After a somewhat testing start to 2015 against Australia in Kaiserslautern Germany got their ship back in order against Georgia with a clinical but arguably underwhelming display in Tbilisi. After a tough opening half an hour two goals just before half-time settled the issue against a gritty but toothless home side, but the second half was something of a damp squib with a number of opportunities being spurned as Joachim Löw’s side failed in their mission to score the “perfect” goal.
Marco Reus was on the score sheet again along with the returning Thomas Müller, and while the offensive unit failed to set the world alight there was a far more positive performance at the back with ‘keeper Manuel Neuer having a relaxing evening – so much so that he added to his outfield repertoire by taking a throw-in.
There were wholesale chances to the eleven that had started against Australia, with the FC Bayern München contingent back in the mix. As well as Neuer, this more important game saw the return of Schweinsteiger, Müller and Jérôme Boateng; with Mario Götze retaining his place, there were new fewer than five players from the reigning Bundesliga champions.
Having experimented with a three-man back line for a while against the Aussies, the coach reverted back to a more recognised Vierekette, with Boateng joined in the centre by the returning Mats Hummels while 1. FC Köln’s Jonas Hector retained his slot on the left. Having come on as a second-half sub against the Aussies, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy completed the defensive foursome as Holger Badstuber returned to Germany with a slight injury.
The defensive midfield saw the expected changes with Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos coming in for Sami Khedira and İlkay Gündoğan, while further up the field the retained Reus, Götze and Mesut Özil were joined by Müller who came in for Karim Bellarabi who like Badstuber failed a late fitness test. With Özil directing operations in the middle, Reus on the left and Müller on the right, Götze was once again given the task of playing the more advanced “false nine” role.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s fourth game against Georgia, and the 900th international fixture in the long and grand history of the DFB. Against this opponent, the Nationalmannschaft came into the game with a record of three wins from three, the last coming in a friendly in Rostock in October 2006 (2-0). The two previous meetings had come during the qualification campaign for Euro 1996 with Germany winning 2-0 in Tbilisi and 4-1 in Nürnberg.
Following the retirement of Philipp Lahm after the World Cup in 2014 Bastian Schweinsteiger was appointed as the official captain, but injuries had kept him out of the team for the seven matches since the victory in Rio. The FC Bayern München midfielder had worn the captain’s armband on five previous occasions, but the match in Tbilisi would be his first as the official skipper.
Schweinsteiger’s return to international duty brought him his 109th international cap, taking him clear into fifth place on the all-time DFB appearances list ahead of Jürgen Klinsmann.
Right from the start Germany stamped their authority on the match, and it was clear that that the home side were going to be fighting for scraps. Buoyed by enthusiastic home support the Georgians held their own for what was a frustrating opening half an hour for the Germans and coach Jogi Löw, though this was probably more down to poor control an suspect decision-making in the final third rather than a superlative defensive display from Kakhaber Tskhadadze’s side.
It would take some neat skill from Mario Götze – and a little bit of luck that allowed him to keep the ball in making his way past three defenders – to set things up to break the deadlock, and with the ball at his feet with plenty of time and space Reus made no mistake. The lead was doubled just six minutes later as Müller provided the perfect finish after collecting Özil’s pass, and from that point on there was only going to be one winner.
With Germany in complete command there should have been more goals in the second half, and although Reus was unlucky to hit the woodwork Germany were seriously guilty of trying to do too much and wasting workable opportunities rather than stick to a more simple approach. Players would spend far too much time on the ball looking for that killer pass rather than just keeping things flowing, and given the lack of any real threat from the opposition the second forty-five minutes felt like an exercise in sleepwalking. This would later be confirmed by Löw, who praised his team for their first half performance but admitted that things could have been better in the second.
Conclusions and Ratings
Breaking things down, this was little more than a walk in the park for the world champions, with the game settled in those crucial six minutes. The main thing however was that regardless of the poor conversion in front of goal, the job had been done and the potential banana skin avoided. Three more points safely in the locker, and a performance that was professional in its minimalism. This was not the scintillating “Rococo-Fussball” witnessed in Brazil, but something more Bauhaus.
While Georgia offered little in the way of an attacking threat, the defence did their job well, with everybody doing their job when called upon. In the entire ninety minutes, Georgia would have only two shots at the German goal, and Manuel Neuer didn’t have to make a single save.
With other results going their way Germany would end the day in second place, just one behind group leaders Poland and ahead of Scotland on head to head record. Next up, Gibraltar.
Things couldn’t have been quieter for the German Torhüter, who in his ongoing mission to avoid being bored completely decided to take a throw-in. Next he’ll be lining up as the team’s next free-kick specialist.
Largely untested, a solid outing for the Hoffenheim man as he looks to cement a place in the starting lineup. More than played his part going forward.
Was a notably commanding presence at the back, and also ventured forward well too. Showed plenty of pace and commitment and was quick to shut down any threat from the opposition.
Like Boateng, Hummels adds that professional stability to the centre of the defence. Like the rest of the back four he was largely untested, but maintained his concentration and made one excellent challenge in the closing stages.
Not as adventurous as he was against Australia, but another decent outing for the 1. FC Köln man at left-back.
A solid rather than spectacular comeback for the skipper, who looked a little rusty at times with a few misplaced passes. He clearly needs more time, but playing the full ninety minutes wouldn’t have done him any harm at all.
Kept things ticking over with his intelligence and distribution, and helped maintain a decent tempo in the middle of the park.
A positive outing for Müller, capped off by his goal just before the break. Was always involved, and continues to be one of the must-haves for the coach. Was replaced shortly before full time by André Schürrle.
While still not quite up to his usual level, Özil kept things ticking over and helped move the ball around nicely. Delivered the pass for the second goal.
Scored a well-taken goal and could easily have had a couple more after being denied by the Georgian ‘keeper in the first half and the crossbar in the second. Is slowly coming back to his best, but slowed down a little in the latter part of the second half.
The arguments will still keep floating around concerning Götze’s role in the side and the whole “False Nine” thing, but he more than played his part. Set up Reus for the opening goal, and kept the opposition defence on their toes. Was replaced by Lukas Podolski three minutes from the end of the ninety.
A four minute run out for the Wolfsburg man, who came on for Müller with three minutes remaining.
Podolski continues to make his way to Lothar Matthäus record of 150 international appearances, and having replaced Götze his three minutes on the pitch brought him his 128th cap.
Neuer (3), Rudy (3), Boateng (2), Hummels (2), Hector (3.5), Schweinsteiger (4), Kroos (4), Müller (2), Özil (3.5), Reus (2), Götze (3)
Neuer (3), Rudy (3), Boateng (2), Hummels (2), Hector (3), Schweinsteiger (4), Kroos (4), Müller (2), Özil (3), Reus (2), Götze (3)