The equation is simple. A point to make it into the last four, and a better result than Chile to top the group. Germany take on Cameroon in Sochi in their final group phase game, and there are more changes and tweaks with the starting eleven as Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw continues to experiment.
Statistically, this is a significant moment for the German coach. It is Löw’s 150th match in charge, and – dependent if one includes penalty shootouts in the overall win/loss record – he is seeking either his 100th or 101st victory as his eleventh year in charge of the Mannschaft. These are records are going to be hard to beat.
Marc-André ter Stegen starts in goal, and it looks as though he is set to be the man between the sticks for as long as Germany remain in the tournament. There is one change to the three-man defensive unit, with Shkodran Mustafi making way for the returning Antonio Rüdiger. Given Mustafi’s poor showing against Chile it is an expected change, but it could have been part of the rotation plan anyway.
The three-man defensive midfield unit also sees a one change, with Marvin Plattenhardt making his first start in the Nationaltrikot in place of the established and far more experienced Jonas Hector. Further up the pitch, Kerem Demirbay also gets his first start in place of Leon Goretzka, while Timo Werner starts up front in place of Lars Stindl. This is clearly a planned rotation, given Stindl’s two goals in Germany’s first two matches.
This is Germany’s fourth meeting with Cameroon, with the Mannschaft having the better of the previous three encounters. The first meeting and only previous competitive encounter came at the World Cup in 2002 when Rudi Völler’s side beat the Indomitable Lions 2-0 in a match littered with red and yellow cards, and Jürgen Klinsmann’s German side eased to a 3-0 friendly win in Leipzig in 2004. Things were a lot tighter in the most recent meeting, a 2-2 friendly draw in 2014 in Mönchengladbach.
It is a bright afternoon on the Black Sea coast, as both teams line up for the national anthems. Germany need a point at the very least, and Cameroon need to win by two clear goals to be in with a shot at making the last four. Things are set up nicely, and both Chile and Australia are in the same situation the the other final group match in Moscow. The winner of the group will play CONCACAF Cup winners Mexico in the semi-finals, while the runners-up will be up against European Champions Portugal.
1 min. Kitted out in green shirts, red shirts and yellow socks, Cameroon kick off. Germany, again, are in their familiar colours.
4 mins. Not much to show from the Mannschaft so far, and Cameroon have made an energetic start.
6 mins. Rüdiger looks to lift a long diagonal ball à la Jérôme Boateng, but Joshua Kimmich is flagged offside.
8 mins. Cameroon are making the running here, and Arnaud Djoum has a shot on goal. The ball takes a deflection of a German player and loops up into the box, but ter Stegen collects.
10 mins. The first genuine foray into the opposition half from the men in white. Some neat play outside the box releases Kimmich on the right, and the FC Bayern man’s cross is fisted away by ‘keeper Joseph-Fabrice Ondoa.
14 mins. Kimmich and Timo Werner exchanges passes on the right, but Werner steps offside and the flag goes up.
15 mins. There have been a few misplaced places and distinct lack of coordination about this German team so far. The compass needs to be readjusted a bit.
20 mins. Plenty of passes now, but the ball is going nowhere. This has been a pretty ordinary contest so far.
21 mins. The first real shot in anger from the Mannschaft, as Emre Can collects skipper Julian Draxler’s pass at the edge of the box before hitting a firm shot just wide of the right post. Ondoa had it covered though.
23 mins. Germany win their first corner out on the right, but Kimmich’s kick floats harmlessly over the box and out of play.
24 mins. Plattenhardt floats nicely down the left before sending in a teasing cross, and Kimmich flies in and heads wide. Demirbay was lurking just to Kimmich’s right, and a decent chance goes begging.
27 mins. Sebastian Rudy has a speculative crack from distance, but there are no problems for the Cameroon ‘keeper.
29 mins. Draxler shows neat skill and combines nicely with Can, but the Liverpool man’s cross into the box is blocked.
30 mins. Plattenhardt goes down by the left touchline, and Germany are awarded a free-kick. The Hertha BSC man sends in a well flighted cross, and Rüdiger is unable to make decent contact. In fairness, the Roma fullback was slightly impeded by team mate Can.
33 mins. Germany are starting top put together some passes now, but are still unable to create anything in the final third.
35 mins. Christian Bassogog has been Cameroon’s brightest spark, and he zips into the German box after a swift break from the men in green. Two white shirts close in on him though and ter Stegen collects the ball.
38 mins. Hugo Broos’ side are buzzing at the edge of the German box, and win a free kick out on the left. It is floated in dangerously, and Rüdiger is up nicely to turn it around for a corner which comes to nothing for the African champions.
40 mins. Vincent Aboubakar has a shot from the halfway line as he spots ter Stegen off his line, but the German keeper is back in position to gather the ball with ease.
42 mins. A swift move from Germany now, and there’s another lovely cross into the danger zone from Plattenhardt. Werner strays offside though. Meanwhile, Australia have taken the lead against Chile in Moscow.
45 mins. Perhaps the best chance of the match so far, as the German half is flooded with green shirts. Ernest Mabouke floats in on the right and lifts a nasty looking cross into the box, and Kimmich is unable to prevent André-Frank Zambo Anguissa from getting a decent contact. Zambo Anguissa’s looping header is on target, but ter Stegen does brilliantly to tip it over the crossbar. The resulting corner is also well delivered, but ter Stegen confidently punches the ball clear.
45+1 mins. Demirbay gets in behind the Cameroon defence, but cannot make anything out of the opportunity. He plays the ball back to Matthias Ginter, whose attempted cross is blocked. The whistle blows for half time.
Arguably the poorest half from Germany in the tournament so far. They were little more than lifeless for the opening twenty minutes, slowly working their way back into the game without ever setting things alight. Joshua Kimmich should have done better as he flashed a diving header wide, but it was Cameroon that ended the stronger. There will no doubt be a few words from the coach at half time, as he will look to see his team switch up a gear.
As it currently stands, Germany are top of the group on five points, while Chile are being hunted down by Australia behind them.
46 mins. Germany get the second half underway.
48 mins. We needed a magic moment, and here it is. There are some neat interchanges through the middle of the pitch, Draxler shows great close control before creating space for Demirbay with the cutest of backheels. The Hoffenheim man does rest, settling himself nicely before lashing the ball from just outside the box with his right foot into the top right-hand corner. What a way to get off the mark. 1-0.
Kerem Demirbay’s thundering first international goal gives Germany the lead, three minutes into the second half
50 mins. Germany look to have found that second gear now. Werner makes a dart down the left, and wins a corner. Nothing comes of it, but there has been a clear momentum shift in the match following the goal.
53 mins. Draxler finds Werner with another lovely ball, but the RB Leipzig striker blazes his shot wide of the near post.
54 mins. It is all Germany now. Can’s pass slices through the Cameroon defence, Ondoa closes in on Werner who has to improvise with a tap outside to Kimmich, and the right-back’s shot is on target and well saved by the Cameroon ‘keeper. The resulting corner is swung in well enough, but Ginter’s looping header floats over the target.
58 mins. The first change for the African champions, as Djoum is replaced by Moumi Ngamaleu.
60 mins. Some quick feet from Cameroon, and Aboubakar scuffs a shot wide from the edge of the box. Moments later a shot from sub Ngamaleu skids wide.
62 mins. Sébastien Siani is booked for a nasty high challenge on Can, but it looks like a clear case of mistaken identity. The referee looks to consult his video assistant on the touchline, and the replay clearly suggests that Ernest Mabouka is the guilty party. The Colombian referee shows Siani the red card however, and there is all sorts of confusion.
64 mins. There is more talk between the officials, Siani is having a quiet chat with Jogi Löw on the touchline, and the referee calmly places his hand on Mabouka’s shoulder before brandishing the dreaded red again. It is a complete farce, but the mistake appears to have been rectified. Ultimately it is a pretty harsh call, and Cameroon are down to ten. Given the circumstances, they take the decision well.
66 mins. Cameroon have little time to recover, as there’s a break from the Germans down the right. Kimmich finds space to deliver the perfect cross, and rather than using his feet the fast-advancing Werner uses his momentum to finish with a low diving header, Jürgen Klinsmann style. Another player off the mark in international football. 2-0.
Demirbay celebrates with Timo Werner, after the RB Leipzig striker netted his first goal for the Mannschaft
70 mins. The African champions make their second change, with Jérôme Guihoata replacing Benjamin Moukandjo.
74 mins. The match is pretty much done as a contest now, and Jogi Löw makes his first change of the afternoon. Rudy is off, and Bayer Leverkusen starlet Benjamin Henrichs is on in his place.
75 mins. Demirbay has a shot from distance with his left foot, but it flies high over the crossbar.
77 mins. Substitute Henrichs is quickly in on the action, and sends in a cross that is put behind for a corner. It is time up for Demirbay now, who makes way for Julian Brandt.
79 mins. What is this? Out of nowhere, ten-man Cameroon break swiftly down the right, and Ngamaleu’s cross is glanced past ter Stegen. At first it looks like a horrible gaffe from the German ‘keeper as the ball appears to sprint off the top of his gloves, but it is clear that the slightest deflection off the top of Aboubakar’s head has made all the difference. The ten men have a goal back. 2-1.
Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar nips in front of Marc-André ter Stegen to glance the ball into the German net.
80 mins. The final replacement for Germany. Draxler is off, and Amin Younes is on. Before he leaves the pitch, Draxler hands the captain’s armband to Joshua Kimmich.
81 mins. Another German move through the centre of the pitch sees Ondoa do well to deny Brandt, but the ball is back in the Cameroon half as the Mannschaft continue to press. Brandt makes good progress down the right to find club team mate Henrichs, and the youngster’s smart cutback is swept into the back of the net by Werner. The right-footed finish from the young striker was as perfectly struck as it was nonchalant. 3-1.
Three points in the bag. Werner sweeps home his second goal and Germany’s third.
82 mins. Cameroon’s last change, as Karl Toko-Ekambi replaces Bassogog.
85 mins. Younes does well to keep the ball down the left and find Can, whose quick pass inside finds Werner. The striker’s hat-trick shot is well saved by Ondoa, but it looked as if Werner was offside. No flag from the linesman though, and it goes down as a good chance and a good save.
87 mins. Werner is flagged offside again as he sprints behind the Cameroon defence into space, but this time he is unlucky. Clearly level with the last man there.
88 mins. Brandt is busy again in the opposition box, picking out Younes who looks to guide the ball past Ondoa and inside the far post, but the ‘keeper dives low to his left to make another good save.
90 mins. Another chance for the busy Younes, who smartly nutmegs his marker only to slip the ball wide of the post as Ondoa closes in on him. There will be four minutes of additional time.
90+2 mins. Can goes down far too easily in box, and the referee waves play on. At the other end of the pitch, Plattenhardt is booked for a foul on Aboubakar.
90+4 mins. Cameroon launch their final attack, which is ends with an offside flag. The final whistle blows.
If the first half was dull, the second was packed with incident and goals. Three from Germany with an excellent brace from Timo Werner, and an excellent opener from Kerem Demirbay. The rather unfortunate red card for Ernest Mabouka would prove to be decisive though, and it was easy for the Mannschaft after that, even with Cameroon’s goal against the run of play.
With Chile and Australia playing out a 1-1 draw in Moscow, Germany finish top of the group on seven points, two ahead of the Chileans. Germany will stay in Sochi for a semi-final against Mexico, with Chile playing Portugal.
Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, 25.06.2017
Demirbay 48., Werner 66., 81. / Aboubakar 79.
Germany: ter Stegen – Ginter, Süle, Rüdiger – Kimmich, Rudy (74. Henrichs), Plattenhardt – Demirbay (77. Brandt), Can, Draxler (c) (80. Younes) – Werner
Cameroon: Ondoa – Mabouka, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Teikeu, Faï – Siani, Zambo, Djoum (58. Ngamaleu) – Bassogog (82. Toko-Ekambi), Aboubakar, Moukandjo (c) (70. Guihoata)
Referee: Wilmar Roldán (Colombia)
Assistants: Alexander Guzman (Colombia), Cristian De La Cruz (Colombia)
Fourth Official: Néstor Pitana (Argentina)
Video Assistant Referees: Artur Soares Dias (Portugal), Hernán Maidana (Argentina)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Enrique Cáceres (Paraguay)
Yellow Cards: Plattenhardt / –
Red Cards: – / Mabouka 64.
Ball Possession: 60% / 40%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 10 / 3
Attempts off Target: 9 / 6
Corners: 6 / 3
Fouls Committed: 10 / 8
Man of the Match: Timo Werner (Germany)