Turkey 1 – 3 Germany – Commitment to attack yields different results

Germany continued their undefeated qualifying campaign with their ninth win in ten matches, beating Turkey in Istanbul for the first time since the early 1980’s. This was Germany’s 14th win in 20 matches against the Turks. Goals from Gomez, Müller, and Schweinsteiger capped off another fine performance from a Germany side really coming into their own ahead of the EUROs next summer.  Guus Hiddink’s side pulled a goal back in the second half but they could not hold off a relentless Germany who were committed to their attacking game from start to finish. Turkey now have to win their last match against Azerbaijdan to make the playoffs and hope that Belgium draw or lose against Germany.

Hiddink started without the influential Emre in midfield and opted for the more defensive minded Aurelio instead of Kazim while Bundesliga players Toprak, Ekici and Torun all failed to make the squad for this game.  Turkey lined up with a 4-3-3 after the goalless draw with Austria, an undaunted statement of intent. Germany were assured qualification prior to the match but coach Joachim Löw stated his desire to win both remaining matches.  Doing so would mean that this would be the first time since 1982 that Germany won all their qualifying matches.  Löw had to do without the sick Kroos and injured Klose and Özil who were replaced by Khedira, Gomez and Götze respectively.  Mertesacker also surprisingly returned to the starting line up in place of Hummels.

Formations and key movement.

Offensive attrition

Boateng and company had to work hard to hold off an aggressive Turkey.

Both sides are known for their direct and aggressive attacking style and it did not take long for the match to produce its first  opportunity.  Turan played former Schalke and Bayern Munich midfielder Altintop past Germany’s center backs and clear on goal, the Turkish captain denied only by a point blank save from Neuer.  It was an early warning sign that Turkey were not going to sit back and grind out a result.  Germany responded adamantly, sending both fullbacks storming forward at every turn. Khedira also played a more offensive role than usual, playing more alongside Götze than next to Schweinsteiger.  As a result, Germany had five players in attack to try and open up a stubborn Turkish defense.  Gomez was brought down in the box on 10 minutes after a cross from Müller but the referee rightfully waived it off.  It set the tone for a competitive and end-to-end half of football.

With both sides attacks canceling each other out, clear goal scoring chances were few and far between for the remainder of the half but both sides were vehement in their approach, never holding back and eager to get forward whenever possible. Hiddink’s three-man midfield did not sit back as the line up may have suggested and did well to support Altintop, Turan and Yilmaz in attack.  The veteran coach’s tactical choice seemed to work as Turkey defended well collectively and prevented Germany from penetrating the box or get behind their defenders. They tightened the space effectively at the back and made sure to not to expose too much space out wide.  Gönul and Balta were more cautious and held their positions well while Aurelio seemed to track Götze, forcing the playmaker to drift wide for most of the match.  Turkey nearly got the games’ first goal after Turan set up Inan in front of the goal after another attack down the right but the Turkish midfielder over hit the ball.

Germany then took the lead on a brilliant counter attack.  After a set piece from Altintop, Neuer threw the ball past the halfway line to the anticipating Müller.  The Bayern player looked up, saw Gomez making a run on the other side of the pitch and sent a long ball across field for his teammate.  The striker did ever so well to control the ball with his first touch, rounded Cetin and blasted the ball past Demirel. Minutes later Gomez and Müller reversed roles as Gomez’s header set up a Müller shot from outside the box, the ball flying centimeters over the bar.

Turkey chase match and Germany capitalize

Löw did well to adjust in the second half.

The second half was much more comfortable for Germany. Löw was not happy with the team’s first half performance and instructed Khedira to play deeper, allowing Germany to hold on to the ball better and try to control the tempo instead of exchanging attacks with Turkey.  Hiddink on the other hand needed to push for the equalizer to get anything out of the match.  That in turn opened up more space for the visitors and more chances were created as a result.  Gomez nearly doubled the lead before the hour mark after he pulled the ball past two defenders, driving a shot into the far corner that was parried away by Demirel.  It quickly turned into a game of risk for Turkey after a giveaway in the middle of the pitch from Sabri put Müller in position to shoot clear on goal, this time going just wide.

Seeing the momentum turn in his favor, Löw brought on the energetic Schürrle for Podolski and Germany instantly looked more aggressive and dangerous. Schürrle’s clever movement and ability to quickly cut in from the left make him a perfect foil for Müller and Götze, allowing the two to interchange positions and be more unpredictable in their play.  Four minutes after his introduction Germany doubled their lead.  Neuer was again at the heart of the goal, sending the ball to Götze on the left, got past Cetin and laid the ball up to the oncoming Müller who drove the ball past Demirel successfully this time.  Germany continued to absorb every Turkish attack and catch them on the counter, Schürrle cutting in from the left twice but having his shot saved by Demirel who turned into Turkey’s busiest player in the second half.

Despite the lead and exciting football, Germany are so entrenched in their attacking philosophy that they inevitably expose themselves defensively regardless of who the opposition is.  In their 10 matches this year, Germany have managed to keep a clean sheet only once, a worrying statistic to say the least. Against Turkey that same negligence nearly got Turkey back into the match as Müller failed to track Balta’s run down the left with plenty of time left to play.  Fortunately Müller made up for the self admitted error and won the penalty that restored Germany’s two-goal lead just five minutes later, Schweinsteiger calmly converting from the spot.

 Final Verdict

Löw did well to adjust in the second half, bringing on Schürrle and asking Khedira to drop deeper after the stalemate in first 45 minutes.  Germany were more in control and the unpredictability of Schürrle made the team more dangerous in the final third.

Regardless of the win and impressive qualifying campaign, balancing their high octane attacking style with a complimentary and disciplined defensive game is Löw’s biggest challenge in the remaining months before the tournament. The high line played by Löw would benefit from defenders who can match the pace of quick strikers and defenders who can cover a lot of ground quickly, making the exclusion of Hummels a questionable one to say the least.  In addition, such a system necessitates not only defenders who read opposing plays but can react just as effectively.  If the qualifiers proved anything it is that Germany’s defensive woes are not down to just individual but also structural grounds with eight different backlines rotate in ten matches and little changing.   Will the plethora of attacking talent suffice as the tournament edges closer? Luckily Löw still has time on his side but the days are ticking away.

Man of the Match

Bastian Schweinsteiger – The Bayern midfielder has slowly but surely resumed the form that made him one of the best in Europe in 2010.  The revitalized form of his club along with the talents of the National Team have made the central midfielder and invaluable and irreplaceable piece of the puzzle.  Against Turkey, Schweinsteiger won the most tackles (18), had the most touches (105) and completed more passes (70) than anyone else on the pitch.  He held his own in the first half as Khedira played a more offensive role and laid the foundation for Germany’s win in the second.  Always available to receive passes and being the key transition player from back to front, Schweinsteiger was the standout player in Istanbul.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari


  1. Löw is pretty linear with his line up so I don’t think we’ll see Götze and Özil playing together too often in the future, certainly not with both starting. It’s a shame because I think both can easily be accommodated because of how flexible, intelligent and technically capable they are.

    As for the Belgium game, I think the line up won’t deviate too much and neither will the game plan. They want to win their last match but the circumstances won’t make it very easy. The first match against Belgium was pretty difficult as well so I expect it to be tight. If I had to predict a result, I’d say it’s a draw.

    Belgium stand a good chance though with Germany’s defense being so frail. If they play well on the counter and send balls behind the defenders they can certainly get a goal or two.

  2. Agreed. Establishing a consistent backline is the most important step Löw has to take in preparing the team for next summer. Can’t continue to rotate back there and expect the defense to improve.

  3. Thanks for a fantastic summary. Do you think that in the future Löw is going to have to choose between one of Özil and Götze, or is he going to try and fit them together in the lineup, as Klopp does with Götze and Kagawa at Dortmund?

    Also, what are your predictions for tomorrow night’s clash with the Belgians? A victory for Belgium will secure them second place, but a loss will allow Turkey to leapfrog them. Do you think that Belgium have any chance, and is Löw likely to ring the changes and allow some of his fringe players a start?

  4. italy concede very few goals not just because of the way they play their attacking game (slow, but methodical and clinical), but its because their backline is already established and just needs tweaking.

    A Juventus core of Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci does the trick for them. With a Maggio/Barzagli/Criscito revolving door for other spots.

    Germany should do the same in choosing a Bayern-heavy backline:
    Neuer-Boateng-Hummels-Badstuber-Lahm sounds good.
    Or one with Beck in as RB. Hoewedes and MErtesacker are good SUBS but not starters yet.

  5. Thank you for the compliment. I would really be nervous about Germany’s chances going into the summer if Löw kept Mertesacker back there. It is not impossible to make it work of course but how many times have either Mertesacker or Badstuber been exposed by quicker strikers like that? A team the calibre and talent of Germany should be able to keep clean sheets regularly and the fact that they’ve only managed one in eleven matches is disconcerting to say the least.

  6. That scene where Boateng had to chase down Yilmaz I think it was, was very concerning. Imagine if Boateng was further up the field and Mertesacker, or Badstuber, had to chase him down. That’s why it is important to have Hummels back there or Boateng, or preferably both.

  7. I think that’s harsh considering where Höwedes was and who he tracked during the play. Positionally that’s where you expect the fullback to be but as is often the case with Lahm, he gets pulled centrally, and it then becomes the job of the midfielder to cover.
    I thought the same originally but on second glance you cannot really blame Bendikt for it.

  8. Thanks Cristian for your match report. You make this place a German Zonal Marking, explaining rather than simply reporting on the flow of a game.

    I also missed Hummels in the line-up and think it’s time for the back-four line-up to settle down.

    No doubt the weeks of preparation prior to the tournament are critical to solidifying the defence, but I’d be relieved if we see things settling down before that.

    Neuer – Our goalie playmaker. Great to watch.

  9. @quaazi

    Yes. I know the page. And e.g. spiegel online, the Bild and ESPN have individual player data coverage with distance, sprints, tackles or coverage of heat maps in their portfolio. But apart from Goal shots and team statistics I do not find any statistics about the national team’s games.

  10. Of course he took blame for it, noone’s going to start blaming his teammates for such an inconsequential goal, let alone the modest Müller. It’d be a real dick move if he didn’t. But taking the blame doesn’t mean that he actually was to blame, you know.

  11. Mueller took the blame for it all up to himself in the interview after the game. That he just was to lazy in this moment and has to give himself a kick in his ass… – he looked pretty exhausted so. I would like to see his distance and sprinting stats but cannot find the values on the usual websites that cover all the data after Bundesliga games.

    In my eyes and after some replays I ask myself why there was 6 “defenders” standing around for 2 opponents and why the offensive midfielder should be the one to take all the blame on himself.

    There was a scene when at a counter he sprinted from the right corner of the opponents box to the left side of own box across all of the field to be the first to defend against a turkish attacker.

    Boateng surprises me this year, too. I did not really rate him so high before but in the right surrounding he seems to flourish. I do not think he will be in the position to pair up with Stubsi as central defender for Germany – hopefully that spot will go to Hummels and not to Mertesacker – but for me he is the best of the choices for the right defender spot there is.

  12. I’m going to blame Höwedes for that goal: he was just wanking around somewhere when it is his, and not the wingers job, to win headers in his own box.

  13. Müller was brilliant, no doubt about it. Khedira and Boateng were strong as well in my opinion. Test of a truly great player is how he recovers from mental lapses like that and Müller’s willpower is above and beyond most veterans even.

  14. My man of the match was Thomas Mueller – took part in all of the four goals.

    Yes – he might have been responsible for the goal of the turkish team – but then you saw the willpower of him to equal that mistake. If they would not have fouled him, I am sure, that this would have been a normal goal or at least an assist. He has done this already 3 times this year out of the same positions on either left or right – 1 goal in Braunschweig, 1 assist to Gomez in Kaiserslautern and the one to Cacau in Poland. That is something mental and I hope we will see this of him in the big games this year, too.

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