This week was all about improved performances and consistency for Joachim Löw and Germany. In the direct spotlight was Germany’s much-maligned defense which Löw and the players promised to improve ahead of their two World Cup qualifiers. And they did. They finished the international break with an impressive 3-0 win against the Faroe Islands to just about seal their place in Brazil next summer.
Goals from Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller kept their unbeaten streak going in qualifying and although Sweden’s win in Kazakhstan did not seal qualification mathematically, with two games remaining and a comfortable five point lead over Sweden Löw’s team have all but assured a place at next year’s finals. More importantly, the team’s time to prepare seems to have helped them work out their defensive kinks and also helped Löw see a clearer picture of what his roster will look like come next summer.
Consistency is key
Aside from Julian Draxler starting for the ill Marco Reus, Löw kept the same team in tact that had beaten Austria just days before. Rather than tinkering and changing his lineup as he has in the past, Löw stuck to what worked and the results spoke for themselves. Sure enough, Khedira and Kroos controlled the game superbly from midfield as they did against Austria and the back four of Lahm, Boateng, Mertesacker and Schmelzer looked assured and in sync.
Indeed, the win meant that this was Germany managed back-to-back clean sheets in competitive games for the first time since the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, which is telling of the team’s defensive concerns and the need to address it. With Boateng and Mertesacker though, Löw may have found his first choice pairing. It may come at the expense of Mats Hummels but Löw’s risky attacking game may have a better safety net without the Borussia Dortmund defender.
Overall it has been a hugely successful qualifying campaign for Germany. They have scored more goals than any other side in qualifying in Europe (28) and remain only one of six undefeated teams. They have scored 3.5 goals on average a game, also a high in UEFA qualifying. Only Belgium and the Netherlands have seven wins from their groups and in Özil and Reus they have two of the campaign’s top goal scorers (Özil with 6 and Reus with 5).
Clearly the offense is Germany’s strong suit. Defensively,though, there is room for improvement. Relative to their peers in Europe Germany are behind 14 other teams with better defensive records. Although conceding only 7 goals may not look like much (especially considering 4 came in one game) it does further underline the area they need to improve on the most.
Joachim Löw: “It was vital today to get three points and we accomplished that. But we also saw that the Faroes are capable of defending very well. It wasn’t easy as a result. Especially when it came to the final pass, it’s still something we need to improve. Overall we were a lot more stable defensively in these last two games. Now we can finalize qualification at home and that’s always nice.”
Julian Draxler: “When everyone crowds the box it becomes difficult to break through and to find the tiny spaces. There we made it a bit difficult for ourselves. In the end it was a deserved 3-0 win though with which we took a giant step towards Brazil.
Miroslav Klose: “This was all psychological. When you are mentally prepared, have the better system and better players then you can win games like this. We created a lot of chances for ourselves and worked well defensively.
Per Mertesacker: “We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task. We played very well though and overall we had a very good week.