2015 started in slightly uncertain fashion for the Nationalmannschaft, with a hard-earned 2-2 draw against recently-crowned Asian champions Australia in Kaiserslautern. Having taken a deserved early lead Joachim Löw’s side suddenly found themselves 2-1 down and under threat of repeating their defeat by the same score in Mönchengladbach in 2011, but an equaliser nine minutes from time from sub Lukas Podolski spared the World Champions’ blushes.
Germany’s form since the World Cup final continues to waver between the nondescript and the uninspired, and the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi is looking increasingly like a potential banana skin. Defeat in Poland and two further dropped points at home to the Republic of Ireland have seen Germany drop away from the pace in their qualifying group, and with precarious trips to both Scotland and Ireland yet to come any slip up against the unpredictable Georgians could really put Löw’s charges under some serious pressure.
With regular number one Manuel Neuer rested, Hannover 96’s Ron-Robert Zieler was selected to start in goal ahead of Roman Weidenfeller, protected by a new-look back three of Shkodran Mustafi, Benedikt Höwedes and the fit-again Holger Badstuber. There was a sense of rustiness about the defensive midfield consisting of skipper Sami Khedira and İlkay Gündoğan, with Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi and 1. FC Köln’s Jonas Hector running the wings. Further up the pitch, Mesut Özil assumed his usual playmaker’s role alongside Marco Reus and Mario Götze.
Facts and Stats
This was a game of the comeback kings, with Gündoğan making his first appearance in the Nationaltrikot since the August 2013 friendly against Paraguay and Badstuber winning his first international cap since the 4-4 draw in Berlin against Sweden in October 2012.
Having lost their previous meeting with the Aussies in 2011 – their first defeat against the Socceroos after three straight wins – the Mannschaft came into the game with a 3-0-1 record. Following the 2-2 draw Germany are yet to beat Australia in a friendly match, with their three victories coming in the FIFA World Cup (1974, 2010) and the FIFA Confederations Cup (2005).
Coming into the match off the bench, Podolski notched up his forty-eighth goal for Germany in his 122nd appearance, taking him into third place on the all-time German goalscorers’ list above striking legends Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann. Podolski has a bit of a way to go if he wants to catch up with leading scorer Miroslav Klose’s record of seventy-one international goals – arguably an impossible task given his current role as a squad player – but at the age of twenty-nine there is every chance that he will surpass Lothar Matthäus’ record of 150 international caps.
Offensively, things started well enough for Jogi’s Jungs with Reus’ early goal that should have seen Germany kick on, but a series of missed opportunities and a defensive lapse just before half-time saw the Aussies go into the break with the scores level – which was not wholly undeserved. Löw readjusted the back line to a more orthodox Viererkette after the break, but within five minutes of the restart a well-struck free-kick from Mile Jedinak put the Aussies in front.
The visitors had a couple of excellent chances to put the game beyond the Germans, and were made to pay dearly for their profligacy in front of goal. On as a late substitute, Podolski against showed his value as a dependable squad player with his straightforward but ultimately crucial equaliser.
Conclusions and Ratings
Once again it was a worrying evening for the German defence, with sprightly striker Matthew Leckie a constant thorn in their side. The decision by the coach to readjust to four at the back made little difference, as the man who plies his trade in the 2. Bundesliga with FC Ingolstadt 04 continued to look dangerous.
As well as the defensive issues, questions still remain about ‘keeper Zieler, who looked particularly shaky at times. He had no chance with the first goal, but arguably could have done a little better to deal with Jedinak’s free-kick. A confident defence often takes its cue from a confident and dominant ‘keeper who is in complete command of the penalty area, but there was little of this on show from the Hannover 96 stopper. Zieler’s rather foolhardy venture outside his box was also slightly worrying – Manuel Neuer he ain’t.
One has to look at this being yet another failed experiment from the coach as he looks to find the right formula. The three men at the back didn’t work, and the use of Bellarabi as more of a wing-back rather than an out and out attacking winger nullified all of the abilities that have made him so effective for Leverkusen this season. The return of the largely absent FC Bayern contingent will no doubt bolster the side against Georgia, but with a number of crunch fixtures still ahead of them it is crucial that Löw’s side starts to gather some serious momentum.
Not a convincing show by the Hannover 96 man, who did himself no favours as he tries to keep himself in front of the many ‘keepers lining up to be Neuer’s number two. Was far from commanding in the box, and should have done a whole lot better in dealing with Jedinak’s free-kick that resulted in the second Australian goal.
Mustafi’s form for club side Valencia in La Liga is on the rise, but in the Nationaltrikot questions still remain. Made a couple of solid challenges and was particularly strong in the air, but was also guilty of lacking concentration at times and was given the runaround by the Aussie forwards, particularly Leckie.
Decent enough, but wasn’t really tested. Guilty of more than one errant pass that thankfully wasn’t punished, and lacked the solidity he showed last summer in Brazil.
A welcome comeback for the FC Bayern defender, but clearly the start of a long process of rehabilitation in the national setup. Good in the air as expected, but is not quite there in terms of pace. Replaced by Sebastian Rudy at half-time.
Khedira has struggled to keep his place in the Real Madrid team this season and could have expected to be a little rusty, but belied this with a strong display, particularly in the first half which saw him set up the opening goal for Reus. Showed signs of fatigue in the second half however, and made way for Christoph Kramer just after the hour mark.
A decent enough showing after a long absence from the Nationalmannschaft through injury. Worked well with Khedira and was solid rather than spectacular, and faded slightly in the second half.
Deployed as a wing-back rather than in his usual attacking role, Bellarabi was not really able to get into the contest in the first half. When Germany had to chase the game he was able to get forward more often, but just as he had started to look dangerous was replaced by André Schürrle on sixty-three minutes.
Showed the occasional spark of genius without ever setting the world alight. Held things together in midfield effectively, but at no stage looked like he was going to produce one of those special moments.
Wasn’t really tested defensively, and after a solid first forty-five minutes the 1. FC Köln man was able to come out of his shell a little more in the second half. Looked sharp in combining with Schürrle down the left during the latter stages of the match, and played a neat one-two with the Wolfsburg winger in the buildup to the equalising goal. Overall, a decent showing that won’t do his prospects any harm at all.
Started well and looked sharp, executing the perfect finish to give Germany the lead early on after having an earlier effort ruled out for offside. Could very well have made it two not long afterwards, but looked surprisingly timid when one on one with the ‘keeper. Faded significantly in the second half, and made way for Lukas Podolski with seventeen minutes remaining.
Played his part with the occasional flash of brilliance, but the system didn’t seem to suit the FC Bayern man that well. Struggled to impose any sort of authority in the opposition half, and had precious little service over the course of the ninety minutes. Replaced by Max Kruse with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.
Replaced Badstuber at the start of the second half, and slotted into a reworked back four. Solid enough, but struggled at times with the busy and energetic Aussie forwards.
Came on for Khedira on sixty-three minutes, and provided a much-needed surge of energy as Germany chased the game during the latter stages. Kramer may lack the creativity of a Khedira, but he more than makes up for that with his youthful enthusiasm and energy.
Came on for Bellarabi just after the hour, and offered plenty of threat with his turn of pace. Was involved in the buildup to the equaliser, combining well down the left with Hector before cutting the ball back neatly for Podolski.
A replacement for Reus after seventy-three minutes, Podolski continues to struggle for form at club level but remains Jogi Löw’s go-to man. Added pace and strength as the Mannschaft pressed hard at the end of the ninety minutes, and netted his forty-eighth international goal nine minutes from the end to vindicate his selection and repay the coach’s faith in him.
Replaced Götze after seventy-three minutes, and looked good in parts without ever really threatening. Had one decent chance to score, but sent the ball well over the target.
Zieler (4), Mustafi (4), Höwedes (3), Badstuber (3.5), Khedira (3), Gündoğan (3.5), Bellarabi (5), Özil (4.5), Hector (4), Reus (2.5), Götze (4). Substitutes: Rudy (4.5)
Zieler (5), Mustafi (4), Höwedes (3.5), Badstuber (4), Khedira (3), Gündoğan (4), Bellarabi (5), Özil (4), Hector (3.5), Reus (3), Götze (4). Substitutes: Rudy (4), Kramer (3.5), Schürrle (3), Podolski (2), Kruse (4)