Germany won their second match at a major tournament for only the second time since 1996 and the fourth time in the last twenty years with a 2-1 against rivals Netherlands. A brace from Mario Gomez capped off a much improved performance for Jogi Löw’s men who showed the kind of attacking verve that many expected from them initially albeit against a Dutch side whose defending and overall organization left much to be desired.
Lineups and Formations
Before the game Löw flirted with the idea of possibly giving Klose a start saying that he does not necessarily stick to the “never change a winning team” theory but come match time fielded the same eleven that narrowly beat Portugal four days earlier. Podolski too kept his place in the starting lineup despite disappointing on Saturday. Consistency and continuity was then the target for Löw against a Dutch side that came in needing a win.
Because of that precarious position, Bert van Marwijk might have wanted to field a more attack minded formation with both Huntelaar and van der Vaart starting but he too stuck with the same eleven that was upset by Denmark in the first match. Being that Germany and the Netherlands play an almost identical style of football nowadays it was interesting to see who would come out on top and where the differences would be made.
Like their first game, Germany started a bit nervy and the Netherlands looked more in control and had more of the possession. As such they were able to create chances early on, the first of which came in the seventh minute when a long ball over the top by Van Bommel beat Germany’s backline and fell to the feet of Van Persie but his first time volley was directed straight into the arms of Neuer. For the first fifteen minutes the Dutch were getting behind Germany’s high backline a bit too easy and not enough pressure was exerted by rest of the team to win the ball back. Germany needed to adjust.
After Özil came close with a volley off a throw in Germany started regaining composure and to dictate the tempo of the game. Lahm and Boateng stayed back, Hummels and Badstuber played closer to each other and Schweinsteiger and Khedira began to use possession better. Preventing an early Dutch goal was decisive though despite the fact that the Netherlands had a few more promising attacks in the opening phases and Germany were now exerting more pressure and playing with more confidence. Little by little they started to take the steam out of the Dutch game.
They were also helped by a very static and disparate Dutch central midfield and defense. With tight marking by the fullbacks the game opened up more in the middle instead of the flanks and that is where Germany made their breakthrough in the twenty-sixth minute. Schweinsteiger received the ball in the middle and with all the time and space in the world delivered a cutting through ball to Gomez in between the two Dutch centerbacks, the striker turning and controlling the ball deftly before coolly slotting the ball past Stekelenburg. Questions will be asked of Van Bommel and De Jong’s inability to pick up Schweinsteiger or press Germany sufficiently enough. Perhaps it was the intense heat in Kharkiv but either way, it gave Schweinsteiger an unacceptable amount of time and room to make the final pass. The Germans were now in full control and nearly added their second in the thirty-eighth minute when an Özil free kick found the head of Badstuber but his point blank header was kept out by a reflex save from the Dutch keeper.
Robben switched to the left, Van Persie to the right and Afellay into the middle but to no avail. The Netherlands had all but lost control in midfield and all their attackers were left without adequate service. On Germany’s second, Gomez cleverly lured Mathijsen out of the back and to the left side before quickly turning back in to receive another Schweinteiger pass from outside the box, this time finishing from a difficult angle. Mathijsen was too slow to catch Gomez while the rest of the Dutch stood watching. Germany had rebounded brilliantly after their nervy start and went into the break with a valuable lead.
Netherlands had it all to do, they had never managed to come back after trailing by two goals in five attempts. Worse yet, no team had ever qualified from the group stages after losing their opening two games. Van Marwijk needed to make changes and brought on Huntelaar and van der Vaart for Afellay and Van Bommel. They had the necessary firepower but again lacked the proper support. Germany anticipated every ball well and Gomez did well to press from the top and cause many turnovers. Hummels made a sweeping run across the entire pitch in search for their third but was denied by a double save from Stekelenburg.
As the game progressed it was apparent that the heat was taking a toll on the players as the game began to slow down. Van Persie got into a great position in the fifty-fifth minute and belted a Robben layoff into the far left corner but Neuer reacted in time to parry it away. As Löw and the rest of his team admitted after the match, they were becoming exhausted around the hour mark and Van Persie took advantage of Hummels stepping out of the defense pulled a goal back in the seventy-third minute. With Badstuber standing in his line of sight Neuer could not reach it in time and the game was back on.
Löw could have gone for another but instead took a more conservative approach and decided to close the game out. He withdrew Gomez and Özil and brought on Klose and Kroos. Kroos slotted into a three man midfield with only Müller and Klose up front. To his luck not enough was left in the tank for the Dutch and the game was won but it could have gone either way in the dying minutes.
The game had ended the way it started for Germany, very jittery, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. Germany thoroughly outplayed the Netherlands for a good hour. The defense put in another solid shift a few moments aside and players like Schweinsteiger and Gomez really excelled. The result puts them in a great position, a point from Denmark guarantees them top spot regardless of the other results and the chance to remain in Danzig which would make their preparation much easier for the quarter finals.
The Netherlands on the other hand had 60% of the possession in the first half but lacked in some key areas. Their weakness in central midfield was especially telling. Germany won 65% of the duels and 21 tackles compared to just 8 from the Netherlands. The movement of Van Persie and Sneijder was good but so were their markers. Technically they can still go through with a win against Portugal and a Germany win against Denmark but the odds certainly do not favor them.
Click here for a great minute by minute recap of the match from the great Schwarz und Weiss website.
Header courtesy of welt.de
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