Germany 2 – 0 Israel – Germany pass final test before EUROs

Germany capped off their EURO preparation with a much improved performance over last Saturday’s disappointing loss to Switzerland. Goals from Gomez and substitute Schürrle rounded off a routine win although against a visibly weaker opponent. It will give Germany a much needed confidence boost before their opener against Portugal on June 9th.

Formations and Lineups

Löw fielded the same eleven that is expected to play against Portugal. Schweinsteiger is still nursing a calf injury so in his place started Kroos. Löw also kept faith in Mertesacker despite his poor form as of late and lack of match practice, leaving Hummels on the bench. Boateng and Lahm returned to their expected right and left fullback positions while the Bayern contingent of Gomez, Neuer and Müller also started after joining the training camp earlier this week.

It was only Germany’s fourth match against Israel, their last also a friendly back in 2002 before the World Cup. Germany scored 7 in one half on that day including a hattrick from Klose who started on the bench for this game. The 4-2-3-1 was resumed after the failed 4-1-4-1 against Switzerland, with an obvious eye on an improved defensive performance. Their opponents too fielded a 4-2-3-1 with Kaiserslautern striker Shechter spearheading the attack.

The Match

Unlike Switzerland on Saturday, Israel was more passive in their approach. They were more reserved going forward and kept most of their players behind the ball. It’s fair to say they were hoping to catch Germany on the break and take the game to them that way. As it were, Germany had the bulk of the possession (61% of it in the end) as well as most of the goal scoring chances. Israel only managed 4 to Germany’s 23 by the end of the match.

All that possession allowed Germany to slowly but surely find their rhythm and after probing and probing Israel’s backline in the first 15 minutes they finally broke through. Boateng picked up on a loose ball in the 19th minute, dribbled inside from the right and released a shot that beat goalkeeper Harosh but not the post, just barely missing out on his first international goal. It was difficult for Germany to continually break through though with Israel defending with as many as 8 men at times and Kroos tried his luck from distance several times but lacked his usual accuracy.

With so much pressure applied to Israel’s backline it was only a matter of time before Germany scored though and after he came close in the 34th minute Gomez got the opener. Khedira, who was having an excellent game, picked up the ball just outside the box and played it in to Müller who flicked the ball to Gomez with his heel. The Bayern striker made no mistake this time, controlling the ball and forcefully burying it in the back of the net.

Germany were much more precise in their passing

No changes were made at the half, Löw obviously wanting as much match practice as possible for his preferred eleven and the longer the players were on the field the more fluid they became. Vermouth provided Israel with their first real opportunity with a shot from distance that grazed Lahm’s leg but Neuer parried it over the bar. Other than that Germany were rarely troubled and their backline seldom tested. A flurry of chances followed for the hosts with Özil, Podolski and Müller all coming close but not being able to double the lead. The wasteful finishing came to a halt when Schürrle was brought on for Podolski in the 67th minute.

Schürrle instantly introduced a higher degree of threat and penetration. His understanding with Özil, Kroos and Müller was again on display as were his trademark cuts inside. Germany’s second came from such a move after the Leverkusen player turned from the left into the center and released a wicked shot from 20 meters out that beat Harosh to the top left corner. It was his fourth goal in eight appearances off the bench.

Despite the lack of a proper challenge in this match there were some notable improvements, namely the confidence and greater degree of fluidity throughout the team. Even though it was primarily due to a lack of pressure from the opponent, Germany’s passing in their half was significantly better. Whereas Germany misplaced 14% of their passes against Switzerland, only 9% failed to meet their target against Israel. Germany were also more proactive in recovering the ball once they lost it with up to 6 or 7 players actively pressing Israel in their own half, also an indication of the players upturn in fitness.

If one were to pick out some shortcomings it would be Germany’s initial trouble in breaking down Israel’s compact defense, reminiscent of Bayern’s troubles against Chelsea in the Champions League final. Müller and Podolski were unnecessarily wide at times in a game where there was little threat from the Israeli flanks but it had few consequences other than limiting Germany’s game a bit. Another criticism may be aimed at Germany’s weakness in midfield, down more to Schweinsteiger’s absence of course. With Kroos performing below par it was again down to Khedira to bear the brunt of the defensive work all while also trying to link defense and attack. While he did a formidable job in that role it did put him at a disadvantage and unsurprisingly, Israel actually won a majority of the duels in this match (a very high 60%). That is something that will no doubt have greater consequences against better sides.

Germany could done better in their duels

Final Verdict

With Schürrle’s performances since his debut almost two years ago it is going to become increasingly difficult for Löw to justify a starting position for Podolski. Schürrle scored his 7th goal in 14 matches against Israel. With many of his goals coming in cameos off the bench Löw might just see him as Germany’s ideal joker but it is hard to deny the chemistry, technical abilities and impact he has had every time he has played.

On the same note, Löw still has some big decisions to make regarding the backline and if he will indeed stick with Mertesacker against a faster and more dynamic Portuguese attack. Despite a comfortable outing, Germany’s defense overall still remains a question mark. This was only their second clean sheet in the last 14 matches, both of which came in friendlies. Furthermore, is Kroos, for all his abilities and great for this season, the ideal partner for Khedira in such a vital part of the pitch? Only time will tell but a group of death is certainly not the most ideal scenario for a team with so many questions up in the air.

Reactions

Joachim Löw: It was a very routine test which will give us some momentum. We’re not quite at our best yet but a win is important going into next week’s game. Overall we have to do better with our goal scoring opportunities. The organization was better but there is still work to do.

Philipp Lahm: We had some good combinations even though not everything was perfect but the win was important. It’s normal that not everything worked today since we’ve only had two weeks to play together. But we’ve shown in the last couple of years that we can do really well. The important thing is that we make it through the first match. We have tremendous quality in the squad and we just have to show it.

Per Mertesacker: I’m very happy that we’ve won, especially that we kept a clean sheet. The two games were very important for me. We weren’t at our absolute best today but that’s going to be different come the EUROs.

Andre Schürrle: It was important to play well again. It was a great way to end our preparation. Personally I feel very good and if I have to sit on the bench at the EUROs so be it.

Manuel Neuer: We put in a concentrated performance. It was difficult because Israel defended with so many men. We struggled a bit but we were clearly the better team and put on a good performance because we had the game under control the whole time.

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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

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