The 3-2 defeat against England in Berlin had been “annoying” for Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw, and the second prestige friendly in the space of four days against bogey team Italy was pretty much a must-win – if just to boost confidence ahead of the selection of the Euro finals squad. In what was a much better overall display by the Mannschaft, the Italians were soundly beaten as Germany racked up their biggest win over the Azzurri since 1939.
The coach would make a number of changes to the team, with a change of both personnel and tactics. The withdrawal of ‘keeper Manuel Neuer with a stomach bug saw Marc-André ter Stegen win his fifth cap between the sticks, and with Sami Khedira also out Sebastian Rudy was brought back into the starting eleven.
Löw might have been tempted to bring in the versatile Matthias Ginter into the defensive midfield role and keep to the same formation that lined up against England, but instead went for a 5-4-1 (or 3-2-4-1, dependent on your interpretation) with a three-man defence and two attacking wing backs.
Having sustained a slight muscle injury in Berlin Mats Hummels was back in alongside Antonio Rüdiger, and with Jonas Hector shifted out to the left wing back role FC Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi was brought in to complete the Dreierkette – with Rudy out on the right.
In midfield the coach opted for a more flexible four-man unit, with Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller being joined by VfL Wolfsburg’s Julian Draxler – in for the benched Marco Reus. Up front, Saturday’s man of the match Mario Gómez was also rested, with Mario Götze leading the line in the “false nine” role.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s thirty-third match against the Azzurri, with the last coming in November 2013 in Milan when an early Hummels goal was cancelled out by Ignazio Abate. Having last beaten the Italians in Zürich in 1995, a win over their bogey side was more than overdue for the Mannschaft.
With Bastian Schweinsteiger not in the current squad and both Neuer and Khedira missing out the captain’s armband was handed to Thomas Müller for the first time – the perfect way to mark his 70th appearance in the Nationaltrikot at his home ground. Müller’s FC Bayern München team-mate Mario Götze also reached a personal landmark with his fiftieth international cap.
In storming into a 4-0 lead when Mesut Özil scored a 75th minute penalty, Germany were on course to record their biggest victory over their long-term rivals. A late consolation goal prevented that, but in recording a 4-1 victory the Germans had registered their best result against the Italians since 1939, when Sepp Herberger’s side triumphed 5-2 in Berlin.
In conceding four goals, Italian ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon continued his miserable run of games at the Allianz Arena. Earlier in the month Buffon had seen four put past him and his club Juventus against FC Bayern München, following 4-1 and 2-0 defeats in 2010 and 2013. Having had to pick the ball out of the back of his net fourteen times in four matches, one wouldn’t blame Buffon if he doesn’t want to play in Munich for a while.
Against England four days earlier in Berlin, Germany had taken a 2-0 lead only to blow it at the end an energetic and committed opponent. They started in similar vein against Antonio Conte’s side, but on this occasion kept things together nicely to build on their advantage in the second half and see out a morale-boosting win. Italy were a shadow of their usual competitive selves, but this takes nothing away from what was an encouraging display from the Mannschaft.
As against England, Toni Kroos got Germany off to a great start with a wonderfully-taken goal, with new skipper Müller providing the buildup via an Italian defender. The goal ended what had been a patchy start by the home side, and from that point on there was only really one team in the contest. A confidence-boosting header from Götze doubled the advantage after more good approach play from Müller, and it is fair to say that things were pretty comfortable at the break for Jogi’s Jungs.
In Berlin four days earlier, Germany had been unable to score that crucial third goal that would have probably secured a comfortable victory. This time there were no such worries. With what was probably the best goal of the evening, Jonas Hector’s right-footed strike rounded off a fantastic move involving Kroos, Draxler and Götze. By this time everybody was charging forward to take a bite out of what was arguably a poor Italian side, and when the marauding Rudy was upended by Buffon, Özil stepped up the hit the fourth from the penalty spot.
In a competitive game Buffon might have seen red for the foul – and with eleven men still on the pitch Italy were a lot more competitive after the arrival of substitutes Stefano Okaka and Stephan El Shaarawy. The four-goal advantage – the first time any German team had achieved this over the Azzurri – was cut back to three eight minutes from time when an El Shaarawy effort was deflected past ter Stegen.
It must have been a strange feeling for the German ‘keeper to pick the ball out of the net, given that he had spent the entire evening without having to make a save of note.
Conclusions and Ratings
Overall, this was a much better performance from the Mannschaft, even if the opposition were far from their competitive best. There were a few wobbles in defence, but thankfully this was long after the game had been put beyond all doubt. ‘Keeper ter Stegen and the new-look back line had little to do against an Italian attack that offered nothing until a couple of late changes, and the midfield clearly benefited from the tweaks made by the Nationaltrainer following the defeat in Berlin.
After a quiet game against England, Thomas Müller was back to his Raumdeutering best. He clearly felt that he had something to prove on his own home ground in Munich, and was clearly proud to be wearing the captain’s armband for the first time.
The four-man midfield unit had far more fluidity about it, and there was a marked contrast to the game against England where both Müller and Marco Reus had been largely anonymous. Toni Kroos was clearly more comfortable further up the field, Mesut Özil also looked more like his usual self, and the addition of the energetic and always willing Julian Draxler balanced things out nicely.
Up front, Mario Götze also had a good game – one that will surely boost his confidence in what has been a testing season.
As with Saturday’s defeat, fans of the Mannschaft can only take a few things from this game. Confidence is back up again after the bungle in Berlin and it was nice to hand the Italians a welcome thrashing in beating them for the first time in over twenty years, but we can be pretty certain that the Azzurri will not be the same toothless unit should the team cross paths again at the Euros this summer.
There is still plenty of work to do for the coach and his team in the next couple of months, and we can only hope that the right players make the final twenty-three man squad for the Euros. With the next warm-up match against Slovakia two months from now, there are no further opportunities for the Nationaltrainer to see his players in action together before the final names are revealed.
Alongside the obvious choices, there are a number of important decisions the coach will need to make. Is Bastian Schweinsteiger indispensable? Is time finally up for Lukas Podolski? Is there still an opportunity for others such as Leroy Sané, Max Meyer, Joshua Kimmich and Patrick Herrmann to still force their way into the reckoning?
Then, of course, there are the issues with fitness. We just need to think back to the final weeks before the last couple of tournaments.
Marc-André ter Stegen
A quiet night for the Barcelona ‘keeper, who got the nod following the late withdrawal of Manuel Neuer. Didn’t even have a save to make, and even the shot that did manage to beat him took a massive deflection. Looked a little shaky at times with the ball at his feet, but that will surely improve as he gets more experience at this level.
A satisfactory display in a game where the German defence didn’t have much to so against an toothless Italian attack. Was a decent presence in a new-looked Dreierkette, and was unfortunate at the end to deflect Stephan El Shaawary’s consoluation effort past ter Stegen.
Like Rüdiger, the Valencia man will have tougher outings in the Nationaltrikot – but after a few dodgy outings this will surely help Mustafi settle down as part of the national team setup. More than played his part in keeping the Italian attack at bay.
Brought that much needed experience to the back line, and helped his two younger and less experienced colleagues keep things in good order. Against an Italian attack that only came to life in the last ten minutes, it was an easy night for the Dortmund central defender.
Playing out on the right in a wing-back role, Rudy settled down nicely. The TSG Hoffenheim man had little work to do defensively, which allowed him to find plenty of space and venture forward frequently. Won the penalty which resulted in Germany’s fourth goal when he was brought down by Italian ‘keeper Gigi Buffon.
A decent display at left win-back by the Köln man, who like Rudy had a fairly easy time of things defensively. Was also able to play a more attacking role, and capped off his good showing with his first international goal to all but secure his spot at the Euros. Was replaced by Matthias Ginter with five minutes remaining.
Kroos is an enigma. He appears lazy at times, often giving the ball away unnecessarily. However, he always adds that touch of class going forward, and set the Mannschaft on their way with a wonderfully-taken goal to follow his long-distance strike four days earlier against England. As part of a more fluid four-man midfield unit, Kroos was far more effective than he had been against England in what was a more defensive role. Made way for Christoph Kramer with a couple of minutes left.
After a questionable outing against England, Özil looked a whole lot better in this game – as did the entire midfield. Playing a little deeper, the Arsenal playmaker had plenty of nice touches as he looked to control the space around him, and his late penalty to put Germany four up was calmly and clinically executed.
Captain for the day in the absence of Neuer and Khedira, Müller too was back at his best after an uncharacteristically flat display against England. Made space beautifully to set up the opening goal, and his cross to find Bayern team mate Mario Götze was memorable – as was the celebration that followed. His work done, Müller was replaced by Emre Can with just over twenty minutes left.
A good addition to the midfield with his mix of pace, intelligence and energy. Had a couple of decent shots on goal, and combined brilliantly with Mario Götze to set up Hector for Germany’s killer third goal. Made way for Kevin Volland with five minutes remaining.
Having just played five minutes against England, Götze finally got a start and repaid the coach’s faith in him with some memorable moments of quality. Got in between two Italian defenders to score the Mannschaft’s second goal of the night, and produced a sublime flick in the move that helped create the opening for the third. Made way just after the hour mark for Marco Reus, to warm applause from the Munich crowd.
Came on for the excellent Götze after sixty-one minutes, but failed to really spark in what was by that time a no-pressure situation. Following his flat display against England, it is clear that the Dortmund winger is holding something back.
Replaced Müller after sixty-nine minutes, and slipped into a more orthodox midfield role. Didn’t offer anything spectacular with Germany already well in front, but looked far at home further up the pitch than he looked at right-back four days earlier.
Had a five minute run-out after coming on for Draxler, and didn’t have any time to make an impact.
Replaced Hector for the last five minutes, and also saw things out quietly.
A quick run on and run off for the Leverkusen man after replacing Kroos with the clock running down towards the end of the ninety minutes.
Ter Stegen (3), Rüdiger (3), Mustafi (3), Hummels (2), Rudy (3), Hector (2), Kroos(2), Özil (2), Müller (2), Draxler (3), Götze (2). Substitutes: Reus (3)
Ter Stegen (3.5), Rüdiger (3), Mustafi (3), Hummels (1.5), Rudy (3), Hector (2.5), Kroos (1), Özil (1.5), Müller (2), Draxler (2.5), Götze (2)
Ter Stegen (3), Rüdiger (3), Mustafi (3), Hummels (2), Rudy (3), Hector (3), Kroos (2), Özil (2), Müller (2), Draxler (3), Götze (1.5). Substitutes: Reus (4), Can (3)