The Nationalmannschaft would round off their calendar year in satisfactory style against England at Wembley, a ground that has become home from home. With a place in the World Cup safely in the bag Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw would use the match to experiment with some of the fringe players and try out new tactics, and would field a starting eleven that would before kick-off be described as nothing more than a B-Team.
This of course would suit the German management perfectly: lose, and it would just be a second string outfit, as had been the case on the ridiculous summer tour of the United States. Win, and confidence in the a number of players likely to furnish the bench in Brazil would go up a notch. In the end, the team led by stand-in skipper Per Mertesacker would have to put up with an energetic and somewhat toothless England side in what was in all honesty a fairly straightforward win.
Having had the better of old foes Italy in the 1-1 draw in Milan four days earlier, it would be a satisfactory conclusion to the year – with plenty to talk about going into 2014 and the build-up to the World Cup finals in Brazil.
The player reviews this month comes with “WM Watch”, my own barometer on who might and might not make the final squad for next year’s showpiece in Brazil.
Facts and Stats
There’s not much more than can be said about the history of this fixture that hasn’t been said already on this site. In twenty eight meetings since the first non-amateur encounter in Berlin in 1930, Germany had claimed thirteen victories – including penalty shootouts at the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championships – against England’s twelve, with their last defeat at Wembley in March 1975.
The West London ground had for a long time been a happy hunting ground for the Germans, and since that 2-0 defeat in 1975 – when the then World Champions would also field a weakened side – they had gone five games without defeat.
In 1982 FC Bayern legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would inspire Jupp Derwall’s side to a 2-1 win, in 1991 the then reigning World Champions would triumph with a single Karlheinz Riedle header, 1996 would see that famous penalty shootout en route to the Mannschaft’s third European title, and in 2000 – the last game at the old “Twin Towers” ground – Dietmar Hamann’s skidding free-kick would spoil the farewell party.
Germany’s last visit to London in 2007 – their first appearance at the new revamped ground – would see Joachim Löw’s side claim a 2-1 win courtesy of a spectacular strike from Christian Pander.
While the Mannschaft would be looking to extend their unbeaten record at England’s home ground, the Three Lions would be set on regaining momentum after their 2-0 loss to Chile as well as avenging their 4-1 mauling at the hands of the Germans in the World Cup in South Africa – the last meeting between the two sides. In the end, the single-goal victory would not only see the Germans walk away with yet another Wembley win but also condemn England to back to back home defeats for the first time since 1977.
To add another note, this game would be the final farewell to the retro Lindengrüntrikot – due to be replaced next year by a red and black hooped affair that promises to be a cross between Flamengo, VfB Stuttgart circa 1996, Queen’s Park Rangers circa 1983 and Dennis the Menace.
The match would be well-contested and clean – French referee Stéphane Lannoy wouldn’t have have to reach for his pocket once over the course of the ninety minutes – but there would very few noteworthy moments. In summary, England would boss the early part of the game while failing to create any genuine opportunities, and Germany would score their goal six minutes from half-time against the run of play.
The goal would come as a result of the first real offensive thrust by Jogi Löw’s side, two torrid minutes for the England defence that would see ‘keeper Joe Hart keep out a header from Mertesacker only to be caught out the second time around as the big Arsenal centre-back positioned himself perfectly to find the back of the net from Toni Kroos‘ pinpoint cross.
Per Mertesacker celebrates his goal with Roman Weidenfeller and Lars Bender
Until the goal the German defence had been solid and the midfield sluggish, and their best players had been centre-backs Mertesacker and Jérôme Boateng. Boateng has looked increasingly confident in partnership with the more orthodox Mertesacker, and would follow up a number of impressive displays for FC Bayern this season with a solid showing – returning the confidence shown in him by the Nationaltrainer. The Berlin-born defender would make his sixth successive start in the Nationaltrikot – his longest spell as a first-team pick since his international debut in 2009.
The second half would see the German midfield wake up from their slumber, with Kroos pulling the strings – ably assisted by FC Bayern team mate Mario Götze. After a quiet opening half the gifted Kroos would perform a quiet but effective role, marshalling the midfield, creating space and providing the essential oil for a midfield machine that slowly cranked into life. More opportunities would be created, but the much-criticised Hart would pull off a number of world class saves to keep the Germans down to the one goal.
Defensively Mats Hummels would take over from Boateng before limping off injured, and his replacement Benedikt Höwedes would seamlessly take up the baton as England never threatened Weidenfeller in the German goal. The Borussia Dortmund ‘keeper wouldn’t have to make a save, and the nearest the home side would come to making a dent in the scoreline would be an effort from Andros Townsend that would crash against the outside of Weidenfeller’s right post.
Marco Reus would have a quiet game and Max Kruse would get too goggle-eyed in front of goal, but the latter part of the second half would see a better balance, with substitutes Sidney Sam and André Schürrle providing plenty of pace – working well with both Kroos and Götze. With the workmanlike Lars and Sven Bender providing a solid defensive midfield backbone, there would be plenty of positives for the coach to mull over.
Conclusion and Ratings
Overall, this would be a highly satisfactory win – one that would have pleased both the statisticians and the German coaching staff. England would be missing a few big names themselves, but the display from what was clearly a second-string German side that became increasingly confident as the game went on was the perfect result for Joachim Löw – vindicating his decision to rest some of the bigger names.
The Borussia Dortmund ‘keeper will naturally want to be tested a little more, but this would be the perfect debut. He wouldn’t have to make a single save, and looked confident from the start. His selection was way overdue, and nobody will be asking any questions if he is installed as the permanent number two behind Manuel Neuer.WM Watch: Should definitely have a seat on the plane to Brazil.
Some may wonder how and why Westermann is still in the reckoning, but he brings experience to what is a young defensive line. He is one of those players that does exactly what it says on the tin, with plenty of solidity and no frills. Was replaced after sixty-six minuted by former Schalke 04 team mate Julian Draxler. WM Watch: Is one of those players who will probably miss out when the final squad is named.
A dominant display by a player whose stock has increased ever since his move to Arsenal. Intelligent in his positioning and solid without making a show of it, Mertesacker clearly enjoyed his second outing as Spielführer. Capped things off with a fine goal – for me, the man of the match, just ahead of Toni Kroos. WM Watch: This time last year “Merte” looked like he was on his way out of the side, but his recent form almost guarantees him a place on the plane.
Boateng had an impressive game, and once again looked solid and confident in dealing with the opposition threat. Was to the ball first, and shut down his opponents with a cool efficiency. Was replaced by Mats Hummels at half-time. WM Watch: Six successive starts suggests that he is currently the man likely to partner Mertesacker in the middle of the back four, and a number of strong displays in the Bundesliga looks to have earned him a ticket to Brazil.
The left-back position continues to be the potential weak point, and Schmelzer had a torrid time against the pacy Andros Townsend. On the other hand, he did enough to emerge unscathed. Replaced by Marcell Jansen at the start of the second half. WM Watch: Has the most potential of all of the candidates in this position, and should make the final cut for the World Cup.
A solid display by the Bayer Leverkusen man, who with his twin brother Sven provided the defensive “Doppel-Sechs”. WM Watch:Bender will never offer the same skill set as the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, İlkay Gündoğan or Sami Khedira, but with the “big three” threatened by injury could very well sneak a ticket to Brazil.
Like his brother Lars, Borussia Dortmund’s Sven also delivered what he was asked to do with a solid defensive display. WM Watch: With so many big names he is always going to be on the reserve list, but injuries may well allow him to join his brother in Brazil next year.
After a quiet first half, the FC Bayern youngster came out of his shell without ever really setting the world on fire. Found more space at the end of the second half and had a decent shot that was turned away by Hart. WM Watch: While undoubtedly talented, Götze is always likely to be on the bench when the coach when the coach makes the first picks. That said, he is a shoo-in for the World Cup squad.
Made up for a sluggish and somewhat lazy start with a delightful cross for the winning goal, and stamped his authority on the midfield during a much better second half. Was the focal point of an impressive German midfield, and the fact that he has never been a regular first choice illustrates the depth of offensive midfield talent of this current German side. WM Watch: May not start every match in Brazil, but will definitely be on the plane.
A quiet evening for the Borussia Dortmund winger, who looked a shadow of his usual self. Showed the occasional burst of pace down the left and had a shot on goal that was well parried by Hart, but will have better games. Replaced with eight minutes remaining by André Schürrle. WM Watch: Should be on the final squad list, but may not necessarily be a guaranteed starter with all of the competition on offer.
The Borussia Mönchengladbach man offers plenty of energy and pace, but would misfire a little in this game. Was slightly greedy in front of goal with little accuracy, and will have better games. WM Watch: A place in Brazil will largely be dependent on the fitness of others. Made way for Sidney Sam eleven minutes into the second half.
Having been relegated to third choice behind Mertesacker and Boateng, his coming on at half-time would give him the opportunity to make his case. Sadly, an impressive display would end prematurely through injury after just twenty minutes on the field. Replaced by Benedikt Höwedes. WM Watch: Even as a third choice central defender, Hummels should make the final shortlist.
Replaced Marcel Schmelzer at half-time, and turned out a solid display that if anything puts him just ahead of his rival for the left-back slot. WM Watch: Having regained his place in the side after an unwelcome hiatus, the HSV man will be fighting tooth and nail for that ticket to South America.
Replaced Max Kruse after fifty-six minutes, and almost immediately provided additional pace and energy to the midfield. Had one decent opportunity, and on another day could very well have scored his first goal for the Mannschaft. WM Watch: One of the fringe players who impressed during the tour to the United States, Sam has worked his way into contention but may well miss out when the final squad is named.
The Schalke 04 captain would get an unexpected twenty or so minutes on the field as a replacement for the injured Mats Hummels, and performed solidly enough with ever really being tested by the England attack. WM Watch: Should be on the plane to Brazil both for his versatility and the dearth of top-class defenders.
Replaced Heiko Westermann six minutes after the hour, and gelled into the improving midfield without standing out. WM Watch: With all of the talent at the coach’s disposal, the talented Schalke 04 youngster is a good bet to make the final squad, but not a certainty.
Came on for a nice little eight-minute cameo, and immediately clicked into gear – working well with former Bayer Leverkusen colleague Sidney Sam. WM Watch: Pressed his case for squad selection with his hat-trick against Sweden, but having drifted to the fringes last year nothing is guaranteed.
Weidenfeller (3), Westermann (3), Mertesacker (1), Boateng (2), Schmelzer (4), S. Bender (3), L. Bender (3), Götze (4), Kroos (3), Reus (4), Kruse (5). Subs: Hummels (2), Jansen (4), Sam (3), Höwedes (3), Draxler (3)
Weidenfeller (3) Westermann (4), Mertesacker (1.5), Boateng (2), Schmelzer (4), S. Bender (3.5), L. Bender (3), Götze (3), Kroos (2.5), Reus (5), Kruse (4.5). Subs: Jansen (3.5), Sam (3)
Weidenfeller (3) Westermann (3), Mertesacker (1.5), Boateng (2), Schmelzer (4), S. Bender (3), L. Bender (3), Götze (3), Kroos (2), Reus (4), Kruse (5). Subs: Hummels (2), Jansen (3), Sam (2.5), Höwedes (3), Draxler (3)