A new start to a new season, and the Nationalmannschaft’s fourth defeat of 2012 – the most reverses in a calendar year since Joachim Löw wook over as Nationaltrainer in 2006. But it was not all bad news. Despite the 3-1 loss this young German side would provide a number of positives, and as fans and followers we would be wise to ignore the hyperbole from some sections of the media about them being torn to pieces by Messi, di Maria and co.
The match would ultimately turn dramatically inside the first half an hour: after twenty-five minutes defender Mats Hummels had to leave the field having taken an accidental blow to the head, and not even five minutes later the Mannschaft would be a man down when goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was given a straight red card for a professional foul. Having largely dominated the game for the opening period, Löw’s side would thereafter resort to attacking on the break – and even with ten men they were able to show plenty of craft in the opposition half without being able to provide the final touch.
Facts and Stats
This would be Germany’s twentieth match against Argentina, and the first since their 4-0 demolition of the Albiceleste in the last World Cup in South Africa. Their overall record against the Albiceleste now reads six wins, five draws and nine defeats.
Despite having the upper hand against the South Americans in major tournaments, this was just one more in what has been a string of poor results at the hands of the South Americans in friendly matches:
15.08.2012, Frankfurt: 1-3
03.03.2010, München: 0-1
09.02.2005, Düsseldorf: 2-2
17.04.2002, Stuttgart: 0-1
15.12.1993, Miami: 1-2
16.12.1987, Buenos Aires: 0-1
12.09.1984, Düsseldorf: 1-3
24.03.1982, Buenos Aires: 1-1
In fact, the last German victory over Argentina in a friendly match took place in September 1979 in the then West Berlin – a 2-1 win with goals being scored by Klaus Allofs and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
In this same period however, seven games have been played in major competitions and mini tournaments, with the Mannschaft winning four times, drawing once and losing twice:
03.07.2010, Cape Town (World Cup): 4-0
30.06.2006, Berlin (World Cup): 1-1, 4-2 PSO
21.06.2005, Nürnberg (Confederations Cup): 2-2
08.07.1990, Roma (World Cup): 1-0
02.04.1988, Berlin (4-Nation Tournament): 1-0
29.06.1986, Mexico City (World Cup): 2-3
01.01.1981, Montevideo (Copa de Oro): 1-2
Including a draw in the 1966 World Cup and a 3-1 victory in 1958 Germany’s record in non-friendly matches against Argentina is a lot more impressive than their overall record – with five wins, two draws and two defeats in the nine matches played. On the biggest competitive stage – the FIFA World Cup – the Nationalmannschaft’s record is even more impressive: in the six matches played against the Argentinians, Germany have won four (including the penalty shoot-out victory in 2006), drawn one and been defeated on just the one occasion – the World Cup final in 1986.
The game also saw a few firsts. Defender Benedikt Höwedes would open his international goal scoring account in his ninth match, and ‘keeper Ron-Robert Zieler would make history as the first Torhüter to be sent off in the long history of the German national team. That’s over one-hundred and four years, and a total of 864 matches. Even if he never plays another international match, Zieler’s name will be there in the record books. Tim Wiese can breathe more easily now.
In the 864 games played including this one, Germany have won 499 times: they are still awaiting that magic 500th international win.
The Team and Tactics
Joachim Löw will start with eleven players who had been selected for the recent Euros in Poland and the Ukraine, but would be missing a number of senior pros including skipper Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski. These three would be joined on the absentee list by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who would be ruled out having taken a knock at the weekend during FC Bayern’s DFB Supercup win against Borussia Dortmund.
Löw would play the usual 4-2-3-1 formation and would start with the same back four employed during the Euros, but with Marcel Schmelzer coming in for the absent Lahm; the defensive midfield would see a new look as Sami Khedira was joined by Lars Bender, and the attacking midfield trio would see playmaker Mesut Özil being joined by Thomas Müller and German player of the Year Marco Reus. The injured Neuer would be replaced by new number two Ron-Robert Zieler in goal, while at the other end of the pitch the lone striker’s position would be filled by 122-cap veteran Miroslav Klose – the only man in the side over the age of twenty-five.
Argentina would name a powerful line-up, with only Carlos Tévez missing from the big names list. Lionel Messi would start alongside the Real Madrid duo of Ángel di María and Gonzalo Higuaín, with the dangerous Sergio Agüero on the bench.
Germany started brightly, with the offensive line looking particularly sharp. The nimble Reus was immediately running at the Argentinian defence, but the best moments were provided by Klose. The veteran would set up Özil for what should really have been the opening goal, and showed excellent movement off the ball as well as the guile to keep up with the fast-moving youngsters around him. With the Argentinian defence looking shaky, attacks looked to come from anywhere on the field: Schmelzer and Reus down the left, Bender and Müller down the right, and Khedira, Özil and Klose through the centre.
As the game slipped over the twenty-minute mark the home side were a good bet to take the lead, but a crazy five minute spell would see things turned on their head completely. The first blow – quite literally – came when centre-back Mats Hummels was forced with withdraw following an accidental clash of heads with Higuaín, and the secome came not even five minutes later when ‘keeper Zieler was dismissed after bringing down ex-Bayern man José Ernesto Sosa in the box. Zieler became the first goalkeeper to be sent off in the Nationaltrikot, and although substitute Marc-André ter Stegen would save Messi’s rather soft penalty it was always going to be a case of backs against the wall for Jogi Löw’s side. Their best defender was not in the dugout, and the attack would be one man light with Müller making way for ter Stegen.
Even with ten men Germany still looked dangerous and could very well have taken the lead when Schmelzer almost set up Klose, but the almost inevitable sting in the tail would come in injury time, when di Maria’s corner would be turned in at the near post by Khedira. The whole bizarre passage of events was arguably unlucky, but Khedira’s poor positioning clearly stemmed from the fact that this German side still have no idea what they are doing when facing an opposition corner.
To their credit the young German side came out fighting for the second half, and their bad luck would continue not even five minutes into the half when Reus had a well-struck shot come off the post – and the resulting finish from Özil being flagged for offside. Almost inevitably, the play would quickly switch to the other side of the pitch as Messi finished off a fine move to double the visitors’ lead.
Some excellent substitutions – particularly the effervescent André Schürrle – would allow the Mannschaft to maintain their attacking verve, but the result would soon be put beyond doubt when di Maria picked up a loose ball some thirty yards out and hammered in an unstoppable third. The 3-0 scoreline clearly flattered Alejandro Sabello’s side, and Germany would finally – and deservedly – get onto the scoresheet when Schürrle and Mario Götze combined brilliantly to set up Benedikt Höwedes for what would turn out to be a spectacular consolation goal.
Conclusions and Ratings
While there were some clear positives for Germany in this match, the fact remains that the defence still needs plenty of work to turn what is a talented young side into a potentially world-beating one. Things had admittedly been knocked out of shape with the enforced substition of Hummels – the best of the back four at the Euros – but the continued inability to defend corners should have gone beyond the “slightly worried” stage by now. In fact, as a watcher and commentator I am often finding myself sitting on my hands every time the team concedes one.
Given both the way the match actually panned out and Germany’s poor record in friendly matches (both recently in general and against Argentina in particular), the truth is that not much can really be gleaned from this match. Apart from the usual defensive lapses that will always need to be looked at there is nothing dramatic that Löw should need to do ahead of the first World Cup qualifying match against the Faroe islands next month.
It’s just a case of watching opposition corner kicks a little better – yes, that old chestnut – and trying not to get sent off.
Given that he had next to nothing to do until he was sent off, it’s hard to judge the performance of the man selected to be Manuel Neuer’s deputy. Took a couple of high balls confidently, but will be regretting just leaving things a little late when making his challenge in the box. That said, the defence didn’t really help him that much.
I’ll have to admit to not being the Dortmund left-back’s greatest fan, and was slightly worried when I saw his name in the starting eleven. He wasn’t really tested that much defensively, but was solid enough and had plenty of good moments going forward. He worked well with Marco Reus, and almost set up Klose with a neat cross just before half-time. In all, probably the best performance I have seen from the young left-back in the Nationaltrikot.
A solid enough showing, but like Schmelzer Badstuber wasn’t really tested that much. In what was a poor defensive performance overall he was just as guilty as anyone else, and was caught napping on occasion by the fast-paced Argentian offensive line.
Germany had largely been dominating the game up to the point when Hummels had to leave the field, the result of a clash between himself, Badstuber and Higuaín. As a result, he found himself with little to do.
Made a few important tackles, but overall a fairly ordinary performance from the FC Bayern right-back who played his part in what was a poor defensive display from the Mannschaft.
Began brightly and linked up well with Thomas Müller down the right, but after the sending off and Müller’s enforced substitution he found himself having to concentrate on defence. Was largely anonymous thereafter, and was replaced by Mario Götze in the 74th minute.
Another decent performance from Khedira, who like Bender found himself playing more defensively after Zieler’s red card. Was unlucky with the own goal, but should really have been able to clear the danger. Showed his usual craft when going forward, but once again was guilty of taking long-range pot-shots rather than looking for a teammate. Had the captain’s armband for seven minutes before giving way to İlkay Gündoğan.
A bright spark who threatened to run rings around the opposition defence in the opening half an hour, but became increasingly subdued as the match went on through no real fault of his own. Was unlucky to hit the post early on in the second half.
Another player who found his game kicked out of joint by the sending-off. Could and perhaps should have opened the scoring early on when he was set up by Miroslav Klose. Was replaced by Toni Kroos with just over twenty minutes remaining.
Had a good first half an hour and combined nicely with Lars Bender down the right, but was the player that found himself having to give way when the ‘keeper was dismissed.
The thirty-four year old Klose continues to defy his critics, and was looking swift and sprightly early on. Combined brilliantly with Reus to almost set up Özil, and was a coating of boot polish away from getting on the end of Schmelzer’s left-wing cross just before half-time. Faded slightly in the second half, and was replaced by Schürrle just after the hour mark.
Marc-André ter Stegen
The Borussia Mönchengladbach ‘keeper was at best hoping for a comfortable second-half showing, but found himself thrown straight into the mire with just over half an hour on the clock. After a traumatic debut against Switzerland in May, the youngster put in a decent performance: after keeping out Messi’s penalty ter Stegen made a couple of decent stops in the second half, and could do nothing to prevent any of Argentina’s three goals.
Like ter Stegen, the Schalke 04 skipper was probably not expecting to be on the field for as long as he did when he came on for Hummels early on. Was solid enough in defence without being spectacular, but got his first international goal late on with a spectacular diving header.
Came on for Klose with just over an hour gone, and was a revelation. Living up to his billing as a supersub, Schürrle was a constant thorn in the side of the Argentinian defence for the latter part of the second half with his mazy runs and cuts inside. Set up Mario Götze with a neat through ball that led to the consolation goal.
Came on for Khedira, but didn’t really have much of a chance to shine.
Replaced Özil, but like Gündoğan was largely anonymous for the twenty or so minutes he spent on the pitch.
The young Borussia Dortmund playmaker replaced Bender in the 74th minutes, and put together a nice little cameo. Looked dangerous down the right flank, and provided the cross for Höwedes’ header.
Zieler (5), Boateng (5), Hummels (4), Badstuber (4), Schmelzer (5), Khedira (3), L. Bender (3), Müller (4), Özil (4), Reus (2), Klose (3). Subs: Höwedes (4), ter Stegen (3), Schürrle (3), Gündoğan (4), Kroos (4), Götze (3)
Zieler (5), Boateng (4.5), Hummels (-), Badstuber (4.5), Schmelzer (3.5), Khedira (4), L. Bender (4), Müller (4.5), Özil (4.5), Reus (2.5), Klose (4). Subs: Höwedes (3), ter Stegen (3), Schürrle (-), Gündoğan (-), Kroos (-), Götze (-)
Zieler (4), Boateng (4), Hummels (4), Badstuber (4), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (3.5), L. Bender (4), Müller (4), Özil (4), Reus (2.5), Klose (3). Subs (up until 75 minutes only): Höwedes (3.5), ter Stegen (3), Schürrle (2.5), Gündoğan (4), Kroos (4), Götze (3)
There are no massive variations between the ratings here; Marco Reus gets the highest overall ratings, though I have also given André Schürrle the same rating for his second-half display. Bild clearly do not like Marcel Schmelzer though. Despite him turning out his best performance for the Nationalmannschaft by a country mile, they still give him a Note 5 – the same score as poor old Ron-Robert Zieler.