Germany rounded off the calendar year in style, comprehensively beating World Cup runners up, the Netherlands. It was their biggest win against their Dutch rivals since 1959. Klose, Müller and Özil were on target as Löw put Friday’s experiment in the Ukraine behind him and got arguably the best performance since the World Cup out of his team. In what is sure to be the best possible confidence boost ahead of the tournament next summer, Germany’s fluid and interchanging attack was in full effect and too much to handle for an underwhelming Netherlands side.
Löw, in charge of his 75th match as National Team coach, made five changes after the much talked about experiment in Kiev. Neuer, Klose, Müller, Mertesacker and Podolski were all back in the starting line up as Löw reverted back to the standard 4-2-3-1 formation. Van Marwijk had to do without the services of Robben, Van Persie and van der Vaart, depleting him of a significant part of his offense, but Sneijder was passed fit to play and started alongside Braafheid, van Bommel, Mathijsen, Babel and Huntelaar, who have all either played or currently play in the Bundesliga.
Özil – Klose – Müller’s amorphous shape
The first half was essentially a three-man show with Özil, Müller and Klose running the Dutch ragged and ensuring that momentum stayed on Germany’s side throughout. It took just two minutes for the trio to create their first chance after Müller played Klose through on goal, the striker shooting just wide. A slip in concentration from Mertesacker two minutes later set up Huntelaar with a chance of his own but he too failed to place his shot on target. From then on it was smooth sailing for Germany. Khedira did well to keep Sneijder frustrated and Kroos ensured that Özil, Müller and Klose would always receive the ball as soon as Germany regained possession. After 15 minutes the proverbial dam finally burst. As Müller made a run inside, Klose moved out right, ready to receive Kroos’s cross from the left. Instead of hitting it first time Klose calmly laid it off to an oncoming Müller who did not bother to control the ball and blasted it in the bottom right corner.
Müller, Özil and Klose became more in sync as the match progressed and the Dutch had no answers to their fluidity and quick unpredictable movement. On 26 minutes the trio struck again. Müller again moved into the middle, dragging two Dutch players with him and leaving space on the right for Özil to move into. The playmaker collected Müller’s pass and spotted Klose in the box, sending in a delicately weighed pass for the striker to head past a frozen Dutch goalkeeper who could only look on. Klose nearly made it 3-0 ten minutes later but failed to connect with Müller’s cross. They eventually got their third in the second half after Müller pounced on a mistake by De Jong and linked up with Klose to set up Özil. It was another well-crafted moment of ingenuity from a rampant Germany.
The question was how the Dutch could could have allowed Müller, Özil and Klose so much time and space to move around so freely. Özil, who started in the center, created Germany’s second after moving out to the right while Müller, who started on the right, nearly set up the third goal after crossing from the left. All the while, Klose never stood in place despite being Germany’s most advanced player, always dropping back and switching positions with Müller and Özil. The contrast in styles between Gomez and Klose was apparent, with the latter giving Germany an added dimension of invention and movement. It was precisely Klose’s movement and opening up of the game that laid the platform for Özil and Müller’s performances. His excessive tracking back (winning 12 tackles, more than any other Dutch player) and threat going forward (match high 5 shots on goal) are indicative of the all around game he offers. It has to be said that Germany’ were a bit anemic on the left side with Podolski touching the ball just 7 times in the first half and Aogo content to sit in his own half but it was hardly noticeable given how preoccupied the Dutch were with Müller, Özil and Klose on the right.
Van Marwijk rues lack of creativity
Van Marwijk noted the importance of his creative players and their absence after the match saying, “I don’t want to hide behind the fact that a few players were missing, but these creative players normally make the difference for us.” The Netherlands, renowned for their attacking prowess (scoring more goals in qualifying than any other side) were particularly feeble going forward but their primary problems were further down the pitch. Strootman, so impressive in his recent matches with the team, failed to win a single challenge in the center and was thoroughly outplayed by his midfield counterpart, Khedira. In the first 45 minutes the Dutch won a combined 10 tackles, as much as Khedira alone. Khedira’s performance was in fact a significant reason for Germany’s dominant performance, winning a match high 15 tackles overall and covering exceptionally in defense.
The notion that the Dutch rely perhaps too much on the creativity of certain players did gain some credibility after this match. Kuyt, for all his industry, was always a foil to his creative counterparts and Babel is too direct in his approach to be counted on as a playmaker. With Sneijder the only seasoned creative player out there it was never going to be easy. Whereas Germany appear to have an abundance of creative players available, the Dutch relied too much on their #10 with few alternatives on the bench. The Dutch were more aggressive and composed in the second half but still failed to get into the game and created next to no chances. The return of Van Persie, Robben and Afellay should alleviate those concerns though should they maintain their fitness but it begs the question, what are Van Marwijk’s alternatives against a side like Germany?
Final Verdict – Germany can look back on a great year
Although it was just a friendly, the result is nothing to trivialize. The Netherlands have not lost by such a margin since 1996 and as alluded to earlier, it was Germany’s biggest win over the Dutch in over 50 years. An emphatic win against one of the tournament favorites and best sides in the world speaks of the progress made by this young side, adding to their impressive performances against Brazil, Uruguay and Italy earlier this year.
Löw used the match to reflect on Germanys year, “We can be very satisfied, not only with the match, but with the whole year. We played with a lot of enthusiasm and showed good combination play, were especially good in midfield and offense and seldom allowed the Dutch to get into dangerous positions.” The most worrying thing about Germany this year was their rotating backline and Löw’s apparent indecision as to who to go with. This was only Germany’s second clean sheet in 13 matches this year but in that year a host of young players have gained experience and slowly but surely that shakiness is being resolved. The fact that Löw’s biggest problem ahead of the tournament is the selection between a plethora of talented players is telling of the team’s progress and development over the last year.
Images courtesy of bundesliga.de
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