Having started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Norway in Oslo, Germany got back on the road to Russia with a home meeting with the Czech Republic – the first of a two-match double header. Picking up where they had left off against the Norwegians, the Mannschaft swept to an easy 3-0 win over an unfamiliar-looking Czech side.
Facts and Stats
Having played seventeen times against the former Czechoslovakia with a record of ten wins, three draws and four defeats, this was Germany’s seventh match against the Czech Republic, and the sixth competitive meeting between the two teams. Having won the first three meetings – including the Euro 1996 final – the Mannschaft’s record would read at four wins and two defeats.
It was Germany’s the first meeting against Czechs for almost a decade, with the last being a Euro qualifier in Munich in October 2007. With both teams having qualified for the tournament, the Czechs would win the dead rubber fixture 3-0 – the first win for any Czech team on German soil since Czechoslovakia’s 4-3 win in Ludwigshafen in 1964.
There were more than a few benchmarks ready to be set too. Dependent on the counting of penalty shootouts as results, Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw would finish the evening one short of Sepp Herberger’s record of 94 victories set between 1936 and 1964 – or being joint record holder.
According to my statistics, Löw would join Herberger on ninety-four wins after his side’s win against the Czechs. For the DFB, who count the recent penalty shootout victory over Italy at Euro 2016 as a draw, he would still need one more win.
On the pitch, Thomas Müller was set to win his eightieth cap for the Nationalmannschaft, and his brace would take him to thirty-six international goals – just one behind Oliver Bierhoff in tenth place on the all-time goalscorers list.
There was only one change for the Germans, with the fit-again Jérôme Boateng returning to the starting eleven instead of Benedikt Höwedes. The Czechs, by contrast, had no familiar names in their lineup. Karel Jarolím’s team are in a rebuilding process after their failure at the recent Euros, and this was arguably the weakest Czech Republic team Germany had faced since the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
The gulf in class between the two teams was evident from the start, as Löw’s side were quickly into their stride. They were knocking on the door from the opening minutes, and it was always going to be an easy night after Müller opened the scoring after just thirteen minutes. However, it would have been a lot easier if the Mannschaft had done better with their chances in front of goal.
The inability to convert opportunities into goals had been a major bugbear both during the Euro 2016 qualifying phase and in the tournament itself, and their inability to convert opportunities into goals was again evident against an opponent that at times looked like rabbit staring straight into headlights. Germany would only have the one goal at half-time, when in truth they should have out the game to bed long before that.
The second half was better, with Toni Kroos putting daylight between the two teams four minute after the restart before Müller executed the perfect finish to an excellent move five minutes after the hour. After that things slowed down considerably, and the Czechs even managed to get a few shots at captain Manuel Neuer in the German goal.
Conclusions and Ratings
This was an easy game and one that was perfectly executed, but again Germany’s inability to match their approach work with goals is a cause for concern. It wouldn’t really matter against a Czech side that never didn’t offer much of a threat, but it is clear that every opportunity will need to be taken again tougher and more talented opposition.
At the back, a slightly suspect offside decision against the Czechs would maintain Neuer’s clean sheet, but apart from that it was a quiet night for the German ‘keeper and the defensive unit. All four defenders got forward well with Boateng and Joshua Kimmich the standouts, while Müller put aside his poor form for club side FC Bayern to deliver another top performance. Then there was Toni Kroos, who turned out another polished performance as the team’s midfield conductor.
Having dealt with the potential Norwegian banana skin and dispatching the team that were on paper their strongest opponents in the group, Germany’s start to the World Cup qualifying campaign has been excellent. Six points out of six, six goals scored and none conceded, and all without needing to switch out of first gear.
Didn’t have to do anything in the first half, and could have taken a nap for most of the second. Was disturbed for the first time just after the hour mark, and after that could have gone back to sleep again. Neuer will have busier evenings between the sticks, for sure.
Another feisty display from the young right-back, and given his current form it was slightly disappointing not to see him on the scoreboard. Well, OK. Let us wait until he is officially designated as the new false nine. Didn’t have to do much at the back, and was dynamic going forward. Created havoc for the Czechs all evening.
Apart from one early misplaced pass, a flawless evening from the FC Bayern centre-back, who shows just how much as asset is is going forward. Covered his defensive duties well, but was not massively tested by a toothless Czech attack.
Back in the starting eleven after his post-Euros injury layoff, it was as if he had never been missing. Hardly troubled at the back, Boateng terrorised the Czechs with his excellent distribution and excellent long balls. Took a bit of a knock in the second half, but adapted well.
Dealt with the minimal opposition threat well, and was active down the right flank in tandem with Julian Draxler. After a couple of weak outings, this was an excellent display by the 1. FC Köln man – capped off with his fine cross to set up the third goal for Müller. Replaced after sixty-eight minutes by Benedikt Höwedes.
Smooth as silk again, Kroos dominated his area of the field and directed things from the middle of the park. Was always supplementing the attack while covering the defence, showing excellent positional awareness. The opposition may not have been the best, but Kroos made it look all too easy. Made way for İlkay Gündoğan with just under fifteen minutes remaining.
Khedira was the silent partner tonight in the defensive midfield, but sometimes the best things are conspicuous by the absence. Worked well with Kroos as Germany dominated possession, and was solid without being overly spectacular. Finished off an easy tap-in in the first half, but was marginally offside.
After some pretty ordinary outings for his club, Müller was back to his best with a well-taken brace. Was never really comfortable out on the right and was far more effective when floating inside, but showed just how deadly he can be with two contrasting world class finishes. Goal numbers 35 and 36 took him just one behind Oliver Bierhoff on the all-time list, and at this rate he is going to score a whole lot more.
Not the greatest display by the midfield magician, but then expectations are always going to be higher than most. Combined well with Hector in the buildup to the third goal, but there were few of those special passes. This is not to say that Özil had a bad game; just an ordinary one by his usual standards.
Started brightly, and combined well with Hector out on the left. Had a couple of decent efforts in the first half and helped to maintain Germany’s dominance with some crisp and accurate passing, but faded slightly in the second half – which has become a bit of a pattern. Made way for Julian Brandt with ten minutes remaining.
Götze did not have a bad game, but it was hardly show-stopping either. He clearly doesn’t suit the false nine position, and more often than not overcooked situations rather than take the simple option. The team’s dominance allowed him to be more positive, and things won’t always be this easy for the 2014 World Cup winner.
A 76th minute replacement for Kroos, the new Manchester City signing continued his rehabilitation in the Nationaltrikot. Didn’t have much time to get into the game, but almost created a fourth goal right at the death with a lovely pass for Benedikt Höwedes.
Replaced Hector midway through the second half, and was able to enjoy himself with the team already three goals to the good. Was eager to get forward, and would have scored a fourth were it not for the fast reactions of Czech ‘keeper Tomáš Vaclík.
A ten minute cameo for the Leverkusen winger, who replaced Draxler. Didn’t have a chance to get into the game.
Neuer (2), Kimmich (3), Hummels (2), Boateng (1), Hector (3), Kroos (2), Khedira (3), Müller (1), Özil (2), Draxler (3), Götze (3)
Neuer (2.5), Kimmich (3), Hummels (1.5), Boateng (2), Hector (2.5), Kroos (2.5), Khedira (3), Müller (1.5), Özil (2), Draxler (3), Götze (2.5)
Neuer (2), Kimmich (2), Hummels (2), Boateng (2), Hector (3), Kroos (2), Khedira (3), Müller (1), Özil (2.5), Draxler (3), Götze (3)