It has been an enjoyable evening in Istanbul for the Mannschaft, as they clincially wrapped up what was in the end an easy 3-1 win to take their qualifying group record to nine wins out of nine. It could very easily have been more, but nobody is going to complain at the result that saw a number of impressive performances.
First, the starting eleven and pre-match preview…
In goal: Manuel Neuer
Back in the side after sitting out the friendly against Poland, Neuer came into the game on a run of amazing form that has seen him go over a thosand minutes – eleven games – without being beaten for Bayern München. Even if he was blindfolded with one arm tied behind his back you’d have him in your starting eleven.
The back four: Jérôme Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm
This was one that unsettled a number of Mannschaft-watchers: the inclusion of Per Mertesacker at the expense of the ever-improving Mats Hummels. Merte was nowhere near his best in the previous outing in Danzig where he looked more than a bit rusty, but clearly the Maharishi Jogi knew something that the rest of us didn’t. Given their current form as part of a Bayern defence that has conceded just one goal in nigh on a dozen games, the inclusion of Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber and skipper Philipp Lahm was a no-brainer.
Defensive midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira
With Schweini a shoo-in when fit, the second slot was always going to be filled by one of Sami Khedira or Toni Kroos. Things would work out just fine for Khedira, who was assured of a comeback into the side when Kroos – who has impressed with each game – was taken ill with the ‘flu.
Offensive midfield: Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Lukas Podolski
The offensive midfield has to be rejigged slightly when Mesut Özil was declared unfit to start, with youngster Mario Götze being given the role of central creator and playmaker. With Thomas Müller a must-have on the right, that left the much-discussed position on the right. On the basis of his current form in the Bundesliga, Lukas Podolski was retained with André Schürrle on the bench.
Up front: Mario Gómez
With Miroslav Klose also picking up a knock before the game, the ongoing discussion as to who would start in up front was also easily settled without the expected media brouhaha. Mario Gómez has been red-hot in the Bundesliga for Bayern this season, and might well have expected to be the first choice anyway: this would a marvellous opportunity for him to try and clai the spot outright.
Now to the match report. I had expected ESPN to screen the game live, but on seeing that they were showing France v Albania instead was once more forced into seeking out a reliable web stream. I initially found an ESPN service in Spanish, and when that broke down I was provided with a link to a live feed in Turkish.
The coverage was excellent until it suddenly died a death, whereupon I did another search and stumbled upon al-Jazeera’s coverage in English. Using this and the good old reliable Kicker feed, I was able to successfully write up the live report – I will no doubt fill in any obvious gaps when I see the delayed highlights tomorrow evening on Eurosport.
Thankfully next week’s game against Belgium is live on ESPN.
With the home side playing in their familiar red outfit, Germany are once more in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß. In front of a loud and enthusiastic capacity crowd of 50,000, English referee Martin Atkinson signals the start of the match, and the home team kick off.
2 mins A dangerously short backpass by Jérôme Boateng is well spotted by Manuel Neuer.
3 mins Germany pressing from the off, some good passing here. Boateng is caught offside. He is making some early runs down the right.
4 mins Turkey’s Burak Yilmaz is flagged for offside.
5 mins A defensive lapse sees Turkish skipper and former Schalke and Bayern man Hamit Altıntop straight through on goal, and Neuer makes a stunning save.
7 mins Lahm makes a break down the left, puts his cross in but nobody is there to meet it.
8 mins Thomas Müller tries to find Mario Gómez who trys to buy a penalty as Servet Çetin comes sliding in. Instead Germany win a corner which comes to nothing. Lukas Podolski then has a crack from distance.
11 mins Per Mertesacker intercepts and clears well as Turkey start to look dangerous again.
13 mins Germany are keeping the ball well; the Turks are chasing everything, as they must.
20 mins Some good movement by Germany but they cannot engineer a clear shot on target. Podolski, Müller and Mario Götze are all working well without creating a clear opportunity to threaten the Turkish goal.
23 mins Neat play by the ever-reliable and always calm Sami Khedira, and some great skill by Götze who cannot quite beat Servet Çetin.
26 mins Boateng flings in a huge throw into the box, Podolski has a crack with his left foot but there are three men ahead of him and the offside flag is raised.
27 mins Khedira swings a ball into the box from the left and Müller has a go at an audacious overhead kick that goes well wide of the target.
29 mins Some great play down the right from Turkey, and Selçuk Inan blasts the ball over the bar when he should have got his shot on target. Jogi is out of the dugout and is getting a little angry now.
31 mins Turkey try to dink another ball into the German box but this time it is well watched and dealt with by Boateng.
34 mins A German corner is swung in and it comes off Holger Badstuber; Turkish ‘keeper Volkan Demirel collects easily.
35 mins Altıntop is found on the right and Neuer has to make a save; straight away the ball quickly works its way upfield as Neuer’s huge clearing throw finds Müller on the right. The Bayern man looks up and lofts a fabulous pass to find Mario Gómez at the edge of the area out on the left. Gómez takes the ball down beautifully but still has plenty of work to do; with a deft feint he beats Servet brilliantly before stroking the ball into the right side of the net with his left foot. It’s his first genuine opporunity, and a world-class finish. 1-0 Germany.
37 mins The Mannschaft are upping the pace now. Some great play by Poldi who finds Müller whose right-foot effort just flies over the bar.
42 mins A bustling run from Khedira sees him charge to the edge of the Turkish penalty area but he cannot find the killer pass.
43 mins Germany almost fashion another chance as the play is opening up as half-time approaches. Turkey have to chase the game, which will give the Mannschaft more opportunities to counter-attack at pace.
44 mins More neat play from the impressive Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze, but once again the offside flag is raised. The home crowd are now starting to whistle the men in red and white.
45 mins Podolski turns his man but is called back for a foul. Looked a little harsh to me.
45 mins + 1 Germany win a corner after another nicely-worked attack, and Schweinsteiger heads over.
Half-time, and the Turks are whistled off the pitch. In fairness, they started well but since the goal Germany have been well on top and have started to dictate proceedings. A stunning goal from Mario Gómez, and encouraging work from the entire midfield. Poldi and Müller have both been sharp, and both Schweini and Sami have been impressive. Götze has made a few decent moves, but has found space hard to come by and doesn’t seem to find his way out onto the flanks as easily as Mesut Özil does.
There have been a few shaky moments in defence, but once the goal was scored these problems seemed to fritter away as the Turks found it difficult to reestablish any sort of control they might have had on the game.
46 mins The second half begins.
47 mins Jogi Löw’s side start the second half as they finished the first, and some more neat interplay sees Müller bustling into the Turkish penalty area. He’s a little too physical in trying to muscle his way past the defender however, and is called back for a foul.
50 mins Lots of pressure being put on the Turks now, as nearly every move is quickly closed down by either Schweinsteiger or Khedira.
52 mins More neat passing sees Schweinsteiger combine well with Götze to put Podolski through. Poldi sends his shot fizzing high over the bar, but is called offside in any case. It was a marginal one.
55 mins Holger Badstuber receives the yellow card.
56 mins Gómez almost has his second – there’s some great play by Götze to create the shooting chance, and Gómez well-directed right-footed effort is brilliantly turned onto the upright by Volkan.
58 mins A high ball into the German box is calmly collected by Neuer. Sabri Sarioglu’s dangerous backpass is then intercepted by the ever-alert Müller, whose shot goes narrowly wide of the target.
59 mins The play quickly swings to the other end of the field as a Turkish attack is brilliantly foiled by Boateng who keeps pace with Yilmaz before making a well-timed challenge.
60 mins It’s 1-1 in the Gelbe Karte count as Hamit Alintop is booked.
62 mins It’s all getting a little scrappy now as Turkey are committing a number of sharp fouls. There’s also a change in personnel for the Mannschaft, as André Schürrle comes on for Podolski who has looked less impressive in the second half.
64 mins Within two minutes of his arrival, Schürrle cuts in from the left and gets a shot on target which is just about scrambled around the post by Volkan. Schürrle’s shot was weak, and that would have been a soft goal for Turkey to concede.
66 mins Manuel Neuer’s long clearance finds the marauding Götze on the left, who advances deep into the opposition half and shows great skill to work the ball across the edge of the area. Schürrle calmly leaves it for the fast advancing Müller, who finds the back of the net with a sweet right-footed shot that almosts floats past Volkan. It’s surely three points in the bag now. 2-0.
72 mins Schürrle is again on target but his shot is weak and finds Volkan.
73 mins Götze finds Schürrle in the box but he has too many men to beat and cannot get his shot away.
74 mins The impressive Jérôme Boateng is replaced by Benedikt Höwedes.
76 mins Jogi’s Jungs are really bossing things now – one more decent move and they will almost surely wrap things up.
79 mins Neuer is finally beaten as Turkey out of nowhere get a goal back. Gökhan Gönül’s cross loops over the defence and the unmarked Hakan Balta slides in to put the ball into the roof of the net, leaving Neuer no chance. 2-1.
The German defence has been caught napping there, and it’s a goal that could very easily have been avoided.
82 mins There’s more pressure from Turkey, and the crowd are back with the home side again. They launch another attack, but Germany swing the play to the other side of the field as Schürrle’s slightly scuffed shot is swept away by a defender. It looked as though it was going wide anyway.
85 mins Müller makes a great break and cuts inside into the box, where he is challenged by Gönül. Müller goes down, and Martin Atkinson points to the spot. Elfmeter!
86 mins Schweinsteiger strokes the ball calmly to Volkan’s left. 3-1, and it’s game over.
88 mins Götze weaves inside the Turkish box and almost creates another chance but nobody is on hand to finish things off. With Gómez waiting in the six-yard box, it’s just one touch too many from the talented teenager.
90 mins Borussia Mönchengladbach youngster Marco Reus finally makes his debut, replacing Mario Götze.
90 mins + 1 Müller and Schürrle are allowed too much time to engineer a chance, and Gómez – unmarked at the back post – blasts high and wide.
90 mins + 4 Turkish subsitute Kazim Kazim-Richards is on target but the ball is easily collected by Manuel Neuer. The final whistle is blown.
Another strong performance from the Mannschaft, but one that was far from perfect. The team should now go on to record a tenth group victory in their next game against Belgium on Tuesday, but come June next year they will be taking on far more challenging opposition. Until Mario Gómez’ excellent opening goal Turkey were right in the game and had actually looked the more dangerous side, but after that they fell away badly and could very easily have conceded more than just the three goals.
The defensive unit turned out a better performance than against Austria and Poland, but there are still a number of questions to be answered. Turkey could very easily have opened the scoring with less than ten minutes on the clock and the defence looked particularly wobbly for much of the opening half an hour: the Turkish goal was itself the result of a defensive lapse as Hakan Balta was more or less allowed to waltz into acres of free space.
Of the defensive foursome Jérôme Boateng was without doubt the most solid, and after a slightly shaky start and a dangerously short backpass he delivered a confident performance that showed off his tactical nouse and turn of speed. One chase back and clearance was particularly impressive.
Behind the back four of course was Manuel Neuer, who turned out yet another polished and highly assured performance. He held everything that came his way and produced a world-class save to keep out Hamit Altıntop early on, and when he was finally beaten he had no chance. Apart from the Altıntop chance Neuer didn’t have to make many spectucular saves, but his complete command of the penalty area was reminiscent of another recent and great Bayern Torhuter.
In defensive midfield there was a return to the duo that performed so well in the World Cup in South Africa last year, as the fit-again Sami Khedira returned to the side alongside the consistently good Bastian Schweinsteiger. For Khedira it was something of a lucky break as Toni Kroos was out with the ‘flu, and to say he made the most of his opportunity would be something of an understatement. While he may not be as creative or exciting to watch as Kroos, Khedira’s physical presence and risk-free play brings a certain solidity to the team; the consistency of his distribution inspires confidence, as does his boundless energy.
In a way, Khedira’s quietly impressive performance has made things more difficult for the Nationaltrainer – who does he choose when both Khedira and Kroos are fully fit?
The attacking midfield was for the most part something of a mixed bag – apart from Thomas Müller, who capped off yet another enthusiastic and energetic performance with a superb strike. The Bayern man’s work-rate continues to set the benchmark for the rest of the team – apart perhaps from the equally tireless Khedira – and his ability to pop up in any area of the field and terrorise opposition defences with his speed and movement continues to impress. Then there is his uncanny ability to use that gangly style of his to weave past opposition defenders and win penalties.
Müller set up the first goal, scored the second and won the penalty for the third – a definite man of the match performance.
Of the others, it was a case of hot and cold. Lukas Podolski started brightly but faded dramatically, and while his pace and power is unquestioned he looked extremely one-dimensional at times. Someone should tell him that sometimes it is far more prudent to check back and look up rather than try to muscle past two defenders into an impossible gap or smash every ball into the top corner of the opposition net.
In terms of his finishing Podolski’s replacement André Schürrle was not much better, but his all-round gameplay and less direct approach did much to upset the balance of the Turkish back line. While Poldi had been content to charge at defenders or leather it with his left Schürrle moved around the field, creating a more fluid line of attack. He tested the Turkish ‘keeper with one shot and could have done a lot better with a number of other chances that came his way, but his introduction ceratinly changed the dynamic of the game. In a way, the ability to upset opposition defences is probably Schürrle’s greatest asset as a second half “Joker”.
The performance of Mario Götze is hard one to judge. Drafted into the role of midfield playmaker following the withdrawal of Mesut Özil, Götzinho failed to stamp his authority on the opposition and was painfully overelaborate at times, but was still able to show that spark that has made him so highly rated: his charge down the left and cutback inside to set up the second was sublime. However he often found himself dawdling on the ball for far too long, and was looking for the intricate move when something far more simple would have sufficed.
Götze has shown himself to be an undoubted talent, but lacks the ability to keep things simple – unlike Özil who remains the master in the centre of the German midfield.
Much like Sami Khedira took full advantage of Toni Kroos’ illness, striker Mario Gómez was able to make the most of Miroslav Klose’s absence. While Gómez doesn’t have the ability Klose has to link up with the midfield, he showed once again that when he is in the right mood he can be a finisher of the highest quality. His take, feint and finish to score the Mannschaft’s opening goal was nothing short of world-class, and he could very easily has doubled his tally in the second half when he saw his shot turned onto the post by the Turkish ‘keeper.
The question is of course like that of Khedira v Kroos: when both Klose and Gómez are both fully fit, who does Jogi pick? Miro or Mario?
Now to my player ratings, based on the traditional German scoring system. 1 = excellent, world-class; 6 = abysmal. Thankfully, there were no abysmal performances in this game…
Neuer (1.5) – Boateng (2), Mertesacker (3.5), Badstuber (3), Lahm (3) – Schweinsteiger (2), Khedira (2) – Müller (1), Götze (2.5), Podolski (4) – Gómez (2). Subs (before 75 mins only): Höwedes (3), Schürrle (2.5)
Meanwhile, I think the folks at Bild were watching a different game:
Neuer (1) – Boateng (3), Mertesacker (3), Badstuber (3), Lahm (3) – Schweinsteiger (1), Khedira (4) – Müller (1), Götze (1), Podolski (4) – Gómez (2). Subs (before 75 mins only): Höwedes (3), Schürrle (4)
I will of course post my comments on Kicker’s ratings when they become available; until then, the build-up begins for what will hopefully be a gala display in Düsseldorf on Tuesday against Belgium – who will be fighting for a win to secure a place in the play-offs.
v Turkey, Türk Telekom Arena, İstanbul, 07.10.2011
Gómez 35., Müller 66., Schweinsteiger pen 86. / Hakan Balta 79.
Team: Neuer – Boateng (74. Höwedes), Mertesacker, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Schweinsteiger, Khedira – Müller, Götze (90. Reus*), Podolski (62. Schürrle) – Gómez
* Full international debut
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England)
Assistants: Darren Cann, Michael Mullarkey (England)
Fourth Official: Stuart Attwell (England)
Yellow Cards: Badstuber / Altıntop
Red Cards: – / –
Attempts on Target: 7 / 4
Attempts off Target: 6 / 4
Corners: 10 / 9
Fouls Committed: 11 / 9