Germany supporters everywhere are still reeling after their disappointing dropout from the EUROs this summer. We learned that Spain are still ahead of the competition and that their quality is so outstanding that an entire team of midfielders and defenders is a plausible alternative going forward so long as the right quality exists. Looking at their squad, one is baffled by just how effective Spain’s tiki-taka has become. Throughout the squad you have technically gifted players capable of fulfilling multiple roles, a team of eleven playmakers if you will. Silva, Iniesta and Fabregas for example filled in very effectively for the absence of a traditional striker while Alonso and Xavi took turns and collectively controlled the tempo of their games. Forget all the punditry and plaudits, this is on a completely different level.
Despite the pre-tournament questions it all worked in the end, magnificently. Why not? On an individual level, each of these players is arguably unrivaled as a footballer. Their collective understanding and footballing culture is self evident with every artistic stroke. Whereas other teams deal with questionable personalities and egos Spain is the shining example of a team – everything within the squad is harmoniously contingent with itself, and they make an incredibly demanding game seam effortless as a result.
Perhaps no other team in the world at the moment can hope to reach this level except Germany. Yes, the EUROs were nowhere near the level fans expected it be. A scrappy win against Portugal, conceding a goal against Hollands impotent attack and failing to truly dominate Denmark – things didn’t look as promising as they did after South Africa. Furthermore, not only is Mario Gomez seemingly incompatible with the team’s overall game, but Klose is aging and there is no real center forward in the mould of Benzema or Higuain available at the moment.
However, where they lack in strikers Germany make up in midfielders, and quality ones for that matter. Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mario Götze, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus, Andre Schürrle to name just a few are all players who can be used at once and in multiple roles if needed. Why not? This German side might not have a reliable center forward in two years, the same way Spain didn’t at the EUROs, or at least in Del Bosque’s estimation.
There are distinct differences however, Spain have a far more patient and resilient style of play than any side in the world but Löw has gradually moved away from the quick counter attacking style seen in South Africa to one that emphasizes possession more. Germany might not have Fabregas, Xavi or Iniesta, but the distinct styles and ability of Özil, Kroos and Götze means Germany can have their own formula and players who are capable of the intricate and precise passing game Spain display. Add to that Müller and Reus and you’ve got a side which possesses methodical passing with exceptional dynamics up front and can play at tremendous pace. There is no pure striker in this lineup, but all the players on the team are fully capable of scoring.
Unlike the team fielded by Löw against Italy, the swift style of play which epitomized Germany going into the tournament will not be hampered by the presence of Mario Gomez, who, despite his unbelievable ability – does require the team to adapt to him rather than being an organic part of the whole and would be a better fit for teams like England and Italy instead of Germany.
With this side, expect the midfielders to patiently distribute the ball around the pitch as a means of tiring out the opposition but also to create the right opportunities to release attacks and create chances. Reus and Müller in particular, will be making searing runs through the opposition’s defense to create space for Germany’s two chief playmakers, Kroos and Özil, who would not be limited to just distributing the ball. The duo, along with Schweinsteiger – will be key in neutralizing attacks from opposition via possession. In addition, super talent Mario Götze – who currently has it all to prove, as well as the persistent Schürrle would provide key backups on the bench.
While Löw has embraced possession more over the years his insistence on keeping the likes of Lukas Podolski and Gomez in the line up might preclude such a scenario from happening in the first place but if the EUROs proved anything it is that Germany do have the talent and ability to match Spain, it’s just a mater of nurturing and integrating it systematically.
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