this. He was more present in the first three minutes than Florian Wirtz had been in the thirty minutes before he was substituted. In addition to the Leverkusen player, the ailing Leon Goretzka, who had previously formed the double six with Joshua Kimmich, also had to leave the field.
For Flick, the national coach with a Bayern past, the two Bavarians are still something of a natural fit for central midfield. In the 2: 3 against the Belgians, however, they were not the solution, but the problem. And not for the first time.
Above all, Kimmich and Goretzka think the game forward. They have a strong sense of being creative and repeatedly ignore the essential sense of danger. “Both have enormous qualities,” said Flick. Nobody disputes that. But maybe it’s not the ones his team needs in this position.
On Tuesday she needed someone like Emre Can, who turned out to be the perfect counter-model to the more artistically inclined Kimmich/Goretzka double six. Can did his defensive job, not only in the most unpretentious way; he also did it with great pleasure.
“I tried to do what I do best: be active and present in duels to help the team,” said the midfielder at ARD. Central defender Thilo Kehrer praised the fact that Can had brought in the virtues it needed, the necessary duel toughness: “It’s important to assert oneself.”
Flick missed the lust for the ball
It was precisely this assertiveness that the team lacked at the beginning of the game. “We wanted to surprise the Germans, shock them in the first few minutes,” said Domenico Tedesco, the Belgians’ German national coach. The shock could hardly have been greater.
In this phase, Flick missed “the lust for the ball”. His team only developed it when Can was on the field. “You have to say that he showed what defensive quality he has after coming on,” explained the national coach. “He was, if you will, the aggressive leader we needed. He won a lot of duels and also shook the team up a bit.”
This is how Emre Can became the first winner of the restart after the messed up World Cup. For the international matches against Peru and Belgium, he was nominated for the first time during Hansi Flick’s tenure. His comeback after almost two years was not spectacular news. But precisely because the 29-year-old doesn’t focus on spectacles, he’s good for the team.
Even against Peru, the performance after the break without Can was significantly weaker than it was with him before the break. The game against Belgium fueled the suspicion that there might already have been a connection.
Since Kimmich, especially as captain, finds it difficult to curb his thirst for recognition, it helps him to have a player at his side who thinks defensively when in doubt. “The interplay worked well, I liked that,” said Flick about the Kimmich/Can combination. “Because there was just a responsibility on the defensive.”
After the defeat against Belgium, the national coach was asked whether the game showed that the national team needed a clear six. “That’s right,” he replied.
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Brayden White, a veteran sports writer at Global Happening, brings his wealth of knowledge and expertise to the sports section. With over a decade of experience, he is committed to delivering high-quality coverage of the latest games and events.