LONDON (Reuters) -Germany returned home on Wednesday following their Euro 2020 last-16 defeat by England, with departing coach Joachim Loew at the centre of fierce criticism after another early tournament elimination.
Loew, who had a contract to 2022 but following several bad results decided in March to leave after the Euros, should have gone much earlier, many people believe.
"It is too early to analyse what worked and what didn't," Loew told a news conference on Wednesday, back in the squad's Bavarian base. "Some things worked really well, some not."
"What I know in these four and half weeks we invested everything we had. Going into detail now about what went wrong makes little sense for me. I take full responsibility for yesterday's defeat and the early tournament exit."
Germany's shock 2018 World Cup exit and their inaugural Nations League relegation that year had stunned fans who demanded change from the man who led them to the 2014 World Cup title.
But Loew's overhaul was never completed, cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic and poor results, including a 6-0 loss to Spain and a home defeat by North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier.
Despite many changes to his squad in the last three years, Loew opted for a playing style that players were not used to at their clubs, with a three-man defence.
"Sobering. Unconscious," said former Germany captain Michael Ballack of the team's 2-0 loss to England on Tuesday at Wembley.
"It was clear from the first half that there were no solutions, that we pulled back for no reason. We did too little and made it easy for them. I don't know why the coach waited so long to change systems."
The question on many German fans' minds is whether Loew's stubbornness reduced the four-times world and three-times European champions to tournament also-rans.
The same issue concerns not deploying Joshua Kimmich in a central midfield role and the use of Thomas Mueller in an unusual attacking position as well as the three-man backline.
"That three-man defence, I think, never managed to convince us that it can provide defensive stability and stop chances for the opponents," said Germany's Under-21 coach Stefan Kunz.
"That was a defensive problem that we have been carrying through the entire tournament."
Germany fell behind in each of the four games they played in the tournament and barely made a mark up front.
From an aggressive, attacking style of play that captivated fans at the 2010 World Cup and dazzled them on their way to the title in Brazil four years later, Loew has managed to chip away at his own legacy in recent years.
The Euro exit, many German fans hope, will mark the end of that slide.
His successor and former assistant Hansi Flick has his work cut out as he looks to restore Germany's football pride in time for next year's World Cup.
"Hansi Flick will have little time to prepare. There are soon three international matches coming up," said national team director Oliver Bierhoff.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann,Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)