October 21, 2017

Germany 3 – 0 Netherlands – “Brilliant Schwarz-Weiß”

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.

Müller, Özil and Klose had a combined 120 completed passes

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.

Won tackles - Khedira made the difference.

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

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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

12 Comments

  1. Well I appreciate that Pierre. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    I hope I can continue to make things interesting for you.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Cristian. I must say that I enjoy reading yours the most because I appreciate good writing beyond just football knowledge. Sorry to be politically incorrect but some of the recent postings on this otherwise wonderful platform were just a pain to read, even though the contents were so close to my heart! If there is no moderating on the quality of writing, then maybe I should try to stick to your writing only:)

  3. Thanks Pierre. Great response. I have to say I echo all that you’ve had to say.

    First of, the understanding and chemistry is really the most impressive thing to me. The ability to read each other as well as Klose, Mesut and Thomas did yesterday is possibly the hardest thing to do in football, let alone against a side like the Netherlands, who, for all their defensive troubles, are nothing to play down. It’s a feature of all young German players nowadays, no doubt helped by the unified upbringing/training throughout the youth ranks.

    Second, agree with your points on Löw. I have been critical of him and his player selection at times but I do appreciate how he handles the large pool of talent and while I still think there are certain changes that can be made to benefit the team more I don’t hold it against him when he does stick to those certain familiar faces. If anything, that will sort itself out organically down the line.

  4. Excellent writing as always, Cristian.

    I am slightly surprised that everyone was not even more awe-struck. I could not find a word enthusiastic enough to describe the German performance yesterday. I have watched the replay of the goals tens of times and I could not have enough of them. And it was as if each time I decided that that was the most brilliant combination possible, and they went on to prove me wrong.

    Two of my favorite details among all the unbelievably fluid (which the
    Spaniards may be capable of) yet direct (which the aforementioned are utterly not capable of) movements:

    1) How Miro raised his hand, and then almost held himself back for half a second to ensure that he was not offside, timed himself expertly like no one else is capable of, before dashing on to receive the precise long ball from Kroos (goal #1). I have a Ph.D. and teach a prestigious medical school and I suspect that Miro’s IQ would make him a fine student in any discipline.
    2) How Thomas drew the attention of no fewer than 4 defenders, and chose to make the pass only when he made sure that Ozil was absolutely unmarked in an ocean of space (goal #2). I know a prodigy when I see one. Thomas has just continued to blow me away, the most divine quality of him being so mature at such a young age. He seems to truly enjoy the pleasure of football, rather than his (would’ve been completely justified) celebrated ego, a nuance that I cannot honestly say to be true for many other ‘prodigious’ Germans.

    This platform seems to be an outstanding and rather academic forum for discussing formations and talents, so I will only comment one more thing that does not come up often: Low.

    I have been a loyal Germany fan since 1990 and as such, the replacement of Klinsmann by Low did not fare well with me. I was still full of doubts during the 2010 World Cup, and to this day feel Low was partially responsible for the semi final that broke my heart. But since then, I have come to the conclusion that to be a loyal and intelligent Germany fan at this point can mean only one thing: that he should have complete trust in Low.

    We tend to be critical of him because he faces an incredibly long list of talents to field the 11 spots. Let’s face it: even my absolute favorite, Klose, is not perfect. And you can probably whip up a sound argument to say that there is an appealing quality of a particular type in about any given player that is absent in all the other players. If you agree with these statements, then it follows that his choice of A over B, no matter how, will be vulnerable to criticism. But in the end, fortunate for us in so many ways, choosing A over B is his and no one else’s job. I just think that it would do German football more good, if we can continue to suggest good alternative players, without attacking certain regulars he has stood behind over the years. In a way, the fact that he stands behind some regulars under fierce media attack, in my opinion, warrants even more respect than any other quality of his. Because, in a way, football is not just a technical game, and the merit of stability, faith, will power, loyalty and the resolution to fight till the last drop of blood, matters. Actually one can go so far as to say that in a well matched game, the aforementioned merit can be the only thing that breaks the tie, something more applicable to the German history of football than to any other country. And to ponder this: who is more likely to fight till the last drop of blood than those that are backed by no one else but Low? Imagine how much pressure he must have been under by starting Klose, Podolski and Friedrich in 2010. And now imagine what it would be like to not have the two most memorable elimination games of all-time in our history book of World Cups.

    Lastly, I told my friends yesterday that, if yesterday’s game was a World Cup final, I could even be OK with losing my job…

    Go Deutschland!

  5. Yea I have no doubt this German side can beat just about any team nowadays. The most prominent thing is also the depth and options they’ve added in the last year which is integral for any side hoping to win major titles.

  6. I wouldn’t say comfortably, but I think we would win. Its a worry to imagine robben, van persie, villa, iniesta etc running at that defence. I’d try and play Boateng and Hummels in the centre, We really need a RB…maybe howedes.

  7. Many of Holland’s creative players weren’t there, but neither were Germany’s two leaders, Schweini and Lahm! What’s more, Germany’sw prized goalkeeper, Neuer, wasn’t there either, as he never really did anything in the match. If these two teams meet in the Euro with full strength squads, Neuer’s gloves may be heated up a little, but we’ll still win comfortably!

  8. Ozil, Muller and Klose were the ‘holy trinity’ of German football today. Amazing, superlative performance. With Italy losing at home to Uruguay and Spain having to come back from two goals down to draw Costa Rica, thinking of the potential for the German NT at the 2012 Euros makes one wish summer 2012 was already here….if there wasn’t such an exciting Bundesliga season to play through beforehand.

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