November 18, 2017

Germany 3 – 1 Belgium – Germany round off perfect qualifying campaign

Germany made it ten wins out of ten with a commendable performance against a young and talented Belgian side that needed a win to keep their hopes of qualifying alive.  This is the first time that Germany won all their matches since the expansion of the qualifiers, a good omen going into the tournament next summer and a sign of the team’s development over the last couple of years, the culmination of the expansive work done throughout youth set ups throughout the country over the last decade.  Goals from Özil, Schürrle and Gomez made it eight wins against Belgium in their last eight encounters, a late conciliation goal from Fellaini rounding off the score.

Already qualified but remaining steadfast in his desire to attain a perfect record, Löw rang in some changes but still fielded a competitive squad.  Schweinsteiger was given a rest with his club teammate Kroos replacing him while Özil made his return after nursing a minor injury the past week. Schürrle received only his fourth start in place of Podolski while Hummels and Höwedes came in for Badstuber and Boateng in defense.  Belgium coach Leeskens made only three changes after the 4-1 win against Kazakhstan, Lombaerts, Fellaini, and Ogunjimi replacing Van Buyten, Mertens and de Camargo respectively. Both teams lined up with identical 4-2-3-1 formations. How were Germany going to cope without the influential Schweinsteiger in midfield and how would Höwedes fare against the pace and trickery of Hazard?

Formations and key movement.

Belgium put Germany on the backfoot

Belgium started the match the more aggressive side with Germany failing to get out of their own half in the first 15 to 20 minutes.  With the stakes so high the Belgians needed a result and came to Düsseldorf both vigilant and assertive.  They did well to spread the ball in the early stages, putting Germany on the back foot and completely disabling their attacking game, never allowing Germany to settle into the match.  Özil, very well tracked by Simons, failed to get into the game early on and played much deeper than usual. At that point Germany had not faced that kind of pressure from an opponent since the Brazil friendly earlier in the year and it looked as though they might finally lose a match would the Belgians capitalize on their momentum.

Uncharacteristically, Germany struggled to move the ball out of the defense and turned the ball over in front of goal rather haphazardly.  Fortunately for Löw’s men, the overzealous and excitable Belgians failed to compose themselves and limited each other to long-range shots rather than attempting to get behind Germany’s backline. Belgian captain Kompany came closest on 12 minutes but Belgium’s lack of structure and organization made the vulnerable to a German comeback.  Like a house of cards, all it took was a nudge to cause the collapse.

 Two goals in quick succession take the wind out of Belgium

Özil's goal broke Belgium's stronghold.

As the half progressed Germany remained calm and composed despite being overwhelmed.  Their defense stood firm and did well enough to ward off a Belgian goal.  The composure and confidence slowly started to trickle in with every passing minute and the more Belgium tired themselves out with their forceful attacking the more Germany benefited.  Kroos and Khedira, both quite subdued up to that point, started to gain influence in the middle, laying the foundation for what was to come.  Schürrle and Gomez were provided early signs around the half hour mark with Gomez forcing a point blank save from keeper Mignolet.  The more Germany got forward the more dangerous they became and the next attack was not going to be denied.

Then came the hammer blow. Kroos’s corner fell to the feet of Khedira whose shot was blocked but the persistent midfielder chased the ball and saw Özil waiting just behind him.  He laid the ball off to the playmaker who fired his shot from 18 meters over Mignolet, off the cross bar and into the net.  The goal completely altered the momentum of the match and three minutes later Germany would double their lead with a storybook counter attack.  After a Belgian corner Özil picked up the ball outside the box and played it into the path of the forward running Gomez.  The striker ran the ball to the halfway line where he played it into the path of Schürrle who was making a dashing run down the left, the Leverkusen player then chipping the ball coolly over Mignolet.  The finish rounded off what has now become a trademark feature of Germany’s game, the lightning fast counter attack.  Gomez nearly tripled the lead before half time after a neat one-two with Khedira but was again denied by Mignolet.

Germany never look back

Belgium could only look on as Germany breezed past them in the second half.

Germany picked up where they left off after the break and found their third just three minutes after the restart.  Khedira recovered the ball in midfield and played it forward to Müller who saw an open Özil right outside Belgium’s 16-yard box.  The playmaker was at his creative best and fed the ball to the feet of Gomez who unleashed a whirlwind of a shot into the bottom left corner, leaving Mignolet with little time to react.  Leeskens brought on Lukaku to add some power up front and the striker did look threatening on occasions, creating Belgium’s best chance on 68 minutes, but it was not enough to topple the confidence and control Germany assumed with their lead.

The second half was a much more comfortable affair as a result.  Germany recovered the ball well and always matched whatever Belgium threw at them. The backline did well to anticipate attacks and kept Hazard in check wherever he roamed.  Höwedes did an impressive job marking the mercurial winger and forced the Lille player to often come centrally or switch flanks.  Either way, Belgium’s primary danger man never threatened Germany and was neutralized for the most part.  Fellaini pulled a goal back after a corner four minutes from time but it was too little too late.

Final Verdict

Germany have reached a level where they are confident and comfortable enough to play their game regardless of in match circumstances.  Whether they are outplayed or backed deep into their half, they maintain a degree of composure which inevitably keeps them in the game and paves the way for them to get back in it.  That speaks of the cohesion and organization of the team but also the mentality of the players and the games against Turkey and Belgium showed the maturity of this still nascent squad.  Both Turkey and Belgium pressed Germany but the players remained calm, played their game, eventually took control and never looked back.  The ability to grow as a match progresses coupled with the precision in front of goal are the two most impressive features of this side.

Löw meanwhile has a plethora of options at his disposal in preparation for next summer.  Reus and Gündogan are the latest to be given a chance and Löw’s selection process has become a luxury problem.  The coach said after the match that he is bothered by the constant comparisons and predictions of another Spain-Germany encounter next summer but at the current rate you would be hard pressed not to mention them alongside or as Spain’s biggest competitor.

Man of the Match

Mesut Özil – You would never have guessed it watching the opening 20 minutes but the brilliant playmaker’s presence and influence increased as the match progressed.  He changed the momentum of the game with his brilliant opening goal and played an important part in the other two.  Özil did what he does best, gave everyone around him passing options, played the role of provider and did his share of defensive work.  He had the game’s second most touches (76) and completed a total of 48 passes.

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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

7 Comments

  1. yeah it probably its not who is best but who does low prefer having back there. after all both have about the same games of bundesliga experience. and yeah some coaches like attacking or playmakers from the CB while other like the strong defender who don’t gamble and let the other players attack. i think by the time euro comes around they are both going to be the starters.

  2. true true.

    on our defenders:
    Why doesn’t Loew choose natural RB’s like Beck in the squad? Are we really going forward with 5 centerbacks (Merte, Benedikt, Stubsi, Hummels, and Boateng)?

    Its like we’ll be playing 3 CB’s with one true fullback in Lahm.

    it all depends on the draw for Euro 2012. It will be a tough tough tournament.

    Real test is being a goal down. Winning 3-1 or 4-1 after conceding first will be a good sign.

  3. I agree on Hummels being better than Badstuber. I think the gap between him and the rest of the CB’s is quite sizable considering what Hummels offers not only as a defender but as a footballer.

    I think it comes down to Löw’s personal preference and an adverse perception of Hummels’s style of play. He may believe that Hummels cannot or does not gear his play to the more traditional and conservative defensive approach he prefers. Perhaps too much risk taking and not enough caution? Also might prefer a more stable and sitting backline to provide a better safety net for an already attack minded side. Both Badstuber and Mertesacker are more traditional minded defenders and as a result safer options.

    Probably also down to him thinking that experience is more valuable, in Mertesacker’s case, than anything offered by a player like Hummels. I personally don’t think the Mertesacker argument has any legs but Löw rarely changes his mind when it is set on a certain player.

  4. Personally I don’t think Badstuber has had a bad game this season so far. The question here I feel should not be about Badstuber versus Hummels but Hummels versus Mertesacker. It is quite clear that Loew likes the passing ability and left footed slant that Badstuber brings to the team in his position as LCB. I feel that barring major disasters, he is a lock for one of the center-back positions.

    For the other I feel it is a straight shot between Merte and Hummels and while I personally feel that Hummels is the better player, I also feel that the man making the decision is leaning sightly towards the Arsenal center-back.

  5. Good post Cris, but I really think he performance here does not merit the kind of widespread adulation it seems to be receiving. That said, games like this are very very important for players to grow and mature to know how to react to different situations. Personally speaking I would have loved to see how Germany would have reacted to going a goal down against a team like Belgium who would then have had their tails up and baying for blood. But still what needs to be praised is their reaction to being under the cosh. What has impressed me most is that despite different circumstances, Loew has instilled in the players the virtues of playing their own game to the end and the belief that it will produce results.

    What is undeniable is that Germany have a squad chock full of talent of the ilk not seen perhaps since the late 80s and early 90s (although many would say that squad did not hold a candle to the 70s). But unfortunately that talent is not evenly spread across all positions on the pitch.

    But for me even that is not the big concern. The worry is that Germany barring the game against Brazil have not been able to use possession effectively as a defensive tactic. It is an ability that most of this team have and I think given the fact that defence is still our ‘concern’ position, it is something we should practice further in the remaining nine months. If we can master the skill of retention against opponents who will press and harry us consistently, than I can safely say that the transition of this squad is almost complete from the seeds that were sown in 2010.

    One word of warning though; the Germany squad that negotiated qualification for 2008 also looked absolutely imperious at times; most critically in a 2-1 win at the (then strong) Czech Republic. It led Franz Beckenbauer to state that Germany were the team playing the best football in the world. And then we all know how much of a struggle Euro 2008 turned out.

    But while this Germany squad is already far more talented then that one, it is a warning that we should heed.

  6. nice review, enjoy the website. question or your opinion on this topic. imho hummels is a better CB then badstuber, why is it that hummels doesnt play much for germany while badstuber keeps getting chances even when he has streak of bad games.

  7. Great piece Cris! I was only able to listen to most of this game at work but the goals were lovely and I was really impressed by how Germany recovered from quite a rocky start. I like how you emphasize that even when under the cosh, Germany never REALLY fell apart, just took their time to gradually shift the momentum. Great stuff.

    Bring on EURO2012!

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