German national team battles apathy as fans switch off

November 12, 2020

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Even when the German national team wins, it can lose.

Germany beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in a friendly on Wednesday but the average domestic TV ratings came in below “Cash for Rarities," a show about selling antiques. The average audience of 5.42 million was the lowest for a prime-time men's national team game this century.

That's unsettling for a country which prides itself on its passionate fan culture. The joy from winning the World Cup in 2014 turned to despair during Germany's group-stage exit in 2018. Now apathy reigns amid a mediocre Nations League campaign.

Part of the problem on Wednesday was that the team was anything but antique.

Germany coach Joachim Löw picked a youthful squad and gave seven regulars, including Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos, time off to recover before upcoming Nations League games. New faces like PSV Eindhoven defender Philipp Max and Wolfsburg wing back Ridle Baku don't have the same profile, and the selection was widely described as a “B team” in German media.

Löw is devoted to rebuilding ahead of next year's postponed European Championship, and that has caused friction within Germany.

He dropped the World Cup-winning trio of midfielder Thomas Müller and defenders Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in March 2019 and has remained steadfast about not selecting them again, even though Müller won the Champions League last season and broke the Bundesliga record for assists. Results are middling, with three draws in the last four Nations League games.

“It really hurts me how the young players are treated. I notice it hovering over the team like a dark cloud,” Germany team director Oliver Bierhoff said Monday in a plea for more trust in the rebuild.

Coaches including Löw have warned that top players risk injury from playing too many games amid the coronavirus pandemic, making the empty-stadium friendly against the Czechs seem incongruous.

The Nations League, too, is part of the problem. UEFA's newest competition has caught on in some markets — notably England, which reached the semifinals last year — but not in Germany. The team finished last in its Nations League group in 2018-19 and was set to be relegated but got a reprieve when UEFA changed the format. Little wonder that some fans feel it's a low-stakes competition.

Ahead of Wednesday's friendly,

“We players are just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA with all these additional (competitions) that are invented," Kroos said. "Nobody is asked."

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



share story

Vancouver Whitecaps swing a deal with Nashville SC ahead of MLS SuperDraft The Vancouver Whitecaps flipped second-round draft picks with Nashville SC in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, acquiring a 2021 international...
7 MINS AGO THESTAR.COM
And the cover star for R.B.I. 21 is ... There are few MLB players who have as much fun playing the game as Tim Anderson, so who better to grace the cover of the new installment of...
7 MINS AGO MLB.COM
What's next for Blue Jays after Springer? The Blue Jays got their man on Tuesday, reportedly reaching an agreement on the largest deal in club history with star free-agent outfielder...
7 MINS AGO MLB.COM
Previews and predictions for the NFL conference title games The 2020 NFL season has boiled down to four teams and three games, with the first two taking place on Championship Sunday. Best mismatch for...
7 MINS AGO FANSIDED.COM
NBA Team Payrolls 2021: From the Knicks ($92M) to the Warriors ($173M) See NBA team payrolls for the 2020-21 season from the New York Knicks and OKC Thunder with the lowest to the Golden State Warriors up top.
7 MINS AGO USATODAY.COM