Germany beat Kazakhstan by an aggregate score of 7-1 over two games in their World Cup qualifying double-header. That scoreline could have been in the double digits had it not been for the post and Kazakhi goalkeeper Sidelnikov in the second match. Germany are now eight points clear of Austria in second place and all but qualified.
More important than the results though was the experience from these two games, both for the players and the team tactically, all indicative of Löw and the team progressing in the right direction ahead of the tournament in Brazil. Germany’s general manager Oliver Bierhoff stated that European teams have little to no chance of winning the tournament in Brazil last week but Germany’s development certainly suggests that they can be the first team to do so next year.
The False 9 experiment is paying off
The most important aspect of these two qualifiers was that it permitted Löw the platform to experiment with his system. All the talk about a False 9 and strikerless formation was finally put to the test, and in the end it was a resounding success. Of course, the nature and quality of the opponent has to be kept in mind here but there were significant signs of the intended results throughout both matches. With Götze up top Germany looked more fluid, creative, and always threatening in an unpredictable and dynamic fashion.
Germany created an impressive 28 attempts on goal against Kazakhstan in Nürnberg and could easily have scored seven or eight goals. Götze’s intelligent movement was on display again, bringing Reus and Müller into the game with his off the ball runs and all three interchanged positions to confuse and unsettle Kazakhstan’s defense. Their defensive nature definitely helped Germany’s cause but the synergy and overall unpredictability of their game had a spillover effect on the rest of the team. Both fullbacks found tons of space in the game, centrally and out wide. Boateng had his fair share of attempts through the middle and Lahm was as adventurous as he has been in a long time and set up Götze’s goal with a fantastic solo run.
Kazakhstan coach Miroslav Beranek put it perfectly, “That Germany can combine so well and so quickly we fully expected but that they did so at such a rate and level in the first half, we certainly didn’t.” It’s important to note that this system still needs time to fully develop but the team took a step in the right direction during these two qualifiers, a step towards the future.
Löw is moving away from conservative predisposition
In the past Löw has been criticized, rightly or wrongly, for stubbornly adhering to the same principles of team building that, contrary to results, did not seem to move the team forward along the lines of its potential. Whether it was sticking to the same players whose form was dipping or neglecting those more deserving to misjudging opponents tactically, Löw has had his fair share of obstacles since he took over from Jürgen Klinsmann in 2006. Following the EUROs last year, though, he appears to be gradually looking inward and making bolder choices that will benefit the team in the long run.
Stepping outside that comfort zone and accepting the idea of a “strikerless” formation for example was a vital step for the development of the team. Aside from the trip to the United States in May, which will most likely consist of a squad of back ups, this was the last chance for the team to come together and practice before the end of the league season. The next opportunity for all first choice players to come together won’t come again until August in their friendly against Paraguay in Kaiserslautern and the next competitive fixture won’t take place until a month after that when qualifying resumes with their match against Austria in Munich. Trying this system out now was therefore crucial and a matter of time with Brazil looming closer and closer.
The injuries and absence to Klose and Gomez may have been a blessing in disguise in that sense but it still took a willing Löw to see the benefits of said system and utilize it in back to back games all while leaving at home one of the most in form strikers in the league.
Gündogan proves a viable alternative to Schweinsteiger
Just like his performance against France at the beginning of the year, Gündogan was again one of the standout players on the pitch in the match in Nürnberg. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder slotted in for Schweinsteiger seamlessly and controlled the game with great vision and excellent link up play. With a match-high 143 touches on the ball and 113 passes he was Germany’s key orchestrator and expertly crafted their attacks throughout the game. His development over the last year and a half along with his growing experience at the highest level suggests he would be a fantastic alternative to either Schweinsteiger or Khedira should the need arise, or perhaps even replace them under the right circumstances.
Whereas Schweinsteiger distributes the ball across longer distances on the field, Gündogan makes the game more compact and links up in tighter spaces. His close control and excellent technique makes him a difficult player to pick up and a fantastic option for the rest of the attackers inside and around the box. In Nürnberg, Gündogan got involved in and created several chances close to the goal and picked up the kind of passes that are usually so difficult when teams put everyone behind the ball. In Gündogan, Löw does not only have an alternative to Schweinsteiger but in many ways, and depending on the circumstances of a game, an upgrade.
Header courtesy of dpa
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