So, finally – time for more analysis of the game against the Netherlands from earlier this week, as well as the usual player ratings. Although this was a only a friendly, the perfomance has to go down as one of the best in what has been a highly successful year for Joachim Löw’s side: thirteen games played with nine wins, three draws and one defeat against Australia in Mönchengladbach.
In contrast to the earlier friendly against Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine in Kyiv, there would be no experiments for the game in Hamburg: the Nationaltrainer played an orthodox 4-2-3-1 formation with Miroslav Klose leading the line, and saw his team boss the match from beginning to end. While the Mannschaft could have ended the match with more than their three goals, the Dutch hardly got a sniff of a chance in a game where Manuel Neuer had a fairly easy night between the sticks.
The defensive performance – where the team was able to keep a clean sheet for the first time in eleven matches – was of course put in the shade by a masterful attacking with the usual suspects – Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Klose – providing a gourmet showcase where their opponents were sliced, diced and unceremoniously roasted. Some of the interplay between the three was bordering on the magical, and the third goal in particular was a joy to behold as good as anything produced by the Brazil, Argentina or Spain.
In short, this exciting German side gave the Dutch a lesson in what can be described as the new Total Football: all that remains is for the same thing to happen in a more important game. The final next year in Kyiv will do nicely.
The tactics were as straightforward as you could get for this match – the usual 4-2-3-1, a formation with which the players were comfortable to the point of being able to play blindfolded. There was a solid look to the defensive line with all of the back four turning in satisfactory performances – a few early gaffes by centre-back Per Mertesacker notwithstanding – while the midfield were supremely dominant, particularly on the right flank where the energetic Müller and the skilfully smooth Özil terrified Müller’s former FC Bayern team-mate Edson Braafheid.
There had been much debate and discussion over who should start up front, and the two matches could well serve as an indicator of who might be the best man for the job. Mario Gómez had started against the Ukraine and had looked a little lost at times – thought admittedly the tactics probably didn’t help him that much – while against the Dutch Miroslav Klose was here, there and everywhere against the Dutch in scoring one goal and creating the other two.
Gómez is without doubt a fine goalscorer and on his day a lethal finisher, but as long as he is fit and has the desire Klose should be leading the line for the Nationalmannschaft. What is immediately evident from watching the match again is the almost telepathic relationship between Klose and Özil, epitomised by Özil’s first-time cross to find Klose for the second goal and the interplay between the two to carve open the Dutch defence for the wonderful third.
Then there is the selflessness that Klose brings to the side: he is chasing down a legendary goalscoring record, but chose to place the ball on a plate for Özil when he could very easily have gone for goal himself. In short, he is the perfect team player.
Perhaps the only disappointing thing was that every dangerous attack appeared to come down the right flank: while he was solid enough in defence Dennis Aogo was unable to influence things going forward as well as Philipp Lahm, and the usually busy Lukas Podolski had a quiet night.
Manuel Neuer: It’s difficult to say anything about a ‘keeper that had little to do, but on the few occasions where he was called into action Neuer did the job well and once again showed a good command of his penalty area. Wsa finally able to keep a clean sheet for the first time since earlier in the year against Azerbaijan.
Jérôme Boateng: Another solid performance, though not without the occasional error on what was a fairly quiet night for the entire defensive quartet. Boateng will no doubt continue improving, and looks the best bet for the right-back position at the moment.
Per Mertesacker: Gave us all a few minor heart attacks at the beginning with a few lazy touches, but the Dutch were unable to capitalise. Improved slightly as the match went on – though that had more to do with the Dutch attack being nonexistent rather than anything else. Mertesacker may bring some experience to the back four, but there are better alternatives out there.
Holger Badstuber: Another solid game for the young Bayern centre-back, but he was not really taxed during what was a fairly easy evening for the entire back four. Showed some neat skill at times with excellent distribution. Replaced by Mats Hummels at half-time.
Dennis Aogo: Performed solidly enough without being played in a suicidal formation and made a couple of decent challenges, but showed little inventiveness going forward. Aogo is a fairly decent backup for Philipp Lahm, but not much more than that at the moment.
Sami Khedira: Another excellent game from Khedira who provided excellent defensive cover, was solid in the tackle and was quietly efficient going forward. Khedira’s excellent work is hardly ever noticed because he does his job so well; his vision, sense of anticipation and tactical awareness makes things look at lot easier than they actually are.
Toni Kroos: With another eye-catching performance Kroos has created something of a dilemma for the coach, who can pick only two from him, Khedira and – when fit again – Bastian Schweinsteiger. With Kroos on the ball things always look like they are going to happen – as was the case when his beautifully-flighted ball found Klose to set up Müller for the opening goal.
Thomas Müller: There’s not much you can say about a man who can keep running for ninety minutes and plays a part in all of his side’s three goals. A superbly sweet right-footed finish to score the opener, and his usual energy, pace and awareness to help set up numbers two and three.
Mesut Özil: After he had looked a little lost in the experimental formation in Kyiv, Özil was back to his masterful best in Hamburg. He completely bossed the midfield and was a constant danger, and was most effective combining with Miroslav Klose. Set up Klose with a delicious first-time cross with his wrong foot, and played a masterful one-two with the striker to tap in his eighth international goal.
Lukas Podolski: With most of the attacks coming down the right flank, Podolski found himself with little to do on the left side. On the few occasions he did get hold of the ball, there was not much to write home about. Was replaced by Mario Götze after sixty-five minutes.
Miroslav Klose: The man of the match in what was an excellent team performance. Created Müller’s first with a well-placed first-time cutback, scored an oustanding second with a perfectly timed and well-placed header, and combined magnificently with Özil for the third. He was all over the Dutch like a rash, and showed great intelligence and tactical awareness that allowed the likes of Özil and Müller to do what they do best.
Mats Hummels: Came on for Holger Badstuber at the start of the second half, and had a fairly easy time of things as by that point the Dutch were offering very little threat. Was solid enough and played his part in what was an efficient display by the four-man defensive unit.
Mario Götze: Came on for Lukas Podolski midway through the second half. Like the man he replaced, Götze had little to do as there were hardly any attacks coming through the left side of the field. Showed some touches of skill in the latter stages, but the ball never quite fell for him.
Benedikt Höwedes: Came on for Boateng midway through the second half, and slotted in pretty well at right-back. Almost as soon as he had arrived on the pitch Germany scored their third goal, and from then on it would be a pretty easy evening for the Schalke captain.
Marco Reus: Had ten minutes or so on the pitch after coming on for Miroslav Klose, but didn’t really get much of a chance to show what he can do. With luck the Mönchengladbach starlet will get a start sometime soon as his form in the Bundesliga has been phenomenal.
Simon Rolfes: A brief run-out for the Leverkusen skipper who replaced the excellent Kroos after eighty-two minutes. Didn’t have much to do in what was probably a relaxing ten minutes or so on the field.
Lars Bender: Another few minutes of experience for the youngster.
Neuer (2), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (3.5), Badstuber (3), Aogo (3), Khedira (1), Kroos (1.5), Müller (1), Özil (1), Podolski (3.5), Klose (1). Subs: Hummels (3), Götze (2.5), Höwedes (3)
Here are Bild’s Scores…
Neuer (2), Boateng (2), Mertesacker (3), Badstuber (3), Aogo (3), Khedira (2), Kroos (1), Müller (1), Özil (1), Podolski (3), Klose (1). Subs: Hummels (3), Götze (2), Höwedes (3)
Neuer (3), Boateng (4), Mertesacker (3), Badstuber (3), Aogo (3), Khedira (1.5), Kroos (1.5) – Müller (1), Özil (1), Podolski (4) – Klose (1). Subs: Hummels (3)
Well, it’s a little over a hundred days until the next international – so until then I will be posting small feature articles and updates from time to time. The next game for the Nationalmannschaft will be played on 29th February 2012 – a friendly against France in Bremen’s Weserstadion.