ORLANDO – It’s quite a rare feat to see the likes of Germany finish bottom of the table at any major tournament. The SheBelieves Cup may be a friendly tournament, but nevertheless Germany is none too familiar with a last-place standing, and a minus-4 goal differential. France floundered against England, but rebounded with 3-0 win over Germany, after a 1-1 draw vs. the United States.
Now, Germany coach Steffi Jones is left to assess the damage.
“I think we are on track,” Jones said in New Jersey after the middle leg of the tournament. “It’s tough when you have a federation that wants you to win every game. It’s kind of hard making young players grow into it, and also knowing that they want to see wins. I think we are on track. When I see last year and this year, we have been doing another step forward. I feel like we’re on the way, but it’s still a long way since we’re having new players coming, and others injured. It’s always a different team.
“It’s the first time here, that I have one team for three days that I can let them play three games. I think we have the roster, and will try to get young ones after the U-20 World Cup. We will get five to six players up. I will hope the younger ones we have now will have more experience, and then you have the other ones coming up. It’s a really (big) change, and experience they have to make. These are world best teams. If you don’t try it now, if you’re not encouraged then when do you want to try it? I’m truly happy, and I feel like we’re on track. I hope that I get the time to develop this young team.”
This has been a brutal SheBelieves Cup for Germany — and head coach Steffi Jones, who also endured the disappointing Euro showing last summer as well.
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) March 7, 2018
We know that Steffi Jones’s squad can certainly create enough opportunities to score goals, but keeping them out of the net is an entirely different matter. Not since Nadine Angerer has Germany had an outstanding shot-stopper. Now the Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper coach, Angerer covered up a lot of mistakes in front of her back line. She isn’t coming back.
The once strong-willed back four of a German defense is non-existent. The noticeable absence of VfL Wolfsburg’s Babett Peter was felt. The defender suffered a right Achilles tendon injury against the U.S. and was sent back to Germany to recover.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 2, 2018
Jones had to turn to a young, inexperienced back line featuring Jacqueline Klasen (3 caps), Johanna Elsig (5 caps), Sara Doorsoun (12 caps), Kathrin Hendrich (24 caps), Anna Blasse (26 caps), Verena Faißt (37 caps) and veteran Leonie Maier (61 caps).
Germany was carved apart in the second half against France. It’s a tall order to ask Klasen, in her third cap, to cover someone like Eugenie Le Sommer. It’s not often that Klasen is going to win that matchup. Valerie Gauvin and Le Sommer set up the final goal of the match when they snuck behind Klasen and Hendrich on a ball over the top on the flank.
“It was bad luck, this goal for us.” Klasen said of the Le Sommer’s header. “We compacted on the one side, and it was one step too much forward, too far away.”
Since taking over for Silvia Neid in August 2016, Jones has learned day by day and grown as a coach. As a former international player she’s finding that things aren’t always the same from when she played. She wants to make sure she is putting her players in the best possible position to succeed.
“I learn everyday and I learn in each practice,” Jones revealed. “I learn in each game more about my team. As a coach, I feel like I know what the players need, how they tick, how they think, and then I’m surprised when I see we’re not all the same. It’s like (don’t expect what you thought as a player, they do know also). It’s lots of talking, watching. I’m a person that’s very perceptive. I’m a person that watches very much. I’m sensitive in seeing things. That’s why I always ask myself, did I do me best? Was the practice good? What can I do better, or we (do better)? I’m always learning, everyday, and I’m not perfect.”
People were talking about Corinne Diarce being under pressure.
It might now be Steffi Jones that is in trouble. #SheBelievesCup
— Fire The Bellas (@bainalan05) March 7, 2018
Jones wants to see her players grow and develop, but it’s not that simple. Germany has always known winning, and nothing less. Trying to rebuild and shift focus to a new generation amidst retiring and injured players isn’t always easy. While the loss to France wasn’t ideal, there were at least some positives which Jones was able to find.
“We try to give Lea Schuller the time and she’s learning,” Jones said postmatch. “That’s great to have that opportunity. Kathrin (Hendrich), and Johanna (Elsig), these are two that will get more and more games. These games are really important like you say. I think that they did a good job. Even Sara Doorsoun did a great job, but as a team, it’s not a enough.”
If Germany is going to reach new heights it could very well be in Europe. There have been rumblings that Germany is ready to bow out of any future SheBelieves Cup tournaments. The travel, weather, and playing conditions haven’t been up to standards.
“I don’t know yet. I don’t know even know if I’m still the coach next year,” Jones told The Equalizer. “We’ll see. We will go back now. There are things that should be done here, so you don’t have to go from city to city. Stay in one town. These are things that other people will talk about. I would say as a coach these games are very useful. You get a lot of values out of it. From the sporting side it is a really good thing, but not good having these traveling things.”
It’s been an uncharacteristic SheBelieves Cup for France and Germany. Les Bleues came back to life after England dismantled them, and Germany’s form dropped off. If Steffi Jones is to remain in charge, she’s going to need patience, and time to help integrate younger players into Germany’s mentality.