World Cup winners Germany lose - but don’t press the panic button yet
It’s the first time Germany have failed to score in an international match since the 2010 World Cup semi-final
The World Cup winners were disposed of at the national stadium in Warsaw with Poland securing a smash-and-grab 2-0 win with two goals in the second-half.
It’s the first time Germany have failed to score in a competitive international match since the 2010 World Cup semi-final – and the Germans have lost two games since winning the world’s biggest prize in July.
Poland have endured a torrid myriad of defeats at the hands of the Germans – they hadn’t won in 18 previous attempts. A 7-0 win over Gibraltar kept the Poles top of the group on goal difference, but taking anything from the match against Germany would be nothing short of miraculous considering the DFB-team’s near-impenetrable international record. The Germans hadn’t lost a qualifier away from home since 1998.
Poland landed two devastating sucker punches on the counterattack, with former Bayer Leverkusen and Augsburg striker Arkadiusz Milik beating the clumsy Manuel Neuer to Lukas Piszczek’s cross in the 52nd minute. Germany’s 29 shots on goal – 10 of which blocked, a sign of Poland’s defensive dominance – came to nothing. The hosts charged up field with five minutes to go and finished the job.
Mixed emotions for Joachim Low:
Germany’s last Euro 2016 qualifier was a turgid and hard-fought 2-1 win against Scotland. It raised enough concerns considering the match came shortly after a 4-1 trouncing at the hands of Argentina, the defeated World Cup finalists.
On that night, it was the Angel di Maria show, an outstanding, individual performance, while Germany floundered in attack with little cohesion, or effective combinations.
But in Warsaw, Germany improved significantly; one could even argue that it was one of the better performances in qualification that the DFB-team have played under their current head coach of eight years.
The 29 shots on goal was a strong indicator of the rhythm of the game – Germany were dominant, made strong transitions and carved open enough shooting opportunities.
Karim Bellarabi, who turned down Morocco to play for the German team, appeared for the first-time and was a lively performer, bringing momentum and dynamism from the right-hand side. The Berlin-born forward had Germany’s first clear sight of goal in the first-half when he roamed across the pitch to the left.
In possession, the world champions were almost flawless: just 60 passes from 564 were misplaced and similarly 40 from 192 in the final-third. The positions on the wing held by Andre Schurrle of Chelsea seemed to increase the room for Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller to work in.
But Germany did everything, but score. Sometimes football appears harder to quantify when Poland converted two of their five efforts on goal, aided by a rare individual mistake from the world’s best goalkeeper. Was it just one of those days?
A gem in Christoph Kramer:
Moments before the biggest and most high-pressure match in world football, the world – or those unfamiliar with German football – heard a new name: Christoph Kramer. The 23-year-old had been playing lower league football less than 12 months before. An influential debut season in Germany’s top division at Borussia M’Gladbach impressed enough for a spot in the World Cup final.
Since then, the clamour for Kramer to be a regular in the German team have grown. Of course, the absence of Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger have facilitated room for the Gladbach midfielder to pull on his national-team shirt – but he’s earned that through his own, consistent performances.
Kramer continues to be a rock in midfield for his club side. He’s the complete modern midfielder: dynamic, with exceptional athletic capabilities and yet, a really intelligent presser and passer of the ball.
Tonight, he teamed up with Toni Kroos of Real Madrid in the defensive axis. The pair might have similar styles, but Kramer stamped his authority on the game from the off and was an outstanding performer for well over 60 minutes. His parent club, Bayer Leverkusen, where Kramer will return at the end of the season must be licking their lips at the prospect of such a player returning.
Lonely at the top:
Without Germany’s more recent striking options – Mario Gomez and the retired Miroslav Klose – it was left to Muller of Bayern Munich to lead the attack. He wasn’t exactly a “false nine” and wasn’t isolated considering Germany’s contained pressure in the last-third; there were times Schurrle moved centrally to join him.
But can Muller’s qualities be better used? He’s a “space investigator”, according to the German media, and operates more efficiently from a less functional role in the team. He operates on the periperhary of the game and before you know it, he’ll pop up in the most dangerous of positions in attack.
As a centre-forward, he’s inefficient: he’s not aerially brilliant, nor is he a six-yard-box poacher. That remains a problem area for the German team, as it did when Gomez fluffed several chances against Argentina.
One could look at Kevin Volland, the current German U-21 captain and Hoffenheim attacker, as a potential, long-term option – but his form hasn’t set the heather on fire this season. Max Kruse, Gladbach’s in-form attacker, looks to be the perfect fit: he’s strong, versatile, yet can be a direct option, if needed. He’s an outstanding combination player, as well.
Ireland looks to be a similar proposition, meanwhile, in midweek. Any point for the Irish would be huge in their quest for a spot at the 2016 European Championships. As highlighted many times, even before the current World Cup, Germany’s lack of a direct outball in attack might prove costly against opponents who will stifle the amount of space to play in.
The World Cup win in the Maracana feels fairly long in the past after the last three matches. Some will call it a World Cup hangover; others will consider Germany’s credentials as a long-term superpower – but maybe, just maybe, on this occasion, the world champions had a bad day at the office.
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