Five conclusions about…Germany
Many hoped that this game would see (yet another) new generation of German internationals. In particular, the group of youngsters that have taken Dortmund to the top of the table – Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender and Kevin Grosskreutz were expected to feature. As it turned out, Jogi Löw chose pretty much last year’s World Cup side, with two changes in defence. The front six was very familiar.
Whilst stability in international sides is important and the starting XI’s understanding will have got even better, it was a shame that we didn’t see any new faces from the start, and from the point of view of experimentation, this was something of a missed opportunity for Germany. Raphael Honigstein suggests that the desire to beat Italy took precedence over using the friendly to test new options.
Italy fielded four players in the centre of midfield, making it difficult for Germany to counter-attack through the centre of the pitch, as they did so well at last summer’s World Cup. The intelligence and good positional play of the Italian central midfielders meant Germany looked far less dangerous when they tried to break, and emphasised how tactically naive Australia, England and Argentina were when being torn apart in South Africa.
We shouldn’t give in to revisionism – Germany were tremendous at the World Cup and could only beat the opposition placed in front of them – but against a structured, disciplined side like Spain last summer or Italy here, they are not as effective.
Still, the German side is comprised of individuals with a lot of footballing intelligence themselves. Whether natural or because of good direction from their manager, Germany always seem to know how to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Mesut Ozil’s runs off the ball are consistently phenomenal, whilst the full-backs scampered down the line to take advantage of having no direct opponents – Lahm’s move forward started the move for the Germany goal.
They also defend very cleverly as a unit. Take the defensive qualities of the German midfielders individually and you’ll be somewhat underwhelmed, but they retreat into two banks of four quickly, and break down opposition attacks by closing down and not diving into tackles.
Slight change in style?
It’s difficult to know whether it was a deliberate German strategy or because (as mentioned above) Italy were solid in the centre of midfield, but there seemed to be more of an emphasis upon ball retention than in South Africa. There, they were an unquestionably counter-attacking side (helped by early goals against England and Argentina, which forced the opposition forward), but here they were more patient with their build-up play.
Maybe this was a lesson from Spain, maybe this is in line with Bayern, who are sometimes extremely patient with the ball this season, but both sides focused on ball retention in this match.
Germany looked tired late on. There are many potential explanations for this – (a) it was a friendly, (b) many of the players will have had one eye on their upcoming domestic games, in particular the Champions League (c) the pitch looked poor and (d) at 1-0 up they were more likely to sit back anyway.
However, it’s worth considering how many of these players need a rest. The majority were included in the World Cup squad, and with a good few being involved in the 2009 Under-21 Championships, and others enduring an extremely long season with Bayern in 2009/10, a feeling of collective tiredness shouldn’t come as a surprise.Five conclusions about…Germany