So, two matches in five days. Six points, six goals, two clean sheets. In short, job done. While we could simply take things as they are and look forward to Germany wrapping up their qualifying campaign next month at home to the already-eliminated Republic of Ireland, there are plenty of questions to answer.
Yes, the team would deliver what they needed to do. But over the course of the two matches there would be little of the dynamism that has been part of German football since its rebirth in 2006. What we would see was functional, dry and – dare I say it – boring. A 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands – tough and determined as the opposition may be – is nothing to crow about, more so as the result would accelerated by a very soft penalty and a correct but arguably harsh red card.
Defensively, the rejigged back four with Per Mertesacker and Jérome Boateng in the centre would do their job. By contrast, the midfield would look flat and up front Miroslav Klose would have a right royal stinker. While Austria had been genuinely disappointing the Faroes would just be the Faroes: determined, tightly meshed in defence, gritty, and so on. Their duty would be to prevent the Germans from scoring, while punting long balls forward in the hope of catching a rare opportunity. Sometimes, it’s not always about the result.
Facts and Stats
The Nationalmannschaft would come into this match having played three previous matches against the islanders. The first two during the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign had produced two tough matches, while the more recent encounter in 2012 resulting in a 3-0 win for the Germans – though even that wouldn’t be without its frustrating moments. While the Germans would be looking for three more points to push themselves closer to next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, the Faroese would be looking for their first point, having drawn a blank in their previous seven group encounters.
Having levelled Gerd Müller’s goalscoring record against Austria, Klose would have been hoping to add to his tally.
The Team and Tactics
Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw had been roundly criticised for experimenting way too much during last year’s Euro 2012 finals, and it looks to have gone to his head. In a game where he would certainly have a little more scope to make small tweaks, he would keep the same standard formation and line up – bar the injured Marco Reus who would be replaced out on the left wing by Julian Draxler. From what we can see, the wacky experimentation has been replaced with a cautious conservatism. One has to wonder whether the coach will be able to balance the two in time for next year’s showpiece in South America.
In truth, there was not much to say. While on Friday a lot of the play had flowed down the centre of the pitch, the performance in Tórshavn would be defined by a number of fast breaks down he flanks, but always completed with a poor final ball. Löw’s side would find it difficult to break down a solid and tight Faroes defence, and there would be a genuine lack of ideas. There would be long spells of short horizontal movement, often followed by a misplaced or overhit pass – followed by more of the same.
Not surprisingly the opening goal would come from an unfamiliar source, with Mertesacker getting on the end of Boateng’s headed flick-on from a Mesut Özil corner. The off-colour Klose hadn’t looked like scoring all evening, and it would take the ungainly Mertesacker to show him how to finish.
The second half would see much of the same, and with time running out a typically robust Thomas Müller run followed by an equally typical blur of arms and legs stumble would result in a penalty. There was a foul – the merest brush – but the referee would have no real option but to award the penalty and issue the red card to the unfortunate Atli Gregersen. Özil would stroke the penalty past ‘keeper Gunnar Nielsen to kill off any threat of a shock result, and a well-taken finish from Müller six minutes from time would but the gloss on what was yet another rather flattering Pflichtsieg.
Conclusion and Ratings
Overall, this was a result where Löw’s side did what they had to do and no more. Klose wouldn’t find the net on what would be a poor night by his own high standards, and teenager Draxler would promise much but deliver little in a performance that I would rate as slightly disappointing. The best players on the pitch were probably the defenders, with Mertesacker getting the plaudits for his good and at times very vocal team play and his third international goal.
The opposition may have been weak, but this week’s matches provide something of a dilemma for the coach. The central defensive pairing of Mertesacker and Boateng would look pretty solid, and one now has to ask where Mats Hummels sits in the pecking order.
Was there when he needed to be, but otherwise yet another very quiet and uneventful evening for the German ‘keeper.
The skipper would be good going forward with some typically robust bursts, and would cap off a perfectly solid display by providing the cross for Thomas Müller’s goal at the end.
Another solid display by the FC Bayern man, who looks – for now at least – as though he has cemented a place at the centre of the defensive back four. Was less active than usual coming forward, but stuck to his task in a disciplined fashion. Used his height to provide an excellent assist for the first goal.
Maybe it was the weakness of the opposition or signs of a growing confidence, but the tall centre-back would once again look good and well in control of his surroundings. Would marshall his area well, and mark a fine individual performance with a close-range finish of which Gerd Müller would have been proud.
Probably the weakest of the back four, on what was a quiet evening against largely unthreatening opposition. Was nearly caught cold at the start of the second half, and the left-back position remains one that the coach should still be looking closely at.
Calm and controlled as usual, Khedira has little real work to do, but continued to boss his space as he usually does. Went close to scoring with a header that was cleared off the line.
After a noteworthy performance against Austria this would be a rather flat display from the Bayern man, but one where he would do little wrong either. With the majority of the attacks coming from the flanks, he would be left as little more than a participant in the mass pass-fests.
Another typical Müller performance where he would pop up unnoticed after minutes of inactivity. Won the penalty with a sharp burst and characteristic stumble, and net his third goal in as many internationals with a fine finish to round off the scoring. Was replaced by Sidney Sam after finishing his celebrations.
A quiet evening from Özil, who like the rest of the midfield would spend much of his time playing keep-ball. Provided the corner that would lead to the opening goal, and showed that he truly is the go-to penalty man with a coolly-taken spot-kick.
The one player I wanted to see, and in the end a disappointment. Was busy and determined enough and would hit the crossbar early on, but was unable to provide that killer ball in the final third. Replaced by André Schürrle with a quarter of an hour remaining.
An evening of scuffed chances and missed opportunities for the veteran striker, whose hopes of eclipsing Gerd Müller’s record would shrivel away in what was a disappointing performance. Left the field for Max Kruse with eleven minutes remaining.
An encouraging fifteen-minute cameo for the Chelsea man, which saw his chase the ball enthusiastically and get two shots at goal. Sadly for the Chelsea man he is unlikely to get an extended spell on the pitch for any time soon.
Neuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (2), Boateng (2), Schmelzer (4), Khedira (4), Kroos (3), Müller (3), Özil (4), Draxler (4), Klose (3). Subs (before 75 minutes): Schürrle (4).
Neuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (2.5), Boateng (2.5), Schmelzer (4), Khedira (2.5), Kroos (3), Müller (3), Özil (3), Draxler (3), Klose (3.5). Subs: –
Neuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (2), Boateng (2.5), Schmelzer (4), Khedira (3), Kroos (3.5), Müller (3), Özil (3.5), Draxler (4), Klose (5). Subs: Schürrle (3).