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The German defense around Nico Schlotterbeck (l) and Niklas Süle (r) was not safe against Japan. © Christian Charisius/dpa

Who is to blame for the World Cup false start? The BVB defenders Süle and Schlotterbeck are under criticism. National coach Flick has to find new defensive solutions against Spain after his wrong move.

Al-Shamal – Nico Schlotterbeck shrugged. Niklas Süle said nothing. The Borussia Dortmund defenders couldn’t hide their frustration at their botched start at the World Cup.

After the unusually open criticism from colleague Ilkay Gündogan and the verbal smack from Rio world champion Bastian Schweinsteiger, even Hansi Flick found it difficult the day after the national soccer team’s 2-1 draw against Japan, attributing responsibility to his defenders for the blatant false start in Qatar conceal.

“We can prevent the two goals differently, we have to prevent them differently,” said the national coach, without saying the names of Schlotterbeck and Süle. Gündogan had relentlessly named the deficits with his clear words and was not called back by Flick. “Especially the second goal, I don’t know if an easier goal has ever been scored at a World Cup. That must not happen,” said the goalscorer.

Sobering defense record

Slept and dawdled. And with both goals conceded, was the public indictment. Flick cannot afford scapegoats before the duel with final character against Spain’s impressive goal factory. It is precisely then that a functioning defensive system will be particularly important in order to prevent a quick World Cup knockout. A sobering defensive record raises doubts: In the past nine international matches, Oman have only gone 1-0 at the back – and with plenty of luck.

Flick will ignore the fact that after the wobbly appearance in the final phase in the Chalifa Stadium, the name of Mats Hummels came up again as an allegedly missing World Cup element as an inevitable media reflex. Süle and Schlotterbeck’s 33-year-old club colleague could have done even less against the high pace of the Japanese.

Complicity inevitably rests with the national coach. Flick was well aware that his defensive move with Süle at right-back and Schlotterbeck as Antonio Rüdiger’s sidekick at headquarters had gone wrong. “We didn’t do a good job in terms of tactics either,” admitted the 57-year-old. However, “Niki (Süle) trained well and did well in training,” Flick explained his decision.

The exculpatory arguments put forward by Flick and Schlotterbeck, that the late defense problems would have been irrelevant had the chances been better exploited when the score was 1-0, sounded like helpless relativization. ARD expert Schweinsteiger had already made his devastating World Cup verdict on the two hapless Dortmunders.

Harsh words

Süle in particular, who had loudly proclaimed a leadership role for his second World Cup tournament, had to put up with harsh words. “It’s a classic, really serious defensive mistake,” he said of his poor positional play before Ritsu Doan equalized with Japan. And followed up: “The mistake should never happen,” he said to the goat before the second goal by Takuma Asano, when Süle canceled the offside and Schlotterbeck only ran after the Bochum Bundesliga professional in vain.

Flick took a risk with his line-up. Süle-Schlotterbeck, this formation had recently revealed weaknesses at BVB in the Bundesliga. Schlotterbeck’s still young national team career is riddled with breakdowns despite all tactical promises such as the vertical opening of the game. He owed three penalties in his only six international matches before his World Cup debut. And he is always involved when things regularly go wrong in the DFB team, especially in the final stages. “We have to somehow get our heads up and try to win the second game,” said the 22-year-old.

What options does Flick have? Schlotterbeck should sit on the bench against Spain, Süle should move back to the head office. Thilo Kehrer on the right would be the logical alternative. Safety first is announced. Flick is not thinking of a radical change like moving Joshua Kimmich back to the back four or switching to a 3-4-3. “We’re not ready to change our system yet,” said the national coach. dpa

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