Germany v Italy: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

I never thought it would come to this – my last ratings report of Euro 2012, and I’m not writing about the final. Instead, another semi-final against that old banana skin Italy, and yet another painful defeat. I cannot speak for every Germany fan out there, but there is a sense of emptiness that may take some time to go away.

This was there for the taking, and had the team simply been allowed to play their natural game we may not be indulging in this maudlin post mortem. Instead we saw some desperate last-moment tinkering, an early goal for the opposition, and a German side that suddenly looked like rabbits caught in the headlights. Or headless chickens, lambs to the slaughter – just pick your cliché.

Italy deserved to win: on this we are all agreed I think. Even as the most biased supporter this side of Heligoland, I had no complaints about the opposition. They played fairly, they did what they had to do, and they did it well. I wish I could leave it at that, but let’s press on.

Facts and Stats

This was Germany’s thirty-first match against the Azzurri, and their eighth competitive encounter. The previous meetings had seen four draws and three wins for the Italians, and it would be a simple matter of form versus history.

The Nationalmannschaft would be aiming for their 500th international victory, and a fifth successive win in a Euro finals tournament which would have taken them level with the winning French side of 1984 (which in the old eight-team format would only have to play five games en route to winning the tournament).

The last two meetings between the teams had taken place in Dortmund: in January 2011 a friendly international had finished 1-1 with Italy grabbing a late equaliser, and prior to that had been the World Cup semi-final of 2006, where the Azzurri won the game at the end of extra time with goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero.

Germany’s last victory of any sort against Italy was in Zürich in June 1995, when they achieved a 2-0 result.

The Team and Tactics

Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw had started with a consistent eleven for the opening group matches and then played a more positive starting lineup against Greece, and observers were widely predicting a 4-2-3-1 formation with the combination of those players who had done their best to impress. When the team lineup was revealed however, there would be widespread consternation among the commentators on Twitter and the various Germany fan blogs.

While the defensive unit would remain the same – with defensive midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger being declared fit – up front we would see a leftfield selection that would take everyone by surprise. There would be no place for André Schürrle, who had provided energy down the left flank against the Greeks. There would be no place for the hard-working Thomas Müller, who had more than made up for his lack of form with his usual spirit, determination and enthusiasm.

More pointedly however there would be no place for both Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose, who had helped boss the game in Gdańsk. The omission of Reus in particular raised plenty of eyebrows: the young player had more than impressed in his first tournament appearance, and to not see his name on the team sheet bordered on the disturbing.

More so when we would get to see who the coach had actually picked.

Up front, Mario Gómez would start. Not really a problem one may argue, given his three goals in the opening two matches. While Klose offered variation and link-up play, Gómez would offer strength. Well that was the theory. Out on the left would be Lukas Podolski, a player who had been so disappointing to the point where many hoped they would not see him again in this tournament. Then the real leftfield sucker punch: a first tournament start for Toni Kroos.

The players picked suggested more of a 4-3-3 rather than the usual 4-2-3-1; one wondered who would slot in where, with Kroos not being the most obvious candidate out on the right. When the game began, it was clear that the players had no idea where they were supposed to be either – a situation that became even worse after Italy had taken the lead after twenty minutes.

The Match

Things actually started brightly, and Löw’s side could very easily have taken an early lead with a little more luck. A scuffed Mats Hummels effort was cleared off the line (with a little bit of arm) by Andrea Pirlo, and the opening quarter an hour saw the usually safe Gigi Buffon look more like Gigi the floppy haired buffoon.

Italy would look dangerous on the break however, and so it proved with they took the lead with a smart but not massively complicated charge down the left. With Jérôme Boateng caught slightly out of position Antonio Cassano worked his way down the wing, skinning poor Hummels and turning him inside out before sending in a cross to Italy’s bad boy Mario Balotelli, who left Holger Badstuber standing like a tailor’s dummy as he powered the ball into the German net past a helpless Manuel Neuer. Why Badstuber didn’t jump, Gerd only knows.

The Germans were suddenly all over the place, and the second Italian goal provided the perfect illustration of what was wrong with the Mannschaft’s game. After a German corner had gone astray – something that would happen all evening – the Italians broke at speed, and in a flash the man with the strange-looking mohican was in again, slamming the ball past Neuer. The Germans were quite literally gasping for air, and the half-time break couldn’t have arrived any sooner.

By the time the coach realised that his tinkering experiment had backfired and threw Reus and Klose on for the abject Podolski and the wandering Gómez, it was way too late. Working back a two-goal deficit against semi-final opposition was always going to be difficult, but against a hard-working, well-drilled and intelligent team like Italy it was going to be next to impossible. Let’s just say they tried, and for fleeting moments in the second half there were signs that had Löw started with the side everybody expected and wanted things might have turned out differently.

Try as they might, the chances wouldn’t quite drop for the Mannschaft. Reus was unable to get power on his shot follwing a lovely little run and his stinging free-kick was pushed onto the crossbar by Buffon, and while Mesut Özil was occasionally producing little bursts of magic he was unable to stamp any kind of authority on the play. The impressive Sami Khedira continued to fight manfully in spite of the increasingly desperate situation, but his defensive midfield partner Bastian Schweinsteiger was still lightyears away from his dominant best. Was he really 100% fit? Should he have even started the game? These are questions that will continue to be asked.

Cesare Prandelli’s side would miss a hatful of chances to put the game to bed, and when Germany finally got a break it was just too late to apply the pressure. Özil’s late penalty was well taken and led to a couple of mad minutes as ‘keeper Neuer threw himself forward, but the game was summed up by the final act and poor Schweinsteiger, who instead of lumping the ball up into the Italian box chose to roll it forward and provide the referee with the perfect opportunity to blow the final whistle.

There would be tears in the German dressing room after the match, but the criticism should be rightly aimed at the coach, who for all the pre-match talk couldn’t bring himself invest the appropriate level of trust in his team when they most needed it. Had he named the same attacking line-up as had started against Greece, I think most of us could have lived with a defeat, but the last-minute tinkering showed a distinct lack of faith in the system that had served the team so well for the best part of two years.

While it made perfect sense to respect the Italians, the overly negative formation was borne more out of little more than fear. The opening psychological battle had been won by the Azzurri before a ball have even been kicked, and they would never look back. In fairness to Joachim Löw, he would take responsibility for both his tactics and the result.

When watching this match again, I cannot help but be impressed by the highly professional Italians – right down to the moment when Mesut Özil went to collect the ball after scoring his injury time penalty. No attempts to grab the ball, no shenanigans. I wish them well in the final, and genuinely hope that they can beat the Spaniards.

Player Ratings

Manuel Neuer

One can say many things about the “Nutella Boys” being a softer touch than their 1980s forebears, but this cannot be said about the almost immovable object that is Manuel Neuer. Neuer hat Eier. Brave and innovative, his charging forward right at the death showed what sort of player he is. Had no chance with Balotelli’s two excellent goals, and was safe as houses when everything else came his way.

Jérome Boateng

The entire back four didn’t cover themselves in glory, but Boateng was probably the best of a bad bunch. Was caught slightly out of position during the move that led to Italy’s first goal, but apart from that didn’t do much wrong. Provided a few decent crosses coming forward. Was sacrificed for Thomas Müller late in the second half as the coach threw his last tactical dice.

Mats Hummels

Hadn’t put a put wrong for the first four matches, but let himself down badly as he allowed himself to be turned inside out by Cassano which led to the first goal. However was man enough to admit his error, and one can only hope the experience will make him improve further.

Holger Badstuber

Could have done a lot better to stop Balotelli having such an easy time with his first goal, and was caught short on a couple of occasions. However overall he was no better or worse than anyone else and did make a few important challenges.

Philipp Lahm

With Italy concentrating their attack mainly down the their left there was little for the left-back to do, but he too would be caught napping for Italy’s second goal. Made the odd decent run forward, and could have done better when he carved out a shooting chance for himself in the second half.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

The latter part of the season had taken its toll on the man touted as the Mannschaft’s midfield general, and once again he turned out a performance that could at best be described as unconvincing. Was he really fit, or should he have been replaced by Toni Kroos? It is one of those many debates that will rumble on.

Sami Khedira

The best man on the pitch in a white shirt, and not for the first time during this tournament. Khedira’s job would be made much harder as a result of the tactics, but greatest players are those who are able to stand out even when things are going badly. Worked like a Trojan, and had a decent shot on goal as well.

Toni Kroos

It was unclear what Kroos had to do, but he made a decent fist of things. He neither disappointed nor impressed, but was clearly out of his comfort zone. Clearly wasted as an aimless midfield floater, it would have made far more sense to start with Kroos alongside Khedira instead of the clearly injured and out of sorts Schweinsteiger.

Mesut Özil

Tried his best to work with this made-up formation, and had a seriously disappointing first half through no fault of his own. The arrival of Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus at the start of the seocnd half allowed Özil to do a little bit more in the seocnd half, but it was never going to be easy chasing the game. Fronted up at the death to dispatch a well-taken penalty.

Lukas Podolski

What can I say about Podolski without resorting to insults? This is not the energetic player who impressed in 2006 and to a lesser extent 2008, but a useless lump of protein that spent most of his time floating aimlessly with no great intent or purpose. His performance was summed up in the closing moments of the first half when he found himself in space before dithering like a Sunday schoolboy player and pushing the ball wide. Was spared further humiliation when he was replaced by Marco Reus at the start of the second half.

Mario Gómez

Mario Gómez is a trier, and that’s about all one can say. Was completely anonymous, though it has been established and largely agreed that this is through no great fault of his own. Gómez does not do linkup play, and unless the crosses are swinging in – something that was not going to happen given the coach’s bizarre tactics – he will just sit and wait. Didn’t have a sniff of an opportunity as a result, and his best contribution would be a series of poor first touches. Replaced by Miroslav Klose at the start of the second half.


Marco Reus

Should have started the natch, and had an immediate impact at the start of the second half. Created panic in the Italian defence early on and sent in a rasping free-kick that was well kept out by Gigi Buffon. Was less prominent as the game wore on, but overall a decent performance.

Miroslav Klose

Immediately made a difference to the German attack as he allowed Mesut Özil to find more space, and made a few decent runs on and off the ball. When push comes to shove however he too didn’t have a sniff of a chance.

Thomas Müller

Introduced late on in the piece but was unable to settle down. Provided extra movement down the right flank, but had too little time to make a significant impact. Another player who could and perhaps should have started.

My ratings:

Neuer (3), Boateng (4), Hummels (4.5), Badstuber (4.5), Lahm (4), Schweinsteiger (5.5), Khedira (2.5), Kroos (4), Özil (3.5), Podolski (6), Gómez (5.5). Substitutes (before 75 minutes): Reus (3), Klose (4), Müller (3.5)

Kicker’s ratings:

Neuer (3), Boateng (4.5), Hummels (5), Badstuber (5), Lahm (5), Schweinsteiger (6), Khedira (3.5), Kroos (4.5), Özil (4.5), Podolski (6), Gómez (5). Substitutes (before 70 minutes): Reus (3.5), Klose (5)

Bild’s ratings:

Neuer (4), Boateng (4), Hummels (5), Badstuber (5), Lahm (5), Schweinsteiger (6), Khedira (4), Kroos (5), Özil (5), Podolski (6), Gómez (6). Substitutes (before 75 minutes): Reus (3), Klose (4), Müller (4)

Overall, not too much disagreement here, but then there hardly ever is when judging what has overall been a poor performance. Sami Khedira gets the top marks, and the judgement of Lukas Podolski is pretty unanimous. Comparing my scores to those dished out by Bild I think I might have been a little easy on the entire back four.

So there we have it. The end of another tournament, and another glorious German failure. It’s something we are starting to get used to now.

Germany v Italy: Match Analysis and Player Ratings
Tagged on:                                                                                         

17 thoughts on “Germany v Italy: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

  • July 2, 2012 at 12:42

    Spot it my freind. Spot on. I wish we had more Neuers and Mullers and less Podolskis. And I am talking more about the attitude than the from or skill.

    AS for the national anthem, it ticks me off greatly to see what the players do these days during playing it. They are playing for Germany, for the nation, not for money or personal fame. If they do not believe in what they are playing for, then they should not be standng in that line at the beginning of every match.

    Hope I didn’t offend anyone.

    • July 2, 2012 at 13:14

      Neuer has been outstanding this past season, more for his attitude than anything else. His penalty in the CL final and those last frantic minutes in Warsaw where he was throwing himself about making diving headers shows what sort of character he is. As for Müller, the guy may not be the most gifted and twinkle-toed, but he more than makes up for this with his passion and commitment.

      As for the national anthem issue, I completely agree. It is slightly disheartening to see the usual suspects with their wandering eyes, while at the same time see Mario Balotelli belt it out as soon as the tune strikes up. As for Gigi Buffon, well – you can see that he believes.

  • July 2, 2012 at 11:09

    Very interesting points about Germany being set up to play in a contradictory way, the team was supposed to be offensive enough to neutralise Italy and win, but instead it neutralised itself.

    Is it the case then that Low didn’t have the right balance in midfield in that he had too many systems on the go, wingers (or in effect one winger – Podolski) and wingbacks (overlapping the midfielders then leaving gaps in defence), plus then the introduction of Kroos as a defensive midfielder, a spot usually filled by Muller, an attacking midfielder.

    Basically the midfield was a mismatch of styles, combine that with Kroos and an out of form Schweinsteiger, both players in effect acted as a drag on the midfield.

    Whereas take Spain, all the midfield – and defence – moves up in a regimented way, all sticking together using short passes to attack.

    • July 2, 2012 at 13:07

      I would contend that Löw was guilty of overanalysing the situation. Putting Kroos and Podolski in was one thing, but to team them up with Gómez, a player who is best suited to getting a regular supply of crosses from the flanks? It was just wrong, unless the coach genuinely believed that they could do the same job as Ribéry and Robben at Bayern.

      Kroos is no winger, and Podolski would have needed to up his form by at least 200%. Not only was Gómez taken out of the equation as a result, it also nullified the effectiveness of Mesut Özil, who looked lost at times.

      I could have lived with Podolski starting if Müller was out on the right and Klose up front, but would have preferred Reus out on the left.

      I perhaps harshly described Podolski as a “useless lump of protein”, but even a few days to mull over things hasn’t changed my mind.

      • July 2, 2012 at 14:03

        Re Gomez – Thing is though maybe he thought Lahm and Boateng could do the crossing, as Boateng did in the first half, first 20 mins or so anyway.

        Totally agree myself about Klose.

  • July 2, 2012 at 02:28

    Seeing parts of the match yesterday just made me more upset, how could we lose to this Italy side. What a chance we missed, what a failure by the manager.

    I agree with Der Chef though, I doubt Low would have had the ability to match Del Bosque’s smartness. The fact that it is not rocket science and coaches like Bento and Mourinho and Di Matteo have already figured out their game, just makes me less hopeful that We can achieve anything with this management style.

    Before, every body used to hate Germany and think we were boring but we always won stuff. Now everyone thinks Germany are exciting but we never win.

    I liked it better before.

    Although I doubt many people will remember exciting Germany from this tournament after last night’s match.

    • July 2, 2012 at 09:30

      In fact in this instance I don’t think Italy had figured out Germany’s game, it was more a case of Jogi playing to the opposition and not allowing his team to play to their many strengths.

      While I am like anyone else a fan of winning trophies, the boring method – such as that practised by Jupp Derwall during the 1980s – never really appealed. It was like watching Spain now, but arguably worse. Try watching the Greece game from 1980, and you will want to see some modern-day Spaint drying instead.

      The champion German teams of 1972 and 1974 however, were far from boring. They simply put together style and grace – qualities that were often overlooked while the world grovelled and scraped before the Cruyff-inspired Dutch – with traditional German steel. It is the latter that is now lacking, and an injection of this could very well push this side from being an almost-there to a multiple title winner. We just need more Manuel Neuers and Thomas Müllers – if the entire squad his the same Eier as these two, we might be having a completely different discussion right now.

      An argument posted by some (there was an article in Die Welt yesterday) is that passion is fuelled by the national anthem, and to a point I agree with this. However in the 1980s there was not much singing going on – but by the same token there was a steely-eyed “I’m singing this loudly in my head” sort of silence, not the spaced-out look that I frequently see among many players today.

  • July 1, 2012 at 23:57

    Unfortunately for Italy their final was their semi win against Germany. I think in all probability Spain would have defeated anyone in the final. They have the ability to bore teams (and the non-Spanish public) to death. I find their passing game a complete turn off. I wish these so called experts would stop claiming they have made history by winning three tournaments in a row. Argentina won three Copa America (1945-47) and Uruguay 2 Copa America (1923-24) and the Olympic Tournament of 1924. The experts also couldn’t wait to notify us that the 4:0 scoreline was the highest in a final. I am trying to remember the last time I was excited by a Spain game and I cannot remember – it is difficult to recall them playing in a classic match (and this is not sour grapes). Yes, they are the best team at the moment but the standard amongst many countries has dropped considerably. Brazil, Argentina, France, Italy and even our Oranje friends don’t have the teams they once had.

    • July 2, 2012 at 09:21

      I too am bored rigid by Spain – Spaint drying, Spainful to watch, etc. usw. – but yesterday they did pull their finger out early on. After than however it was dull, and the match was not helped by Italy being reduced to ten men and allowing the Spaniards to rack up the record score which all of the so-called “experts” are waxing lyrical about. Alan Hansen in particular, with that flat, monotone, droning voice.

      More than just the ability to bore other teams into submission, they have perfected their game, to the point where you or I could coach them. This is why they are so good. The magic trick is that both Aragones before and del Bosque now have allowed the players to do their thing, something where Joachim Löw has fallen short. He had the chance against Italy, but helped blow things out of the water by playing an offensive formation that was designed to neutralise Italy, but only succeeded in neutralising itself.

      I think if this German team are allowed to play their natural game and are trusted by the coach, they have the beating of Spain. Until then, and so long as the tactics keep being meddled with, they will be destined to rack up these last four finishes.

  • July 1, 2012 at 21:39

    Well, well. I wonder if Germany could’ve made a better fist of it than Italy.

    I tell you, two complete moments of madness at the back cost Germany that semi.

    • July 1, 2012 at 22:31

      If they had been allowed to play their natural game they would have beaten Italy. However even if they had scraped through it’s hard to see Löw not tinkering further. A match against Spain could have turned into a disaster.

      Spain deserved to win, but that 4-0 scoreline flattered them.

  • July 1, 2012 at 14:38

    The defensive frailties have blighted the Mannschaft for a considerable time. We conceded goals against weak opposition in the group (in fact we kept a meagre 2 clean sheets in the whole of the calendar year of 2011 [13 games in all])

    One of my main concerns is regarding the ‘experienced’ players – Lahm and Schweinsteiger more often than not go awol in the big games. You look for the top players to stand up and be counted but they do not, which is a disappointment.

    My criticisms of Gomez may have been a little harsh – it is just that he does not fit in with the free-flowing German game. He would benefit more from a team with attack-minded wingers as opposed to fast link up play.

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:43


    Good points, although re Lahm not defending, I guess he was instructed to attack and that’s my point about just playing a 3-5-2 instead, because there’ no point playing 4 at the back when in reality you are only playing 2 with Lahm and Boetang playing as wide attacking midfielders most of the game.

    At times Germany did seem to be playing a whole new formation – the 2 – 7 – 1 🙂

    The 2-7-1 proves you are right about being too offensive and not defensive enough, and even those in the defence are still too young to be accomplished at ‘international-level’.

    But still, I say again, if Kroos has been instructed to man mark Pirlo, Pirlo wouldn’t have been able to spray that ball out left for the first goal, but most of all, if Badstuber had jumped up, then who knows!

    And – too add – I believe Pirlo used his arm to stop Hummels shot from going in.

    One last thing, Podolski shouldn’t be a scapegoat either, Podolski’s style is well known, he had two major mess ups in the game and that merited him being subbed.

    So, all-in-all, I wouldn’t be overly negative.

  • July 1, 2012 at 01:06

    It’s been 48 hours and the pain is still fresh. Now that I had sometime to think more logically about things, I think there are a few points that contributed to the defeat.

    1- the inexperience of the team in such situations, our total dependency on young talent has backfired. We did not have enough leaders,

    2- The experienced players were all off form(podiolski, Schweini, and to some extent Lahm)

    3- no defensive support for the central defenders, big mistake at this stage of the tournament. Time and time again Hummels and Badstuber were left exposed to the faster Italians. I can understand being attack minded in the group stage and even against Greece, but against Italy we needed to be more careful. when was the last time an attacking team won a tournament? Brazil 2002 switched their tactics after the second round.

    4- The unexplainable changes made especially bringing in Kroos on the right.

    5- there is something seriously wrong with our mental resolve, at times in the second half I thought Italy was facing a Regionaliga team.

    Although no one is in the mood to hear the word “fussball” for the next few weeks, or even think about it, it is inevitable to think about what’s next.

    So looks like Low is going no where. So expect more of the same, a successful qualifying campaign against weaker opposition, a lot of new faces, questionnable selection decisions, leaving out players for no obvious reasons……

    About the players, I really hope Klose would stick around(if Low allows him). Not that he has many options, he already ended Kuranyi’s career and obviously Helmes, Hanke, and Kiesling are all below Low’s expectations. Podolski, however, that’s another story. Pettersen is a potential, but not if he plays less than 300 minutes a season, although he did very well in those 300 minutes.

    Other than that, no one else seems to be in danger of retiring.

  • June 30, 2012 at 01:43

    Having watched the game again it is clear that two defensive errors cost Germany the game, the first could have been changed or altered in some way had Badstuber simply jumped. The second came from a long ball after Germany lost possession after a failed corner kick. That’s why the whole team was out of position and Baloteli was able to score, that was a great goal just outside the box, Germany had over-committed.

    I think the line up was wrong, but I don’t now view Kroos as a bad addition however he should have been made to man mark Pirlo, and he wasn’t given that task. Klose should have been on earlier, along with Muller.

    Still reckon a 3-5-2 might have cracked the Italians, with Boateng left out, Muller in. Kroos to stick with Pirlo leaving the midfield to play creatively. Something along those lines anyway.

  • June 30, 2012 at 00:41

    …and I thought it was tragic to be a Bayern fan. This just heaps the pain on. Thanks for the intelligent but sad postmortem.

  • June 29, 2012 at 21:37

    germany need a plus, something more a a good team…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.