For the second time in the space of the week, Joachim Löw’s young and experimental German team were given a thorough working over by South American champions Chile. But as before, they were able to absorb the pressure and go one better than the 1-1 draw in the group phase. Having taken the lead against the run of play twenty minutes into the first half, the Mannschaft would hold firm to claim their first Confederations Cup, and their eight international title in all.
The victory in St. Petersburg was a vindication for the Nationaltrainer, and a clear message to the watching world. A clear statement had been made. With all of the big hitters left at home to enjoy the summer break, the tournament had been won with what was effectively a B team. Meanwhile, an under-strength Under-21 team – missing many of the first picks who had been upgraded to the senior squad – overcame the odds to beat a much-fancied Spanish side to claim the European title.
With less than a year to go until the start of the World Cup, German football was in a good place.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s ninth meeting against the current South American champions. Following the hard-fought 1-1 draw earlier in the tournament, they would come into the match with an overall record of five wins, one draw and two defeats. In competitive internationals, the record was even better. Four matches, three wins, and the draw in Kazan. To find Germany’s last defeat against La Roja, one would have to trawl back through the records, back to a 2-1 friendly defeat in Santiago in 1968.
If the gap in international experience was massive for the group phase match – just over 150 international caps for Germany as opposed to over eight hundred for the Chileans – it was even wider in this final. The return of Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo meant that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side had no fewer than five centurions in their starting lineup, Meanwhile, the most-capped player for the Germans was skipper Julian Draxler, who made his 35th appearance in the Nationaltrikot.
The 1-0 victory ensured Germany’s return to the top of the FIFA world rankings, and stretched their unbeaten run to fifteen matches – thirteen wins and two draws going back to the Euro 2016 semi-final defeat against France.
Like the group phase match, this was a tough encounter for the Mannschaft. Chile were quick to set the pace from the start, and could conceivably been ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour. The German passing game had been completely nullified, and possession in the Chilean half was a rare luxury.
The defining moment arrived twenty minutes in, completely against the run of play. Chile had the ball in their own half, and it should have been a simple matter of moving it back up the pitch and launching another attack. But this time, the men in red decided to play dangerously in front of the their own penalty area, and Timo Werner was alert enough to make Marcelo Díaz pay for his poor control. The Leipzig man had hardly touched the ball, but showed just how sharp he is.
With Chilean ‘keeper Claudio Bravo committed, Werner squared the ball to Lars Stindl who could have made a call home to Germany before tapping the ball into the empty net.
One could argue that Löw’s team hardly deserved to be in front, and not many German supporters would have disagreed with that. Chile had been doing all the pressing, but had been floored by a swift counterpunch to the solar plexus. For all their efforts, they would never quite recover. The goal provided the Germans with a much-needed injection of confidence. There was little of the swagger in their passing game, but there was a clear change in momentum.
The German defence had shown a few nerves early on in the face of what had been relentless Chilean pressure, but as half-time approached there was far more solidity. Both Antonio Rüdiger and Matthias Ginter made their presence felt, and Sebastian Rudy just in front of them had started to find his range. The Bayern-bound Hoffenheim man had been solid and not much else for most of his time in the Nationaltrikot, but he was finally able to provide an illustration of what he can bring to the team dynamic. Steely in defence and snapping at the heels of his opponents one moment, and delivering a smart pass the next.
The Mannschaft could have doubled their lead moments before half time when Gonzalo Jara was robbed by skipper Draxler, but Leon Goretzka seemed to lack the sharpness that had brought him two goals in the semi-final against Mexico. One touch too many, and the chance was gone.
The start of the second half was a complete contrast to the first, with Chile attempting to regroup with Germany prepared to hold the ball and bide their time.
As the pressure began to build, so did the tensions on the pitch. FC Bayern team mates Joshua Kimmich and Arturo Vidal would forget their friendship in a heated off the ball moment, a silly tête-a-tête that also involved Chilean ‘keeper Bravo.
This handbags at ten paces fracas was shortly followed by what was arguably the most significant flashpoint of the second half, with Werner on the end of a clear elbow in the face from Jara. In the (very recent) pre-technology days, one might have forgiven a referee for not seeing something. Not with the video assistant referees, who was there to solve all that. Or not, as it turned out.
When viewed on the replay from a number of helpful angles, Jara’s foul looked even more obvious. It was more suited to a pub brawl than a football match. Yet the officials decided on meting out the lesser sentence of a yellow card. Somehow, Chile still had all eleven men on the pitch.
FIFA are looking to use this video referral technology in next year’s World Cup. Theoretically, it has been useful. Practically, it has been a disaster. Instant replays have always helped us watchers, critics and pundits. In this tournament, the technology itself was never the issue. It showed what happened, it did its job. The real problem was that the officials, for whatever reason, were not prepared to make proper use of it.
With twenty minutes left on the clock, Chile continued to up the ante again as they looked for the equaliser. In the first half, German ‘keeper Marc-André ter Stegen had hardly been tested, but the second wind for La Roja produced some excellent chances. Ter Stegen kept his sheet clean with a mix of solid saves and more than a little good fortune, and as Chile upped their game in the final third there were times that the Barcelona ‘keeper looked more than a little rattled.
Ter Stegen and the German defence once again were in full alert mode, and there was one heart stopping moment six minutes from time. With no white shirts in sight, substitute Antonio Sagal slipped in front of the German keeper to collect an audacious ball into the box from Alexis Sánchez, only to swipe an ugly-looking shot over the target when it looked far easier to score.
For all of Chile’s trying, Germany’s defence would hold firm. Emre Can was booked for grabbing hold of the ball and resisting a pack of angry Chileans in the process, a scene that threatened to boil over but was in reality rather comical.
Just days after the Under-21 team had claimed the European title in Poland, the senior German team had claimed their first Confederations Cup. It was the eighth international trophy in the history of the Nationalmannschaft, and the second for Jogi Löw.
Conclusions and Ratings
The statistics would suggest that the wrong team had won, but football once again is not always about the numbers. Chile would have more possession, have more corners, and have more shots on target. But in the final analysis, it is all about goals. Germany’s chance had come completely against the run of play and chances were few, but at the other end the Chileans would pay for their profligacy in the final third.
Lars Stindl’s goal was hardly the most memorable, but he would join Max Morlock, Helmut Rahn, Gerd Müller, Herbert Wimmer, Paul Breitner, Andreas Brehme, Oliver Bierhoff and Mario Götze as a winning German goal scorer in an international tournament final.
Marc-André ter Stegen
A bit of a mixed bag from the German ‘keeper, who was perhaps slightly lucky to emerge with a clean sheet. Had little to do in the first half, but pulled off a couple of excellent stops in the second. There were a few nervy moments though, along with some poor Chilean finishing that surely helped his cause. Nevertheless, it was a decent end to what had been a good tournament for the Barcelona man after replacing Bernd Leno.
Solid without being overly spectacular, the versatile Kimmich was always energetic and busy. Was occasionally caught out of position, but more than made up for that with his gutsy determination and fighting qualities – which also saw a slightly unsavoury altercation with club team mate Arturo Vidal. Was always looking to get forward and initiate attacks, while performing his defensive duties well.
Was shaky at times and there were few loose passes early on, but the Chelsea-bound central defender has really started to grow into the role. Used his strength well against the agile and nippy Chilean forwards, and made up for his lack of pace with excellent positioning and well-timed challenges.
After a couple of ordinary displays, the Mönchengladbach-bound Ginter also showed that he is improving in the central defensive role. Played in part in keeping the opposition at bay, and was always a solid presence. He may not be the quickest, but more than made up for that with his good positioning and willingness to challenge for the ball.
After his shocker in the first meeting with the Chileans in the group phase, this was a far more assured showing from the Arsenal defender. Was hassled and harried like everyone else, but stood his ground well and was excellent in the air.
For me, the man of the match. Rudy showed in this tournament that he is an excellent option in the defensive midfield, combining steel and grit at the back with an ability to play the subtle defence-opening pass. Was always on the heels of his busy opponents and made a couple of vital interceptions, combining this with excellent vision going forward. Really came into his on in the second half.
Was solid at the back, and was able to create space going forward in the second half despite busier than usual defensively. The 1. FC Köln man has made the previously troublesome left-back position his own, and has proved to be a consistently solid performer.
Not as bright a game as the two-goal semi-final for the Schalke 04 midfielder, but he always had his opponents on their toes. Should perhaps have scored just moments before half-time, but took one touch too many with just the ‘keeper to beat. Was replaced in stoppage time by Niklas Süle.
Capping off a excellent tournament as team captain, this was a captain’s performance from the team’s most capped player. Was quiet for most of the first half as he found it hard to impose himself, but started to exercise more control in the middle of the pitch as the contest went on. Was presented with the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.
Was energetic throughout, working with his team mates to create space and keep things ticking over in the opposition half with his movement off the ball. Was also willing to help out defensively too. Of course, his game was capped with the glory of scoring the winning goal.
One of the stars of the tournament, Werner was finally able to show that Germany may have a genuine successor to Miroslav Klose. Busy off the ball and skillful on it, the RB Leipzig striker was a constant thorn in the side of the Chilean defence. It was his sharp play that created that provided the easy pass for Stindl’s winning goal. Was replaced by Emre Can with eleven minutes remaining as the coach looked to close the match down. Was awarded the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer.
Came on for Werner after 79 minutes, and was quickly into the action. Bolstered the midfield for the final phase of the match, and was booked a minute from time for inviting almost the entire Chilean team into a grab-the-ball pileup.
Replaced Goretzka in injury time. Walk on, hear the final whistle, walk off.
ter Stegen (2), Kimmich (2), Rüdiger (3), Ginter (3), Mustafi (2), Rudy (2), Hector (3), Goretzka (3), Draxler (2), Stindl (2), Werner (2)
ter Stegen (3.5), Kimmich (3.5), Rüdiger (3), Ginter (2.5), Mustafi (3), Rudy (3.5), Hector (3), Goretzka (3), Draxler (2.5), Stindl (2.5), Werner (2)
ter Stegen (3), Kimmich (3), Rüdiger (3), Ginter (3), Mustafi (3), Rudy (2), Hector (3), Goretzka (3.5), Draxler (2.5), Stindl (2), Werner (2)