After a successful ten-day training camp in the South Tyrol, the squad of twenty-six players would head to Mönchengladbach via Düsseldorf for their penultimate pre-tournament friendly against fellow finalists Cameroon – the final match before the announcement of the final World Cup squad of twenty-three.
There would be an air of confidence around the team in the build-up to the match and the opening minutes would be promising, but once again the final whistle would blow with the team still unable to answer those crucial questions and a number of issues still hanging over Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw. Despite being the last international before the presentation of the final squad, the performance would be flat and at times listless, with a number of players treading water for much of the ninety minutes. There were a few bright spots, but in guessing which three players would definitely be dropped most observers would be none the wiser.
In contrast to the previous C-Elf friendly against Poland in May the side that walked out onto the Borussia-Park would look something like a tournament starting eleven, but missing two stalwarts in skipper Philipp Lahm and ‘keeper Manuel Neuer. The coach would stick with the familiar 4-3-2-1 formation, though in leaving specialist strikers Miroslav Klose and Kevin Volland on the bench would plump for a “False nine” approach with Mario Götze starting up top. In the absence of Lahm and Klose, centre-back Per Mertesacker would be given the honour of wearing the captain’s armband for the second time.
Roman Weidenfeller would make his second start in goal, with a new-look back four consisting of reshuffled right-back Jérome Boateng, a central defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Mertesacker, and the left-back slot occupied by debutant Erik Durm.
One has to wonder about Boateng being repositioned out on the right: might the coach have been setting things up for Lahm to start in midefield?
With Bastian Schweinsteiger also being rested the defensive midfield axis would see the returning Sami Khedira partner up with Toni Kroos, while the attack would have a far more familiar look to it with playmarker Mesut Özil being joined by Thomas Müller on the right and Marco Reus out left. Up front would be Götze, the “False nine”.
In contrast to the Poland game the ninety minutes would provide decent entertainment – if you were a neutral. For Germany fans, it would be a mix of annoyance and frustration at yet another garbled mess of creative overkill, missed opportunities and defensive lapses.
Facts and Stats
This would be the third meeting between Germany and Cameroon, with the first two encounters resulting in wins for the Nationalmannschaft. The first match at the World Cup in 2002 would see Rudi Völler’s side prevail 2-0 in a hard-fought and somewhat scrappy group stage meeting, while a friendly in 2004 would see a somewhat flattering three-goal win in Leipzig. With the Africans coming into the game after a poor 2-1 defeat to Paraguay, everybody would be expecting a confident performance from the home side- and a positive result heading into their final warmup against Armenia in Mainz.
Erik Durm would become the latest debutant, while at the other end of the scale Per Mertesacker would move onto ninety-seven international caps, passing Berti Vogts to move into eleventh on the all-time list, one behind Michael Ballack.
In the end, the 2-2 draw would see Jogi Löw’s winning record drop under 68% for the first time, and the goal scored by Cameroon’s Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting – a former German Under-21 international – would be the one-hundredth conceded in the coach’s 104 matches in charge.
Germany would start brightly, and should have been in front in the first minute. With the goal at his mercy Özil’s shot would fly wide of the target, and it would be the marker for what would be a sorry performance by the German number eight. Who knows how things might have turned out had the ball slipped inside the post, but the fluffed opportunity couldn’t have done much to encourage a player whose form and attitude has been highly questionable for most of the season.
Skipper Mertesacker would graze the top of the crossbar soon afterwards, and apart from a decent Götze effort that was pushed onto the post by the Cameroon ‘keeper, things would gradually start to ebb away. Cameroon would start in their distinctive undisciplined style with a flurry of rash challenges, but would be allowed to settle down as the home side concentrated on passing the ball around without any real purpose.
The second half would start as the first had finished, but with Cameroon starting to play some decent football the much-criticised German defence would start to display those familiar signs of creakiness. Just past the hour Weidenfeller would pull off a fine save to deny the Africans, but with the ball not going behind for a corner it would be a recipe for chaos. With the being pulled defence all over the place, Cameroon’s veteran striker Samuel Eto’o would nip in front of a static Hummels to register his country’s first-ever strike against Germany and give Volker Finke’s side a not wholly undeserved lead.
Finally convinced that the crowding of the middle of the pitch with creative artists was not working, Löw would replace the disappointing Özil with the more direct and physical Lukas Podolski, having already shipped Götze for André Schürrle. The introduction of these more direct-approach players would see Müller slot into a more central attacking role, and suddenly that famous switch would flick. While Götze had never been able to threaten the opposition goal in the guise of a number nine, Müller’s first forward foray in the front man’s role would see him get on the end of a well-timed Boateng cross and head the ball into the back of the net.
The FC Bayern man would then set up a sprint down the left from Podolski, sending the Arsenal man through behind the Cameroon defence to set up an unmissable chance for Schürrle. There would be a clear whiff of offside about Müller’s killer pass, but in a shot Germany were back in front. Sadly, they couldn’t maintain the momentum as the frail defence allowed Choupo-Moting to drive home a well-struck equaliser. Rather than face his man head-on, Boateng would instead inexplicably turn his back to the shot that would give Weidenfeller no chance as it fizzed low to his left.
Conclusion and Ratings
A mixed bag, like many of the more recent matches have been. Some bright spots, and some cases of players resting on their laurels and reputation. Above all perhaps the biggest question is about the coach himself, and the fact that just weeks before the start of the World Cup he still appears to have no idea where he is going with his strategy and tactics. It is pretty clear that crowding the midfield with creative and arguably delicate players is not working – it is the footballing equivalent of modern art – and the defence continues to be a concern. The one real positive would be the solid and mature performance of left-back Erik Durm, who would clinch his place in the final twenty-three ahead of Borussia Dortmund team mate Marcel Schmelzer.
A solid enough performance from the Dortmund man with two excellent saves. Couldn’t do anything about the two Cameroon goals. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
Repositioned out on the right, Boateng looked half-decent going forward and would provide the cross for Thomas Müller’s goal, but would again be guilty of a gaffe at the back in not closing down Cameroon goalscorer Choupo-Moting. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
Back in the starting line up after falling out of favour, there would be a few shaky moments for the BVB centre-back. Was solid enough for the most part, but allowed Samuel Eto’o to skip past him for Cameroon’s opening goal. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
A solid enough display from the stand-in skipper. Could have given Germany the lead early on with a header that skimmed the crossbar. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
Given that he would only have this one game to prove himself, the young Borussia Dortmund left-back would deliver a mature and risk-free display on an evening where the rest of the defence would look shaky. Replaced by Benedikt Höwedes five minutes from the end. WM Watch: after impressing in training, Durm’s display would be enough to edge ahead of BVB team mate Schmelzer in the pecking order and book that precious ticket to Brazil.
Showed signs of his old self, but it is clear that Khedira is not quite there yet. Solid enough, but hopefully the next couple of weeks will iron out the creases and see him achieve full fitness. Replaced by Christoph Kramer after seventy-three minutes. WM Watch: had already booked his seat on the plane to Brazil after a miraculous recovery.
Looked lost at times, and was never really able to stamp his authority on the game against a very physical set of opponents. Was involved in a few cases of handbags at nine paces early on, but slowly drifted out the game into anonymity. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil, but arguably only because the number of alternatives are so few.
Criminally underused for much of the game floating out on the right with all the play going through the centre, Müller’s move into the central attacking role would be the catalyst for the German recovery after going a goal down. Scored the equaliser and was involved in setting up the second. WM Watch: one of the team’s must-haves, Müller was already safely on the plane to Brazil.
Could very easily have given himself a much-needed confidence boost in the opening minute with a gilt-edged chance, but would shrivel away after hitting the shot wide. Replaced by Lukas Podolski after sixty-three minutes. It has been a hit and miss season for the Arsenal playmaker both for club and country, and is one of those players heading to Brazil on the vapour of his reputation. WM Watch: was already guaranteed his ticket to Brazil, but how effective he will be remains to be seen.
Another one of the creative players who would misfire on the night. Provided a few testing crosses early on, but like Özil would become increasingly anonymous. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
Joachim Löw is in love with the idea of Götze playing the striker’s role, but it’s clear that it’s not working. The FC Bayern youngster would have one decent shot at goal turned onto the post, but for the most part would offer little in the way of a threat as he too became a ghost in the second half. Made way for André Schürrle two minutes short of the hour mark. WM Watch: already on the plane to Brazil.
Replaced the disappointing Götze, and almost immediately injected some life into a stagnant midfield. Proved his value yet again as an impact substitute with the second goal. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil, and is one of those players suited to slot into the striker’s role.
The go-to man. Replaced Özil, and almost immediately charged down the left to set up Schürrle for the second goal. WM Watch: was already on the plane to Brazil.
Replaced Khedira for the final quarter of an hour, and was solid enough to back his claims for a place in the squad. WM Watch: having not been in the original thirty, the combination of injury problems and a hard-working attitude has secured his place in the final twenty-three.
A five-minute run for the Schalke 04 man after replacing Erik Durm. WM Watch: another one of those who already on the plane to Brazil.
Weidenfeller (3), Boateng (4), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (3), Durm (3), Khedira (4), Kroos (3), Müller (3), Özil (5), Reus (4), Götze (5). Substitutes (until 75 mins): Schürrle (3), Podolski (3), Kramer (3)
Weidenfeller (2.5), Boateng (3.5), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (4), Durm (3), Khedira (4), Kroos (3), Müller (2), Özil (4), Reus (3), Götze (4). Substitutes: Schürrle (2.5)
Weidenfeller (3), Boateng (3.5), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (4), Durm (2), Khedira (4), Kroos (5), Müller (2), Özil (5), Reus (5), Götze (5). Substitutes: Schürrle (3), Podolski (3), Kramer (3)