I started writing this two-match report after the first instalment of Germany’s much-criticised post-season (or should I say tail of the season) tour against Ecuador in Boca Raton, but the second match against the United States would leave me somewhat uninspired and sapped of enthusiasm. But a report is a report, and I thought I had better get on with it – after all, we are going to have to wait until August’s meeting against Paraguay for the next one.
Nearly everything about this short tour would be controversial, from the matter of its bizarre timing and the slicing up of the hitherto successful Under-21 squad through to the tactic that would be employed and the actual performance on the pitch. While there were some inspired moments and a few decent individual displays, the two matches would provide more than their fair share of embarrassing moments.
At times I really wanted to switch the television off, but kept telling myself that despite the familiar Trikots this was not even a B-team.
Facts and Stats
The tour would see a German team lacking its Bayern München/Borussia Dortmund core take on two contrasting opponents in two just as contrasting locations: Ecuador in the Floridian city of Boca Raton and the United States in its capital Washington DC, a match that would mark the centenary of the US Soccer Federation and pit Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw against his friend and former colleague Jürgen Klinsmann.
The match against Ecuador in Boca Raton would be only the Nationalmannschaft’s second meeting with the South American side, with the first coming during the World Cup finals in 2006 during the opening group phase. On that day in Berlin’s Olympiastadion the home team would register and emphatic 3-0 victory with a brace from Miroslav Klose being followed by a Lukas Podolski strike.
Germany’s match in Washington against the US would be the ninth meeting between the two teams, with the Germans having won six and the Americans two. The last previous encounter would take place in Dortmund just before the 2006 World Cup, in a game that for many would be seen by many as a vote of confidence for the then Nationaltrainer Klinsmann. Ironically, the Klinsmann would be under similar pressure coming into this friendly, with the US coming in off the back of a poor run of results.
Germany’s last meeting with the US on American soil would meanwhile bring back some less palatable memories, with Erich Ribbeck’s team of journeymen and pensioners suffering a 3-0 defeat.
Teams and Tactics
With a massive number of key players missing from the twenty-two man squad, in these two matches we would get to see two German starting XIs that were essentially a mix of has beens and not quite there yets with a tiny injection of genuine experience. As things unfolded – and unravelled – we would soon get a clear understanding why some players have been earmarked as names for the future while others would be playing in the Nationaltrikot for the first time in three years.
The meeting with Ecuador in a humid location in front of five-thousand people would be a bizarre affair, and would showcase the good, the bad and the shockingly awful in what was clearly an exciting spectacle for the neutrals.
The Mannschaft would catch their opponents cold from the start, and at just over nine seconds Lukas Podolski’s opening goal would be the fastest ever scored by a German international in the entire long history of the national team. Ecuador would be playing what was essentially the same side that had thrashed Paraguay 4-1 in a recent World Cup qualifying match, but during the opening minutes they would be all at sea against a smooth and purposeful German side. Lars Bender would produce a fine finish to cap off a swift move to punish the clueless South Americans just three minutes later, and those of us who had been sceptical of this entire tour would being to smile a little – perhaps things were not so bad after all.
Many of these smiles would turn to wide grins over the next quarter of an hour, as Podolski and Bender would notch up their second goals to take the score to an astonishing 4-0. Ecuador were the tenth ranked side in world football, and here they were being taken to the cleaners by a quickly cobbled-together German C-team.
This was however as good as it would get for Löw’s side. While some might have been thinking about scoring six or seven, the team would almost flatline completely to the point where the eventual 4-2 result would flatter them. Chances would be few and far between, as Ecuador finally looked to have warmed up sufficiently to show us all what the fuss was about. They would pull one goal back just before half-time, and could very easily have had a couple more before scoring a deserved second following a moment of ham-fistedness by German ‘keeper René Adler.
Had Ecuador started how they had finished, it is unlikely that we would have seen this result. Indeed had the South Americans not looked like a bunch of amateur buffoons with their feet tied together during the opening twenty minutes, it wouldn’t be the slightest bit churlish to suggest that Germany might very well have lost. The humidity had clearly got to many of the players, but the drop-off in concentration would be both disconcerting and infuriating: you wouldn’t have seen a young Hans-Peter Briegel lumber around like that.
The meeting against the United States four days later would be just as bizarre, but things would follow a different path altogether as a clueless German side – or rather, a bunch of imposters in those famous Lindengrün shirts – found themselves being run ragged by a side that had been struggling for form. With coach Klinsmann’s head close to the block, an enthusiastic and energetic American side would take their game to the opponents like their lives depended on it.
Germany could and should have put themselves on the scoreboard before half-time, but would instead find themselves two goals down – the second coming courtesy of a horrific piece of mishandling by goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who appears to be cursed every time he pulls on the Nationaltrikot.
Heiko Westermann – the butt of many a joke after his poor performance four days earlier – would pull the Mannschaft back into the contest within ten minutes of the restart, but any hope for a turnaround would be dashed by a lazy defensive line that preferred to sit back and allow the opposition to run at and past them, and them blame each other when the inevitable happened. When the influential Clint Dempsey fired in two goals in the space of four minutes to put the home side 4-1 up, nobody would have been talking about the bad old days – after all, more than a dozen first choice players weren’t even available for this tour – but the debate would continue to rumble on about commitment being displayed.
Driven by teenage midfield motor Julian Draxler and substitute Max Kruse – two of the small number of German players who would make a positive impression on this pointless footballing holiday – the Germans would make the scoreline more respectable, but when the final whistle blew an equaliser would have been a little harsh on the Americans.
Conclusion and Ratings
This tour would be described by its defenders as a chance to experiment, and was seen as an opportunity to learn about some of the younger players. Would this be the case? Well, yes and no. While some players would simply confirm their star billing, such as Draxler and Kruse, others would show just why they had not been picked for three years. If anything, I would hope that this tour draws the line under some international careers – if one can call a handful of friendly matches being played three years apart an international career.
Apart from Draxler – who perhaps should have been playing with the Under-21 side in the European Championship finals starting a week later – and the energetic Kruse, very few names would actually stand out. Sidney Sam would offer bursts of promise, while Lars Bender would impress in the first match.
That was probably about it.
On the negative side, poor Marc-André ter Stegen would once again look out of his depth. He has only played three matches – well technically just under that – and has conceded a staggering twelve goals already, making him one of the leakiest goalkeepers since the pre-war days. Other bum notes would be struck by the nondescript Aaron Hunt and Stefan Reinartz – both of whom would be making their first appearance in the Nationaltrikot since the autumn of 2010 – and some of the older names such as Per Mertesacker and Heiko Westermann. Roman Neustädter would also show himself not have reached the right level quite yet.
I can only hope that the DFB pays more attention to what is actually going on in the world of football the next time they plan a tour like this: to have a game arranged within days of the Champions’ League final and straddling the weekend of the DFB-Pokalfinale would be nothing short of insane.
Produced some good saves, but at other times looked slightly nervous. Despite a solid enough season in the Bundesliga Adler is still a distance behind Manuel Neuer, and his butterfingered attempt to prevent Ecuador’s second goal would not have done him any favours with a long list of younger ‘keepers waiting in the winds.
Offered little going forward, and played his part in what was a sketchy defensive performance in the second half. Far from a commanding performance.
Skipper for the day Mertesacker was part of a defensive unit that would be seriously tested after Germany’s opening four-goal spell, and while he would not be responsible for an major errors would once again show his distinct lack of pace.
Arguably the weakest link of the back four, responsible for a number of poor balls and handing possession to the opposition. Far from the commanding figure he is in the Bundesliga for Hamburg.
The best of the very poor back four, Jansen chased down well and was solid enough defensively, and showed some invention and no little pace down the left flank. Combined well with the speedy Max Kruse to help set up Lukas Podoski for Germany’s third goal.
A solid enough performance, though like many others did a disappearing act in the second half – something that has become all to frequent. Gets decent marks for his two goals. Replaced by Philipp Wollscheid in injury time.
A disappointing performance from the Schalke man making his first full start for the Nationalmannschaft after one late substitute appearance earlier in the year. Was far from confident in possession, and would give the ball away on numerous occasions. Replaced by Stefan Reinartz six minutes after the hour mark.
Making his debut, the Leverkusen winger played a lovely through-ball to set up the second goal and looked bright during the team’s opening spell, but faded during the second half. Showed plenty of invention, but was also guilty of some poor decision-making. A promising enough start. Replaced by André Schürrle after 69 minutes.
Continues to show great promise as a midfield leader, and looked smart during Germany’s opening four-goal blitz including the assist for the fourth goal. Offered less during the second half, and was replaced after fifty-seven minutes by Aaron Hunt after taking a knock.
An ordinary performance that would be masked by his two early goals, including the record-making opener. Looked sharp when the going was good, but as things got tougher he would be largely anonymous. Gets a decent mark for his goals, both of which were well executed. Replaced by Nicolai Müller a minute before full-time.
The debutant from SC Freiburg showed why he has been so highly rated this season, and was causing all sorts of trouble for the Ecuador defence for most of the first half. Was involved in a fine move with Jansen for the third goal, but faded somewhat during the second half. Replaced by Dennis Aogo after 79 minutes.
Making his first appearance in the Nationaltrikot for three years, the Bremen man replaced Draxler just before the hour mark. Added nothing to the team, and was so anonymous he might not have been there at all.
Replaced Sam with just over twenty minutes left, and failed to make any sort of impact. Schürrle has been in fine form at club level for Bayer Leverkusen, but was loose with his control and showed none of his usual spark.
Replaced Kruse for the last ten minutes, but had little to show for it. Gave the ball away cheaply in injury time, almost resulting in a third Ecuador goal.
On for Podolski with a minute to go, the Mainz 05 winger was given the cheapest of international debuts. Didn’t get a sniff of the ball as the game ambled to a close.
The fourth debutant, and the second cheap international cap of the day. No sooner had he arrived, the final whistle was blown. Did get a touch of the ball though.
Kicker ratings: Adler (2.5), Höwedes (4), Mertesacker (3), Westermann (4), Jansen (2.5), L. Bender (1.5), Neustädter (4.5), Sam (3), Draxler (3), Podolski (1.5), Kruse (3).
Bild ratings: Adler (2), Höwedes (4), Mertesacker (4), Westermann (4), Jansen (4), L. Bender (1), Neustädter (3), Sam (3), Draxler (2), Podolski (1), Kruse (2). Substitutes: Hunt (5).
My ratings: Adler (3), Höwedes (4), Mertesacker (4), Westermann (5), Jansen (4), L. Bender (1.5), Neustädter (5), Sam (3), Draxler (2.5), Podolski (2), Kruse (3). Substitutes: Hunt (5).
v United States
Marc-André ter Stegen
A third cap for the Borussia Mönchengladbach ‘keeper, and his third poor performance. An error-strewn display capped off my a horrific error that gifted the hosts with their second goal. Pulled out a couple of decent stops, but this was nowhere near enough to make up for his mistakes.
Starting alongside his twin brother Sven for the first time, Bender would not reproduce the goalscoring form of the match against Ecuador. Was one of the many German players run ragged by an energetic American side during the torrid first half. Replaced at half-time by Heiko Westermann.
The tall centre-back has been criticised for his lack of pace for a while now, and his performance in this match didn’t do much to deflect that. Was left looking like a statue for the first US goal, and early on in the match would fluff a decent chance to give his side the lead. Replaced at half-time by Philipp Wollscheid.
Another ordinary performance from the Schalke 04 skipper, whose most memorable part in the match would be the back-pass that was blundered over his own line by ter Stegen.
After an encouraging performance against Ecuador, it was back to the norm for the HSV wing-back who would frequently find himself out of position or outflanked by the speedy American wingers. Gave way to club team mate Dennis Aogo at half-time.
Not much to show in what was his first start alongside brother Lars, but can be excused as he made the effort to fly over to North America after being part of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions’ League squad. Went off at half-time for Max Kruse.
One of those players who was back in the side after a three-year hiatus, Reinartz offered little to show why he should be given an extended stay in the national team setup. Was guilty of ball-watching, and on more than one occasion could have done a lot more to track back and close down the opposition.
One of the poorest performances by the soon-to-be Chelsea signing in the Germany shirt. Had one shot at goal from which he should have done better, and would profligate with his distribution. Replaced by Sidney Sam twenty minutes into the second half.
A decent performance by one of Germany’s better players in what was overall a pretty dire team display. Showed plenty of invention and good touches, and ramped up the ante at the end in scoring his first international goal to make the score that little bit more respectable.
With no goals to mask his performance, this was pretty much par for the course for Podolski in his 110th international. Completely anonymous, apart from those occasions when he would send a badly-aimed potshot high into the stands.
The veteran striker could be excused having flown over for this game after playing in the Italian cup final, but by his usual high standards this would be a poor performance. Lacked his usual spark, and was not even remotely threatening. Replaced by Nicolai Müller after 79 minutes.
Replaced Lars Bender at the start of the second half, and put in a half-decent performance – though as an attacker rather than his designated role as a defender. Scored Germany’s first goal to bring them – temporarily – back into the contest.
Came on for Mertesacker at half-time, and was not much better. One of the many players who found themselves being given the run-around.
Didn’t do much to enhance his reputation, and was one of those guilty of ball-watching and general sloppiness. A lazy performance from a player who was probably lucky to get the match time.
Took a little while to warm up after coming on for Sven Bender at the start of the second half, but finished the game on a high. Once again showed great pace and invention, and capped things off nicely with a beautifully-struck first international goal.
Came on for the disappointing Schürrle with twenty-five minutes remaining, and added a new dimension to the attack that had been lacking up to then. Was slightly erratic with his distribution, but would cause havoc down the right flank.
Came on for Klose with eleven minutes left, and had just enough time to go down theatrically in the opposition box in the ninetieth minute as the Mannschaft flooded forward in search of an equaliser.
Kicker ratings: ter Stegen (5.5), L. Bender (4.5), Mertesacker (5), Höwedes (4), Jansen (5), S. Bender (4.5), Reinartz (5), Schürrle (4), Draxler (3), Podolski (5), Klose (5). Substitutes: Westermann (3), Aogo (5), Wollscheid (5), Kruse (2).
Bild ratings: ter Stegen (6), L. Bender (5), Mertesacker (6), Höwedes (5), Jansen (4), S. Bender (5), Reinartz (4), Schürrle (3), Draxler (3), Podolski (5), Klose (5). Substitutes: Westermann (4), Aogo (5), Wollscheid (5), Kruse (3), Sam (4).
My ratings: ter Stegen (6), L. Bender (4), Mertesacker (6), Höwedes (4), Jansen (3.5), S. Bender (4), Reinartz (4), Schürrle (5), Draxler (2), Podolski (6), Klose (5). Substitutes: Westermann (3.5), Aogo (5), Wollscheid (5), Kruse (2), Sam (3).