It should have been an easy win, but in the end it was a whole lot closer that it should have been. Despite their youth and inexperience, this German team should have taken a limited Australian side to the cleaners, but instead came close to making a complete pig’s ear out of it. While there were plenty of bright moments and encouraging displays, there were also plenty of causes for concern.
It is a learning curve that this young squad will surely have to climb before they take on a far more challenging opponent in the form of South American champions Chile later in the week.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s sixth meeting with the Socceroos, with the previous five producing a win-draw-loss record of 3-1-1 in favour of the Mannschaft. Crucially, all of Germany’s three previous victories had come in the three competitive matches played between the two countries – World Cup wins in 1974 and 2010 sandwiching a Confederations Cup victory in 2005.
The victory in Sochi would take Germany’s record against the Aussies to a perfect four from four in tournament competition, and also take coach Joachim Löw to the magical figure of one hundred victories from 148 matches in charge – a figure unlikely to beaten for a long time. (This includes the penalty shootout win against Italy at Euro 2016).
With the squad averaging around twenty-five and with no seriously big hitters, there were no records to be set in terms of international appearances. If one can call it a milestone, 1. FC Köln’s Jonas Hector would collect his 30th cap when he stepped out onto the pitch – one less that Julian Draxler, who was wearing the captain’s armband for the fourth time.
Also noteworthy were the first senior international goals for Lars Stindl and Leon Goretzka, who became the 335th and 336th players to find the back of the opposition net for the Mannschaft.
There were a few changes to the team that had beaten San Marino 7-0 in Nürnberg, and one of those would largely be responsible for the team’s wobbles on what was a mild yet humid afternoon in Sochi. Bayer Leverkusen ‘keeper Bernd Leno is one of many young keepers competing for a starring role behind regular (and absent) custodian Manuel Neuer, but having been given the nod to start he would do himself no favours with two pretty shocking errors.
The match would start perfectly for Jogi’s Jungs, with a lovely run and pass from Julian Brandt setting up a calm finish for Stindl, and Sandro Wagner should arguably have put Germany in the comfort zone only see his diving header fly wide of the target. What followed was pretty much one-way traffic, with the Mannschaft’s dominance and smart play in the middle of the pitch matched only by their profligacy in front of goal.
The inability to finish their opponent off would cost them, when Australia were gifted an equaliser four minutes from half time. A poorly directed pass from skipper Draxler started it all off, and the move was finally finished off by Celtic’s Tom Rogic at the second time of asking when he shot squirmed under Leno. The Leverkusen keeper had initially been wrong-footed, but having got back into his position, his dive over the ball was disappointing to say the least. But keepers make mistakes, and we were able to move on.
Germany should have been two or three in front, but faced going into the break level at 1-1.
Fortunately, some poor defending at the other end say the sprightly Goretzka brought down by Massino Luongo, and Draxler’s coolly-taken penalty restored Germany’s advantage.
When the excellent Goretzka latched onto Joshua Kimmich’s perfectly-weighted pass and doubled the lead just three minutes into the second half, one might have been forgiven for thinking that all of the hard work had been done. Far from it. Four minutes from the hour the Aussies were presented with their second gift-wrapped chance of the afternoon, as Leno botched a Rogic effort to set things up for Tomi Juric.
What looked like a handball from an Australian player saw the referee consult his video assistants, and it was one of those decisions that was in truth very hard to call. There was clearly no intent to deliberately handle the ball, but there was no real attempt to avoid it either. On another day the goal may have been ruled out. It may have been accidental, but a clear advantage had been gained.
From that point on, Germany’s dominance started to fade, though they would still create more opportunities than their opponents. Substitute Timo Werner could have scored a fourth when he struck the base of the post after a bustling forward charge, and Leno finally managed to get some clean hands on the ball as the Aussies ended the match far better than they had started it.
Conclusions and Ratings
Despite the misfiring up front and the wobbles at the back, the most important thing was that Germany collected all three points to leave them just behind Chile on goal difference, after the South Americans’ 2-0 win over Cameroon.
While Leno’s two mistakes were arguably the biggest talking point, the defence were also wobbly at times and disconcertingly static. Australia could have equalised earlier in the first half when the entire back line was left looking fruitlessly for an offside flag, and on more than one occasion an opponent was able to find space in the final third. Against a faster and more skillful team like Chile, the back line will surely be given a much sterner test.
The midfield display was far more positive, particularly in the first half where Germany were allowed to dominate. Kimmich was busy and offered plenty of threat going forward, while Goretzka seemed to be everywhere until he (and the team) faded in the second half. The Schalke man was arguably the best player on the pitch, despite the rather strange decision by the match adjudicators to present the Man of the Match award to Draxler.
Perhaps the biggest void was the lack of a metronomic and dynamic distributor. Sebastian Rudy was solid enough, but lacked the consistency and vision of a Toni Kroos.
Both Stindl and Brandt had decent moments, with the latter only letting himself down with some poor touches and occasional complacency. Up front, Wagner could have finished with a couple of goals, but ended up drawing a blank. His replacement Werner injected a little more life into the attack in the second half, and can count himself unlucky not to have become the 337th player to make the German scoring charts.
Had little to do all match, but when called upon was woefully substandard. The Bayer Leverkusen ‘keeper had a nightmare afternoon, allowing the first shot to slip straight under his body before making a complete hash of the second. Looked a little better towards the end, but hardly inspired confidence. Will be put under intense pressure from his two rivals in the squad in the race to be Germany’s number two number one.
The FC Bayern München youngster continue to grow in the Nationaltrikot, and turned out another decent performance. Was a constant threat down the right and combined well with Julian Brandt, and delivered the perfect pass to set up Leon Goretzka’s goal
Was caught a little short at times, but otherwise a decent performance. He can consider himself slightly unlucky with the rebound that led to the first Australian goal.
Looked Boateng-esque when taking the ball forward, without the incisive long ball ability. Solid in defence, with the occasional stray pass. Just needs to take more time on the ball and consider his options, but looks a decent pick in the centre of the back line.
Looked decent going forward and was able to get behind the opposition defence, but lacked any real accuracy with his crossing in the final third. Was never really tested defensively, and did what he had to do without standing out.
A decent shout for man of the match, despite the official verdict. Was busy all evening through the middle of the pitch, creating opportunities both for himself and his team mates. Earned the penalty just before half time, and scored a cracking goal just after the break.
Was solid without ever being spectacular, and was efficient with his distribution without reaching the standards set by a Schweinsteiger or a Kroos. Kept things ticking over as Germany dominated the first half, but faded away slightly in the second.
Terrorised Australia early on with his runs down the right, and set up the first goal with a gen of a pass. Was also guilty of some poor decision making though, with a number of bad first touches and overhit passes. Was a lot quieter in the second half, and was replaced by Niklas Süle three minutes after the hour.
More than played his part in Germany’s dominant spell, and netted his first international goal with a cool and calm finish. Was not quite as involved in the second half however, and was replaced by Emre Can with just under a quarter of an hour remaining.
Dangerous without every threatening to set the world alight. Was guilty of a poor pass that led to the Australian equaliser, but quickly made up for this with his calmly-taken penalty. Was busy without needing to exert himself, creating space for others.
Came close with a diving header and sent another shot skidding just past the far post early on, but faded badly after that. Wagner appears to be a confidence player, and the two missed chances appeared to affect his performance. Was almost invisible in the second half, and was replaced by Timo Werner after 57 minutes.
Replaced Wagner after 57 minutes. Injected a little more life into the attack in what looked like a false nine role, but was unable to make any real impact. Created one decent chance for himself, making a strong run before hitting the base of the upright.
Replaced Brandt after 63 minutes. Seemed to slot well into the defensive unit, but was never really tested by a toothless Australian attack.
Came on for Stindl as the coach looked to shore things up at the end. Didn’t have much of an impact.
Leno (5), Kimmich (3), Mustafi (3), Rüdiger (3), Hector (4), Goretzka (1), Rudy (3), Brandt (2), Stindl (3), Draxler (3), Wagner (4). Substitutes (before 60 minutes): Werner (3)
Leno (5), Kimmich (2.5), Mustafi (3.5), Rüdiger (3), Hector (3), Goretzka (1.5), Rudy (3.5), Brandt (3), Stindl (2.5), Draxler (4), Wagner (3.5). Substitutes: Werner (3)
Leno (5), Kimmich (2), Mustafi (3.5), Rüdiger (3), Hector (3), Goretzka (1.5), Rudy (3), Brandt (3), Stindl (3), Draxler (3), Wagner (4) Substitutes: Werner (3)