The further into football the All or Nothing franchise has gone, the less interesting it has become. The three series featuring Premier League teams each had their moments, some of which now enjoy eternal life on social media, but they were mainly what they were always likely to be – high-gloss marketing affairs that showed their audience where the curtain was, but did not actually lead them through it.

By comparison, the latest edition, which follows the German national team’s doomed 2022 World Cup campaign in Qatar, is relatively unvarnished. It may not be The Impossible Job or Orient: Club for a Fiver, but by 2023’s standards, it is more believable than most.

The great challenge with all sport documentaries is that, generally, everyone already knows the outcome. Fortunately for European viewers, especially those who did not pay week-to-week attention to the NFL, the early AoNs had an element of suspense.

Maybe the Arizona Cardinals would win the Super Bowl?

Given the visibility of a World Cup, this series was never going to have the same privilege. Everybody watching knows that Germany are sailing, episode by episode, towards disaster. As a result, much of the drama is like watching the first 10 minutes of Casualty.

Interestingly, the players seem to know that too. By AoN standards, there are few high-jinks. Joshua Kimmich has angry disagreements with Niklas Sule and Antonio Rudiger and Kimmich himself admits that “a team of 11 Joshua Kimmichs” probably would not function that well.

Germany’s World Cup was a disaster – and it is great to watch (Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

There are some tender moments around the hotel and some compelling scenes with the analytical staff, too, but there are many missing AoN staples. There is no camera-hungry kitman. There is no coach endlessly shouting and swearing at his players. And though there are a few too many cliches — the call to prayer plays over a desert vista one too many times — this is not just another AoN that was intended to leave you with a vested interest in what this team does in the future. Rather, it becomes an account of how factors beyond sport can grip a team and destroy much of its life.

This is not necessarily a bad thing — from an entertainment perspective, at least. The series starts in the post-Euro 2020 gloom, with Hansi Flick’s appointment as head coach and many promises of fresh starts and new beginnings.

Germany, we hear, are determined to be the best team in the world again. It is never made entirely clear how they might work to achieve that aim, but then the rest of the series is not much about football either — instead, the preparation for games and the World Cup matches themselves are just the interludes. Often, they are the light relief.

The controversy over the One Love armband is central. The cameras capture the response of the German players as they see other countries threatened with sanctions. Following that lead, they perform their own U-turn. You can see Oliver Bierhoff’s frustration at what he believes is the wilful misunderstanding of the German media. Manual Neuer’s growing bewilderment with the situation is also captured. As is a frantic, back-of-the-coach media briefing before a press conference, in which Kimmich, Flick and the press officer try to figuratively lead each other through the dark and to a place where they can “just focus on the football”.

Hansi Flick’s arrival brought hope (Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Back home, the reaction is somewhere between venomous and indifferent, as the public express their sense of betrayal and shout down camera lenses. Ultimately, Germans turned off the World Cup in record numbers — between 2018 and 2022, the national audience dropped by around 16 million viewers.

In episode two, the team become aware of that mood and Flick even holds a team meeting to discuss it, promising that it will change once Germany start winning. The viewer knows that will never happen. The players catch the mood and that sense of isolation is a running theme throughout the series.

All or Nothing has long treated its subjects as superhuman. It loves sculpted athletes who sign enormous contracts and live in impossibly beautiful houses. The seduction it employs is usually the fairytale world of professional sport itself, where even losing looks pretty fantastic. This time, it really does not.

Instead, this is just a story of young men caught in an extraordinary situation. Leon Goretzka tells the camera that, no, he really would prefer it if the World Cup occurring in his prime was not being held in Qatar. There is also an affecting scene in which the players discuss the first tournaments they can remember and describe their favourite moments from them — Oliver Kahn’s performances in 2002, the national euphoria of 2006 — while betraying the fact that they know that 2022 will not provoke the same joy.

There is no attempt to minimise the challenges, difficulties or complications of Qatar. Rather, it is the dominant theme. Many of the group shots show the players being led around with a look of bewilderment, unsure quite of how to behave. In another, one of the team analysts remarks upon just how little excitement there is before the game against Japan and observes that every discussion he hears ends in a debate over “what the right thing to do” is.

There are a few glimpses of the footballing dynamics. The Niclas Fullkrug subplot that culminates in his goal against Spain is briefly stirring. The openness of some of the debates over Germany’s structure and defensive style are also interesting, but show just how tactically malleable the team really was. The scene in which Flick asks Nico Schlotterbeck for his ‘thoughts’ on Japan’s late winner is deeply uncomfortable. So, yes, there are the usual voyeuristic moments, but not of the kind that regular All or Nothing viewers will be used to.

The same is true for the whole series. It is different. It is not an advert. It will not make you want to support the German national team. It will not compel you to move to Germany. In fact, it makes representing your country at a World Cup look utterly miserable.

But it is probably better television for that.

(Top photos: Getty Images)