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.
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
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.
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.
Latest posts by Cristian Nyari (see all)
- Bundesliga Hinrunde Best XI - December 27, 2014
- Löw: “We can play better, we haven’t reached our best yet” - June 29, 2014
- Thomas Müller: “The best is yet to come from us” – Germany’s dominant win against the US - June 27, 2014