The Allianz-Arena in München would see Germany resume their World Cup qualifying campaign, and while a number if team goals and personal milestones would be met, there is still a way to go yet.
Having the 3-3 draw against Paraguay that would expose a number of defensive frailities, the pressure would be on Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw to find the right combination at the back while at the same time concentrating on securing the three points that would maintain the momentum towards next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil. Despite a performance that was at times lacklustre, one can say that this mission would be achieved.
As for whether the coach has found the right defensive strategy yet it is difficult to say, but we can be pleased that the Mannschaft would manage to keep a clean sheet for the first time in four matches (4-1 v Kazakhstan, 4-2 v Ecuador, 3-4 v United States, 3-3 v Paraguay). While it is fair to say that Austrian were disappointing, goals have been conceded against far lesser opposition during the past couple of years. If this team have any hope of winning the tournament next year, they will have to deliver far more convincing performances against far more testing opponents.
Facts and Stats
This would be Germany’s thirty-ninth encounter with their southern neighbours, and they would approach the fixture with a dominant record. While Austria had largely dominated the encounters between the two sides before the Second World War, since the 1950s they had been reduced to the status of also-rans.
A famous shock victory at the World Cup finals in 1978 would give the Ösis their first competitive victory over the Nationalelf since the Stockholm Olympics of 1912, and since that rare moment of glory in Córdoba Das Team would fail to register a single victory against the Germans in international competition. In the twenty-eight matches played since the war, Austria had only won two – the match in 1978 and a friendly in Wien in 1986, where they would register a surprising 4-1 win over a German team that had reached the World Cup final in Mexico.
The game would see a couple of significant personal milestones for members of the German team. Skipper Philipp Lahm would reach the landmark of one hundred international caps, while striker Miroslav Klose would finally take himself level with Gerd Müller on sixty-eight international goals in his 129th match in the Schwarz und Weiß.
The Team and Tactics
Taking into account the growing injury list there would be no massive surprises in the starting eleven, with established reserves filling in the gaps. Perhaps the one surprise would be at the centre of the defence, with the coach plumping for the combination of Jérôme Boateng and Per Mertesacker, with Mats Hummels being left on the bench. The absence of both Bastian Schweinsteiger and İlkay Gündoğan would also create the need for a reshuffle in the defensive midfield, with Toni Kroos coming back into the Startelf alongside Sami Khedira.
Other than that, it would be a case of as you were: Manuel Neuer in goal, Marcel Schmelzer at left-back, Lahm at right-back, an attacking midfield trio of Marco Reus, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller, with record-hunter Klose leading the line.
After a bright start from the visitors, the game turn into a predictable affair dominated by the home side. The question would not be if the Mannschaft would score a goal but when, and they would create plenty of opportunities in between the extended bouts of short passes that would even start to infuriate the home crowd.
After coming close with a looping header that would be scrambled away by Austrian ‘keeper Robert Almer, Klose would finally score that vital goal just after the half-hour mark to both set the Germans on their way and equal Müller’s record. It would be a typical Klose strike, and one that shows that even though he might be slowing down at the age of thirty-five he has not lost any of his sharpness in front of goal. The cross would be provided by the great Gerd’s namesake Thomas, who up to that point had done nothing – Der Raumdeuter personified.
The goal would rule out any chance of a shock result, as a toothless Austrian attack would be easily blunted by the German defence who didn’t need to work particularly hard. Mertesacker would be left untroubled, while Boateng would look the most solid of the options seen so far. The one negative moment would come when left-back Schmelzer would get the worse of a flailing Austrian arm, resulting in his being substituted at half-time by Benedikt Höwedes. Schemlzer’s injury would actually create another, with physio Klaus Eder pulling up with what looked like a hamstring – with Lahm taking up the case-carrying duties.
A cracking right-footed strike from the impressive Kroos would effectively settle the contest six minutes into the second half, and while the out of position Höwedes would make the rejigged German defence look a little shaky at times there would be nothing to fear from the men in red and white. Germany would do their best to look like Spain in trying to pass the Austrians to death – and condemn the 68,000 crowd to the same fate in the process – but in between this would always look good for a third goal. This would arrive with two minutes left, as Höwedes showed what he can do going forward with a fine cross to find the roving Müller – who bundled the ball into the net with a typically wonderful lack of grace.
Conclusion and Ratings
Overall, it would be a solid display with a few moments of inspiration – and more crucially it would be a case of three points gained and a clean sheet achieved. Lahm’s hundredth appearance would be a winning one, and Klose’s record-equalling strike would complete a good evening for the statisticians.
While the mission of achieving a clean sheet would be met, there is no room for complacency. The Austrians would fail to threaten and seemed content to concede as few goals as possible, and this would mean that the defensive quartet would be rarely threatened. The enforced change at half-time would disrupt things slightly with Höwedes being caught out of position on a couple of occasions, as but as time went on he would settle down and help see things through to the end. One can only wonder what will happen when the team comes up against more determined and skillful opposition – and this may not come for a while yet.
The defensive midfield duo would look solid enough, with Khedira less precise than usual and Kroos delivering a man of the match performance that saw him score one goal and help create another. The offensive midfield would blow hot and cold, with Reus showing his usual spark, Arsenal’s new signing Özil having a quiet game, and Müller once again delivering a diamonds in the sludge performance.
Up front, Klose would fulfil his role and keep himself firmly in the frame for a starting slot ahead of Mario Gómez.
An easy evening for the German Torhüter, where he found himself dealing with a couple of easy back passes and catches. Would make notable intervention to deny Martin Harnik, but that was about it – he might as well have gone to sleep for most of the match.
Germany’s latest centurion would have a quiet evening at the back, and would be his usual self going forward and joining in with the attack. An easy evening on what would be a special night for the skipper.
Partnering Per Mertesacker in yer another central defensive combination, the FC Bayern München man was solid in a decent performance that saw him marshal his line effectively. He is going to be given far more of a test by better opposition, but is well on the road to cementing a starting place.
Arguably a surprise inclusion with Mats Hummels left on the bench, but a solid enough performance from the Arsenal defender. Like the rest of the defence he had little to do, but did what he had to well.
Was never really tested by the insipid Austrian attack, and was looking solid until caught by a flailing elbow at the end of the first half. Was unable to continue, and was replaced at the start of the second half by Benedikt Höwedes.
A solid enough performance from the Real Madrid man, but was not his usual perfect self. No mistakes however, and he continues to be remain a must-have at back of the midfield.
With Schweinsteiger and Gündoğan out of the reckoning, Kroos made the most of a rare start to turn in a world-class performance. Always looked assured on the ball, scored a magnificent long-range goal and helped create the third with a perfect pass to Höwedes. Man of the match for me.
A typical Raumdeuter performance, doing nothing for a lot of the time and then popping up to make an impact. Laid on the first goal for Miroslav Klose with the perfect right-wing cross, and then ghosted into to area two minutes from time to bundle in his second goal in two matches and the Mannschaft’s third.
Arsenal’s new signing was as mesmeric as ever in midfield with a number of cultured touches, but was a lot quieter than usual. Rather than play the killer ball he would join with the others in passing it around.
As usual, there were lots of short bursts from Reus, but like Özil he would have a fairly quiet and unproductive evening. That said, even when not at his most threatening he remains a threat, and the Austrian defence would spend much of the time on the back foot. Was replaced by Julian Draxler with just seconds remaining.
A satisfactory evening for the SS Lazio striker, who finally found the back of the net to claim an equal share of the German goal-scoring record with Gerd Müller. Had the ball in the net in the second half too, but would be rightly flagged for offside. Gave way to Lars Bender with eight minutes left on the clock.
Came on for the injured Schmelzer at half-time, and after looking woefully out of position at the start slowly gained in confidence. Joined in the attack well, and provided a pin-point left-wing cross for Müller’s goal.
Coming on for Klose with just eight minutes remaining, the Leverkusen man didn’t have time to make much of an impact on the game.
A one-minute cameo for the teenager.
Neuer (2.5), Lahm (2), Mertesacker (2.5), Boateng (3), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (2.5), Kroos (2), Müller (2.5), Özil (2.5), Reus (3.5), Klose (2.5). Subs: Höwedes (3).
Neuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (3), Boateng (2), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (3), Kroos (1.5), Müller (2), Özil (3), Reus (2), Klose (2). Subs: Höwedes (3).