Frustration in Frankfurt

Generally speaking nobody cares too much about the August early season friendly, but this was Argentina – and Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena would be packed to the rafters to see Joachim Löw’s side take on the Albiceleste in what was their first encounter since the Nationalmannschaft’s demolition of the South Americans at the World Cup in 2010.

Both sides would spare little in their lineups: while the German Nationaltrainer rested a number of senior professionals he would field a team consisting of players that had made the first selection group for the Euros, and his Argentine counterpart Alejandro Sabello would select most of the big names – including the mercurial little genius Lionel Messi.

While the Mannschaft were playing their first international since their traumatic defeat at the hands of Italy in the Euro semi-final, Sabello’s side would be coming in off a five-game unbeaten streak.

Löw’s lineup was much in line with the many pre-match predictions, though with Lars Bender starting alongside Sami Khedira in defensive midfield instead of Toni Kroos and Hannover 96’s Ron-Robert Zieler winning his second international cap in goal in place of the injured Manuel Neuer. The back four would feature three of the four Euro starters – Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber – though in the absence of skipper Phillip Lahm the left-back berth would be filled by Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer, who would be looking to improve up his previous performances in the Nationaltrikot.

The new-look defensive midfield partnership of Bender and Khedira would sit behind the line-up everyone wanted to see against Italy – Mesut Özil in the centre, with Thomas Müller and Marco Reus out on the flanks. Up front, Germany’s only thirty-something Miroslav Klose would lead the side.

So, here’s the match report.

The two teams enter the field on what is a pleasant evening in Germany’s commercial capital, and before the usual proceedings Marco Reus is presented his award as Germany’s player of the year for 2011/12. The trophy is presented by Kicker editor Rainer Holzschuh and DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach.

1 min. Swedish referee Jonas Ericsson gets the game under way as the home side kick off. The crowd, numbering just under forty-nine thousand, are in good voice. Germany are playing in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß ensemble, while their South American visitors are kitted out in their now familiar second strip of dark blue shirts with light blue and white trim, white shorts and dark blue socks.

2 mins. ‘Keeper Ron-Robert Zieler gets his first touch of the ball as he gathers a hopeful Argentine long ball.

3 mins. Germany open up the Argentine defence out on the left and sets up Marco Reus, having done what looks like the hard work the Dortmund man dithers: rather than shoot he drags the ball across the face of goal, and the chance has gone. Seconds later, Müller is clipped giving the home side a free-kick out on the right.

4 mins. Mesut Özil’s free-kick is nicely delivered but neither Klose nor Müller can get on the end of it, and the opposition defence are able to clear.

5 mins. Joachim Löw’s side have started brightly, and are showing signs of being able to open up the Argentinian defence. It is just a matter now of keeping up the pressure and not trying to overelaborate.

9 mins. Left-back Marcos Rojo and former FC Bayern benchwarmer José Ernesto Sosa combine down the left, and Sosa sets up Gonzalo Higuaín who blasts his shot over the bar from close range. It looked more than a little tight, but flag goes up for offside to spare Higuaín’s blushes.

12 mins. Reus finds Klose down the left, and the veteran shows great skill and awareness once again as he beats his marker Pablo Zabaleta before playing a sharp pass inside for Özil, whose weak and slightly scuffed shot is well blocked by Romero. Another chance goes begging for the Mannschaft.

16 mins. There’s a slight break in play as Higuaín gets a knock on the head following a clash with Mats Hummels and Holger Bastuber, and returns to the field after being treated on the touchline. The Argentine forward returns to the field with his head all bandaged up, but it is Hummels who is the one still looking slightly groggy.

18 mins. Lars Bender makes an impressive run down the left and exchanges passes with Özil before winning a corner. Reus’ corner is curled towards the far post and finds the head of Mats Hummels, whose looping header finds its way into the arms of ‘keeper Romero.

19 mins. More good apprach play from the Nationalmannschaft, with Sami Khedira this time making his way down the left. He finds Müller, who fires a firm shot on goal – but it hits Özil instead of the back of the net.

20 mins. Germany win another corner out on the left, but this time Reus’ Eckball effort is badly overhit. The home side are clearly on top here, and is surely a matter of time until they are able to put the right move together to open the scoring.

22 mins. Having kept thing under control for the first quarter of the game, the men in white needlessly give the ball away in midfield and almost contrive to gift Argentina the opening goal. The danger is eventually cleared by Hummels who puts the ball behind for a corner.

24 mins. Left back Marcel Schmelzer is skinned by the dangerous Ángel di Maria, but the Argentinian playmaker is unable to profit.

25 mins. Still groggy after his earlier clash of heads with Higuaín, the unfortunate Hummels is replaced by Schalke 04 skipper Benedikt Höwedes.

26 mins. Pablo Zabaleta gets the game’s first yellow card for a crude challenge on the fast-moving Khedira.

28 mins. Germany make a fast break down the right, and Müller plays a smart ball inside to Reus, whose well-struck snapshot pings off an Argentine defender. There are appeals for a handball in the box, but referee Eriksson waves play on.

30 mins. Drama. Out of nowhere, Sosa is sent through on goal and is brought down by Zieler. It’s a penalty to Argentina, and even though it is a friendly Zieler is shown the red card. Probably a little harsh. Substitute ‘keeper Marc-André ter Stegen is quickly off the bench, and comes on for the unlucky Thomas Müller.

It turns out that Zieler has just made himself something of a history-maker: he is the first goalkeeper to be dismissed in the long history of the Nationalmannschaft.

32 mins. Goal-machine Leo Messi attempts to stroke the spot-kick to ter Stegen’s left, but the ‘keeper guesses correctly and makes an easy save. What a great confidence booster for the Mönchengladbach man, whose previous encounter in the Nationaltrikot against Switzerland had been nothing short of a disaster.

36 mins. As one might have expected Argentina are now starting to take advantage of the extra man to boss things a little in midfield. Sub ‘keeper ter Stegen is getting quite a few touches of the ball, but has looked solid so far.

37 mins. Argentina lose the ball in midfield, and Reus sends an angled ball through the Argentinian defence that just a little too strong from the fast moving Özil.

40 mins. There’s another swift break as Özil finds Khedira in space, but the Real Madrid man is foiled by Javier Mascherano as he steadies himself to pull the trigger.

42 mins. Another break. It’s that man Reus again, who steams down the left to pick out Marcel Schmelzer on the overlap. The Dortmund left-back’s well-struck cross is agonisingly in front of Klose’s outstretched leg. Close once again.

45+1 mins. Argentina win a corner out on the left, and di Maria’s kick is bizarrely turned into his own net by Khedira. It’s a simple case of poor positioning from the big man, and although he got a touch ter Stegen had no chance of keeping it out. Out of almost nowhere, the visitors have taken the lead. The crowd have been numbed.

45+4 mins. There’s plenty of additional time on account of the earlier injuries, and Argentina are looking comfortable. The whistle blows for half time.

An entertaining first half defined by a somewhat harsh – but correct – sending off for Ron-Robert Zieler and more poor defending to gift Argentina with the opening goal. Offensively the Mannschaft have shown plenty of promise and have created plenty of decent opportunites, but have been unable to deliver the telling final ball when it counts.

Things have clearly not gone to plan for Jogi Löw’side: Hummels off injured inside thirty minutes, Zieler dismissed, and then to cap it all off a defensive blunder in injury time. It’s going to be a tough second half.

The teams ara back out. There no changes for Germany at half-time, but Sergio Agüero is on for Sosa for the Argentinians.

46 mins. Off we go again, as the men in blue get things under way.

49 mins. Germany win a corner after more good interplay from Schmelzer down the left, but Reus’ delivery is poor. Seconds later, Reus cuts inside from the left before delivering a fine shot that cannons off the left upright. Khedira is quickly in to square the ball for Özil, who buries the chance. Unfortunately, the flag has gone up as Khedira was marginally offside when Reus had taken his shot. It is just not their night.

52 mins. Rather than being level at 1-1, the crowd see the ball quickly make its way to the other side of the pitch. The German defence is sliced open by Agüero whose clean through-ball finds Higuaín, and the Real Madrid man’s sharp and well-calculated cutback is collected by Messi. The little man has the goal at his mercy, and this time makes no mistake. 2-0 to Argentina, and it’s surely all over now.

54 mins. Klose is flagged offside, but once again play switches quickly to the other end as Higuaín shoots high over the bar from a tight angle.

55 mins. Despite being at a clear disadvantage Germany are still able to work well offensively, and Khedira creates an opportunity for himself before sending the ball wide of the left upright.

57 mins. Argentina are looking for a third, and Messi is causing all sorts of problems for the shaky-looking German defence.

59 mins. A sharp ball the flies across the German penalty area finds di Maria, whose cross is desperately punched away by ter Stegen.

62 mins. André Schürrle is on for Klose, who hands the captain’s armband to Sami Khedira. The forward position is taken by Marco Reus, as Schürrle slots into his usual position out on the left.

65 mins. It’s almost three as a perfect Argentinian move dissects the German defence. It’s the three Argentine amigos Agüero, Higuaín and Messi all involved again, and the little man sees his chipped shot squirm just wide of the far post with ter Stegen rooted to the spot.

67 mins. Schürrle cuts in brilliantly from the left and finds Höwedes, who wins a corner. Moments later, a lovely snapshot from the Leverkusen winger forces Romero into a fine reflex save.

69 mins. It’s a double substitution for the Mannschaft as Khedira and Özil give way to İlkay Gündoğan and Toni Kroos. Khedira has had less then ten minutes as captain, and hands the armband over to Jérôme Boateng.

70 mins. Kroos is in the action almost immediately as he plays a neat one-two with the impressive Schürrle, but the Leverkusen man is flagged offside.

73 mins. Argentina are on the attack again, and the ball is only half-cleared as Gündoğan challenges Agüero. It lands at the feet of di Maria, who hits the sweetest of long-range efforts to send the ball fizzing to ter Stegen’s right. 0-3. Almost immediately, the impressive di Maria is replaced by Pablo Guiñazú.

74 mins. Mario Götze is on for Lars Bender.

76 mins. It’s now turning into a stroll for the visitors, and it’s almost four as Messi wriggles into the penalty area before hitting a shot that is well deflected on his own post by ter Stegen. So close to being a fourth.

79 mins. A good run down the right by the sprightly Götze, and the ball is just a little behind Höwedes who cannot direct his header towards goal.

81 mins. There’s some German pressure now, as Schürrle picks out Götze down the right. The Dortmund man makes his way to the byline before cutting the ball into the box where it is speared into the back of the net by Höwedes with a spectacular diving header. A great goal, but clearly a consolation with less than ten minutes left. 1-3.

86 mins. Messi works his way past Badstuber, and finds Higuaín whose shot pings off the outside of the right post. ter Stegen looked to have had it covered though.

90 mins. An interloper is on the pitch, but appears to get his wish as he touches hands with an amiable Leo Messi. The man punches the air and happily walks off with two security guards.

90+1 mins. Another lovely German through ball, but not for the first time Reus overcooks things and loses possession.

90+3 mins. The referee blows for full-time.

A Quick Summary

This was a game that started brightly, but was ultimately altered by the dismissal of Ron-Robert Zieler. Given that it was a friendly the decision was more than a little harsh, but the Swedish referee chose to do things by the book and the German ‘keeper had to go. The enforced removal of Thomas Müller to make way for substitute keeper Marc-André ter Stegen clearly didn’t help matters, and the defence – shaky at the best of times – would be put out of joint by the earlier exit of Mats Hummels.

Given that two-thirds of the match would be a matter of ten versus eleven, it is difficult to gauge the Mannschaft’s overall performance: the defence was again at times bordering on the shambolic, but even with a man down Löw’s side were still more than capable when moving forward. However while things largely clicked for a talented Argentinian side, nearly every promising German move broke down in the final third – more often than not with a ball that was just too short or slightly mis-timed. The exception was of course the consolation goal nine minutes from time, which was excellently created and brilliantly finished by Benedikt Höwedes.

A more comprehensive review and player ratings to come.

v Argentina, Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt am Main, 15.08.2012

1-3 (0-1)
Höwedes 81. / Messi pen 32., Khedira og 45+1., Messi 52., di Maria 73.

Germany: Zieler – Boateng, Hummels (25. Höwedes), Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira (69. Gündoğan), L. Bender (74. Götze) – Müller (31. ter Stegen), Özil (69. Kroos), Reus – Klose (c) (62. Schürrle).

Argentina: Romero – Zabaleta (65. Campagnaro), Fernández, Garay, Rojo – Gago, Mascherano (79. Braña) – Sosa (46. Agüero), Messi (c), Di Maria (73. Guiñazú) – Higuaín

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)
Assistants: Mathias Klasenius, Daniel Wärnmark (Sweden)
Fourth Official: Deniz Aytekin (Germany)

Yellow Cards: – / Zabaleta 26.
Red Cards: Zieler 30. / –

Attempts on Target: 4 / 6
Attempts off Target: 7 / 6
Corners: 7 / 5
Fouls Committed: 7 / 10

Attendance: 48,808

Frustration in Frankfurt

4 thoughts on “Frustration in Frankfurt

  • August 17, 2012 at 03:25

    Although winning this friendly would have been nice due to recent events, i didnt really think it was a too bad of a game, it was a bit weird. Löw appeared to have taken a more experimental approach towards the second half and the younger players were pretty good which at least makes the future not look too bleak. The lineup was good, wish muller had gotten to play more in order to really see how well he links up with reus, ozil and klose, they could really be dangerous and very important for the next games.

    • August 17, 2012 at 09:31

      I am tending to think the same. It was on paper a poor home defeat, but overall the performance was not that bad, and the team right from the sending off of Zieler never really had the rub of the green.

      It’s actually one of the better friendly match defeats, and there have been quite a number of poor ones.

  • August 16, 2012 at 14:13

    That is now four defeats this year… The main problem seems to be defence. Another goal conceded from a corner albeit unluckily for Sami. The positives… several key players missing…Reus and Schürrle again looking sharp. I did not see the whole game but listened via German Radio. 3:1 seemed to flatter Argentina somewhat. After going a man down (and then a goal down) it was always going to be an uphill task. I just wish Özil was more clinical in front of goal. The move with Reus and Klose was wonderful. Just a pity Mesut did not convert it. Also fantastic by both Reus (hitting the post) and Schürrle. Great move and fantastic diving header by Höwedes from Götze’s cross. Hope Mats’ injury is nothing too serious.

    • August 17, 2012 at 09:34

      In terms of defeats, this is Jogi’s worst year since taking over in 2006. The defence clearly needs sorting, but things were clearly not helped by the sending off and the earlier withdrawal of Mats Hummels.

      This game left mw with a weirdly positive feeling, though. Offensively the team were good but tried just a little too hard, and it didn’t feel like a 3-1 defeat.


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