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The Telegraph

How Germany were torn apart by Spain – and what it means for the future of a mighty nation

In the aftermath of the footballing bloodbath, Oliver Bierhoff compared Germany’s 6-0 defeat by Spain to his country’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. Yes, really. It was that bad for the Germans, whose humiliation was described by Der Spiegel as their biggest debacle since 1931. Bierhoff, the German national team director, could only express his hope that it was a “singular event”. He insisted that manager Joachim Low retains their trust, even claiming that the game “changes nothing”. Time will tell on that. For now, Germany are still trying to come to terms with how 90 minutes of football could go so badly wrong for so many players of world-class ability. After all, this was no reserve side. Their starting lineup included Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Timo Werner, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane. Low’s attempted explanation afterwards certainly brought to mind that defeat of Brazil in 2014, when the home side’s defenders lost their heads in a swirl of emotion and panic. “We threw away our concept after the 1-0,” Low said. “We stormed out of position, opened spaces. There was no organisation. There was no communication. Every aspect was bad. It was a dark, dark day.” The nature of the goals, especially in the second half when Spain ran through again and again, brought to mind Liverpool’s recent drubbing at Aston Villa. That 7-2 loss was evidently a freak result, but there are similarities between the two defeats. In short, this is what happens when pressing goes wrong. As the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich have shown in recent seasons, a slick system of intensive pressing is perhaps the most effective way to win games in the modern era. But with those high rewards come genuine risks. The key to an effective pressing system, according to Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick, is “complete unity”. Pep Lijnders, Jurgen Klopp’s assistant at Liverpool, says it requires all 11 players to operate with “one mind”. The consequence of this is that, if even one player fails to fulfil his individual role, the system falls apart. Press the wrong player at the wrong time, and the game-plan crumbles to pieces. Defences are suddenly exposed by their high lines, trying and failing to protect an entire half against attackers with space to run into and the pace to cause chaos.