So, it’s the start of a new international season, and a World Cup final rematch between the Nationalmannschaft and Argentina in Düsseldorf. It’s a new-look German team with some new combinations as Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw looks to build for the 2016 European Championships, while Argentina – now under a new coach in Gerardo Martino and out for a measure of revenge after that evening in Rio – are also missing a number of star names including Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín.
With the retirement of World Cup captain Philipp Lahm and both Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels out through injury the German defensive line has a very inexperienced look to it, with three of the four starters holding fiver or fewer international caps. World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes – an ever-present fixture in Brazil – brings the experience as he lines up alongside three players three unused squad players in Erik Durm, Matthias Ginter and Kevin Großkreutz – all now with Borussia Dortmund following Ginter’s move from SC Freiburg in the summer.
Defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer will be looking see out most if not all of the ninety minutes this time around as he starts with Toni Kroos, while an interesting offensive midfield trio of Julian Draxler, the fit-again Marco Reus and André Schürrle sit behind the recalled Mario Gómez – back in the team after 385 day break through injury.
It’s a fine evening in Düsseldorf, and the pre-match festivities see now former assistant coach Hansi Flick and recent retirees Per Mertesacker, Miroslav Klose and Lahm make their way out on to the pitch to be presented to the crowd. It’s not quite the Maracanã, but the atmosphere is pretty good in the Esprit Arena as the teams line up for the national anthems – and every German player is singing. Altogether it’s quite a spectacular scene.
Per Mertesacker, Hansi Flick, Miroslav Klose and Philipp Lahm are presented with their awards and thanks before the kickoff
The teams are wearing the same colours with Germany in their all-white Trikot and Argentina in all dark blue, but with a subtle difference. The white Nationaltrikot now has the fourth star, as well as the gold FIFA world champions’ shield.
1 min. Fifty-two days after the World Cup final, the visitors get things underway.
5 mins. It has been a quiet start, with both teams sniffing each other out in the middle of the park.
6 mins. Dortmund youngster Durm makes a burst down the left, and wins the Mannschaft’s first corner. The ball is swung in, but Argentina clear and break well. Ángel di María moves at pace towards the German penalty area, but Manuel Neuer collects.
7 mins. There’s a break at the other end now, as a lovely through ball from Kramer sends Gómez in on goal. The Fiorentina striker has plenty of time to settle himself and just has ‘keeper Romero to beat, but his shot is easily tipped over the bar.
8 mins. The resulting corner comes to nothing and leads to another Argentinian break, with di María again involved.
10 mins. Germany win the third corner, but Reus’s kick is poor as it goes out of play before reaching the Argentinian box where it is punched clear by Sergio Romero.
12 mins. This is end to end stuff at the moment, a complete contrast to the cagey encounter in Rio in July.
15 mins. Schürrle wins a fourth corner for Jogi Löw’s side, but Reus’s effort is poor yet again.
17 mins. Argentina’s Martín Demichelis gets the game’s first yellow card for a late challenge on Reus.
18 mins. A mix-up in the midfield allows Germany to break again, but Draxler’s cross is behind Gómez and Argentina are able to clear their lines.
19 mins. Draxler levels up the yellow card count with a rather brainless challenge on Javier Mascherano.
21 mins. From the free-kick Argentina open the scoring. A deft ball into the box with the outside of di María’s left foot beats the offside trap, and Sergio Agüero is in the clear at the far post to finish with ease as he eludes the static Ginter and Höwedes. Neuer has no chance. 0-1.
23 mins. Another Argentinian error is seized upon by Reus, who plays the ball inside to Kroos. The Real Madrid man has Draxler to his left, but goes for goal and sees his shot skid wide of Romero’s left upright.
28 mins. After a mistake from Lucas Biglia Kramer has the ball in the Argentinian box and is dancing around and dodging defenders for what seems like an age, nutmegging a blue-shirted defender to find Reus, who in turn sets up Gómez for what looks like a gilt-edged chance. The striker’s left-footed effort is firm, but somehow Romero gets his body behind it to keep the visitors in front.
31 mins. Agüero gets another sight of goal and send a shot just wide of the target.
34 mins. Having taken a knock earlier in the game Draxler is replaced by Lukas Podolski.
35 mins. Germany are continuing to press for the equaliser, and Schürrle’s shot from the edge of the box is blocked.
37 mins. Kramer breaks down the right and finds Reus, whose attempted cutback for Gómez is blocked with the ball rolling off for a corner. Once again, it comes to nothing.
39 mins. Germany win a free-kick just outside the Argentinian penalty area, and Kroos dinks the ball towards Schürrle whose volleyed effort flies wide of the target and away for a throw.
40 mins. A wonderful goal to double Argentina’s lead. Once again the German defence is torn apart with Durm completely out of position, and with everyone else at sixes and sevens Érik Lamela has enough time and space to stroke the ball with the inside of his left foot into the top left-hand corner of the net with a flourish. Neuer can only stand and watch. 0-2.
Érik Lamela strokes home Argentina’s second to help his side spoil Germany’s homecoming party
45 mins. Reus sends a shot towards the Argentinian goal which is botched by Romero, leaving a third clear-cut chance for Gómez – which results in a third clear-cut miss as he screws his shot well wide of the target.
45+1 mins. The whistle is blown for half-time. It has been a weird forty-five minutes, and while Argentina have forced the pace and deserve their lead, Germany could and perhaps should have at least two goals on the board. Ángel di María – absent in Rio – has been a menace down the right for the Albiceleste with Erik Durm coming in for some serious punishment, and the inexperienced back four have not been comfortable from the start. At the other end Kramer has been solid and Reus dangerous, but Gómez is looking like the 2008 vintage.
Not his night: striker Mario Gómez would end the evening with a hat-trick of missed opportunities
Both sides make a change at the start of the second half. Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller is on for Neuer, and Augusto Fernández is on for Enzo Pérez.
47 mins. Martino’s side win a free-kick out on the left after a complete mix-up between Großkreutz and Kramer, and the the ubiquitous di María swings it in towards the far post where Federico Fernández rises above Ginter to score in off the upright. Ginter should have done better, and the first thing Weidenfeller has to do is pick the ball out of the back of the net. 0-3.
50 mins. The German team has hardly had a chance to breathe before di María scores a fourth. Once again the men in white are found wanting as the new Manchester United signing collects Mascherano’s lovely through-ball and eludes the sliding Höwedes before beating Weidenfeller with perfectly-timed chip.
52 mins. Germany win a corner out on the left and Schürrle’s stabbed shot is kept out by Romero. The ball however comes back to the Chelsea man who taps it in. 1-4.
57 mins. A double substitution sees Mario Götze and Thomas Müller come on for Schürrle and disappointing Gómez. The crowd are almost in unison in barracking the Fiorentina striker as he makes his way off the pitch, and this will be one game he will want to get out of his system very quickly.
60 mins. Chaos in the Argentinian box sees a penalty shout and a Reus shot that is blocked by Romero after some good buildup play from Podolski and Kramer. The home team are really wanting to turn this around, impossible as the task may be.
63 mins. The Mannschaft move well down the left but Müller’s attempt to pick out Götze is slightly overhit and Romero collects.
64 mins. Another German counterattack sees Reus well tackled by Federico Fernández, but his corner is sent straight into the arms of the Argentinian ‘keeper.
68 mins. The men in white attack again, and some good skill from Götze sets up Reus who shoots wide. Argentina make another change as Fernando Gago replaces Lamela.
70 mins. Podolski is booked for following in on Pablo Zabaleta.
71 mins. As Zabaleta is treated on the touchline TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy replaces the disappointing Kroos.
74 mins. Di María is almost put through again, but Weidenfeller collects.
76 mins. Durm is looking much better going forward, and together with Götze sets up Reus for a shot that crashes against the inside of the far post. Germany’s defence has been awful, but on another night this could so easily have been 4-4.
77 mins. Germany make a change in defnece as VfB Stuttgart youngster Antonio Rüdiger replaces Höwedes, and for Argentina Hugo Campagnaro is on for Zabaleta.
78 mins. Yet another corner from the left comes to nothing, but the ball is successfully recycled and Podolski makes his way to the byline before cutting the ball back across the box. Romero makes a complete hash of an attempted clearance and falls to Götze, whose shot is takes a deflection off Federico Fernández as the Nationalmannschaft pull back another. 2-4.
80 mins. Mariano Andujar replaces Romero for Argentina.
83 mins. Rüdiger his first action as he successfully tracks down and dispossesses Agüero. Moments later, Agüero makes way for Nicolás Gaitán as Martino make another change.
Antonio Rüdiger would turn out a decent cameo at the end in controlling the excellent di María
85 mins. The excellent di María is replaced by Ricardo Álvarez. With one goal and three assists the Manchester United winger has been the star of the night, and even gets a warm round of applause from the home crowd as he makes his way off the field.
87 mins. The Mannschaft win a free-kick in the Argentina half, and Reus’s curling ball is cleared by Campagnaro who is able to get himself in front of Rüdiger.
89 mins. The home side are well on time as the final whistle draws near and are looking good value for a third goal with some neat approach work, but the killer touch is missing.
90+3 mins. The final whistle is blown.
Germany have been beaten for the first time in fifteen months, and the homecoming party for the new world champions has seen the balloons been popped and the fruit punch spiked by a determined and highly motivated Argentinian side that would take advantage of a fragile and at times clueless German defence. That said, with a little more luck and composure in front of goal things could have been a lot closer as the Argentinian defence was in truth not much better. Ultimately, the biggest difference would be the excellent di María.
Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw will no doubt be looking forward to the return of more established players for the first Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland in Dortmund, but it is clear that with the retirement of both Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker the team are always going to be just a couple of injuries away from having to field a inexperienced and highly vulnerable back four.
After going four goals down there would be nightmarish visions of Germany being given similar treatment to that they had meted out on Brazil in that famous semi-final in Belo Horizonte, but mercifully things would settle down in the latter part of the second half. Up front the German coach will be looking at the team’s productivity, particularly the number of chances being converted into goals and that old bugbear: set-pieces. For example the home team would dominate the corner count 11-2, but at no time would they present any real danger to their opponents.
The Nationalmannschaft have clearly dominated Argentina in recent World Cups with successive victories in 1990, 2006, 2010 and 2014, but in friendly matches at home against the Albiceleste their record is rather embarrassing. Following this latest defeat, they have failed to defeat the South Americans on home soil in a staggering six attempts, with the last win coming in the four-team mini-tournament April 1988 when the then West Germany would win 1-0 courtesy of an early strike from Lothar Matthäus.
v Argentina, Esprit Arena, Düsseldorf, 03.09.2014
Schürrle 52., Götze 78. / Agüero 21., Lamela 40., F. Fernández 47., di María 50.
Germany: Neuer (c) (46. Weidenfeller) – Großkreutz, Ginter, Höwedes (77. Rüdiger), Durm – Kramer, Kroos (71. Rudy) – Draxler (34. Podolski), Reus, Schürrle (57. Müller) – Gómez (57. Götze)
Argentina: Romero (80. Andujar) – Zabaleta (77. Campagnaro), Demichelis, Federico Fernández, Rojo – Biglia, Mascherano – di Maria (85. Álvarez), Pérez (46. Augusto Fernández) – Lamela (68. Gago), Agüero (83. Gaitán)
Referee: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands)
Assistants: Sander van Roekel (Niederlande), Erwin Zeinstra (Niederlande)
Fourth Official: Christian Dingert (Germany)
Yellow Cards: Draxler, Podolski / Demichelis
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 49% / 51%
Attempts on Target: 7 / 7
Attempts off Target: 7 / 5
Corners: 11 / 2
Fouls Committed: 14 / 13