Germany v Northern Ireland: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

With two wins from two, Germany were in confident mood ahead of their third match in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign – a rematch against Euro 2016 group phase opponents Northern Ireland. In Paris in the summer, a 1-0 victory had not reflected the Mannschaft’s dominance, with Irish ‘keeper Michael McGovern keeping Jogi Löw’s men at bay. In a wet and soggy Hannover the performance was nowhere near as sparkling, with a quick two-goal burst in the first half settling the issue.

Germany’s 2-0 win would maintain their 100% record, putting them clear at the top of the group table on nine points – with a visit to group minnows San Marino in November closing out the year’s competitive fixture list.

Facts and Stats

This was Germany’s sixteenth match against Northern Ireland, and their eleventh meeting in international competition. Germany would have to look back to 1983 for its last defeat at the hands of Northern Ireland – a 1-0 reverse in Hamburg that saw the Ulstermen complete an unique double over the Mannschaft during the Euro 1984 qualifying campaign.

It had been a painful and ultimately lucky campaign for Jupp Derwall’s side; despite being beaten home and away by the Irish, they would scrape through to the finals in France after a dramatic 2-1 win over Albania in their final fixture.

In terms of records, the 2-0 Pflichtsieg in Hannover would bring Jogi Löw level with Sepp Herberger on the all-time list on ninety-four wins – or take him onto ninety-five if you count the penalty shootout victory over Italy at the Euros as a win. With seven qualifiers still remaining, the 100-win mark is well within Jogi’s sights. Herberger’s record had stood for over half a century, and whatever figure Löw finishes on will surely stand the test of time.

The Match

Nationaltrainer Löw would stick with the same eleven that started the game three days earlier against the Czech Republic in Hamburg, and despite the unhelpful conditions there was a clear sense of stability about the lineup. In fact, there was only one difference from the team that had started against Northern Ireland at the Euros, with Julian Draxler coming in for the injured Mario Gómez.

Germany started where they had left off against the Czechs, and their opponents were immediately put under pressure. Just as in the previous game, Germany opened the scoring in the thirteenth minute, with Draxler creating space nicely before drilling a crisp low shot that grazed McGovern’s fingertips before nestling in the bottom right hand corner of the net.

One became two just four minutes later, as the Irish defence were left floundering against the combination of tall men Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira. It was the simplest of moves: a corner taken short by Toni Kroos, and lovely curling cross into the box by Mesut Özil, a nod on from Hummels and an easy headed finish from Khedira.

The second goal might well have set the scene for a rout, but it never came. Mario Götze looked to have scored a third only to have it chalked off after Thomas Müller couldn’t quite stop the ball from cross the the byline before sending in his sharp cross, but after that it was back to the men in white again not being able to convert their possession and opportunities into goals. Northern Ireland would occasionally break into the German half, but there was little for skipper Manuel Neuer to worry about.

As the rain continued to come down, the home side continued to control the pitch without really testing the Irish ‘keeper. McGovern had been made to earn his stripes at the Euros, but was never really threatened in the second half as the visitors decided put up the shutters and piled everybody in behind the ball. Most of Germany’s shots either cannoned off a defender or were blazed high, wide or both. Substitute İlkay Gündoğan should have made it three when he was nicely set up by in-form youngster Joshua Kimmich, but his ugly scoop over the crossbar was pretty typical of the Mannschaft’s second half.

In the end, both teams seemed satisfied with the result. Northern Ireland had put up a decent defensive display and had not been beaten too badly, and Germany had done what they had needed to do.

Conclusions and Ratings

Germany were far from their best in this game, but still far too good for a game but toothless Northern Ireland side. The soggy weather did not make for a great spectacle, and after the first-half goal burst it was a simple case of going through the motions. There were plenty of bright moments for Jogi Löw’s side and a couple of strong showings, but overall this is a match that will be forgotten quickly as we move on and look to the next match.

Both Sami Khedira and Joshua Kimmich stood out on the positive side. Khedira had a strong game as he scored a goal and saw out the full ninety minutes, while Kimmich continued his development in the Nationaltrikot.

On the negative side, Thomas Müller was again patchy, not looking his usual self out on the wing. He still has to wait for that 37th goal that will take him into the top ten alongside Oliver Bierhoff, and he will surely have better games than this. His flat performance was all the more disappointing after his encouraging display just three days earlier against the Czechs.

Overall, three wins from three and eight goals scored with none conceded is a pretty decent opening to the campaign – in marked contrast to the stuttering start two years ago in qualifying for the Euros. As Germany fans we have acquired high standards, but the reality is that most coaches would be more than happy with where the Mannschaft are now. The next match is against San Marino, where they will be looking to ramp up the goals for tally.

Manuel Neuer

A couple of straightforward saves on what was another easy evening for the sweeper-keeper skipper. That’s three clean sheets in a row now for the FC Bayern custodian.

Joshua Kimmich

No goal for the roving right-back, but another top class performance as his stock continues to rise. Was not heavily tested defensively but did what he needed to do, and was keen to keep the attacks flowing out on the right flank.

Mats Hummels

Had a couple of wobbles during Northern Ireland’s rare forays towards the German goal, but otherwise a pretty solid showing from the centre-back. Got forward with intent, and provided a neat assist for the second goal.

Jérôme Boateng

Like FC Bayern team mate Hummels, the other part of Germany’s central defensive duo had a solid evening, but also could have been better against the fast-running opponent. Was always dangerous on the move, and was not afraid to send those lethal long balls forward. Replaced by Shkodran Mustafi after sixty-nine minutes.

Jonas Hector

Had a decent game against the Czechs, but was unable to match that in Hannover. Had little to do defensively, but was less busy that usual coming forward. Hector appears to blow hot and cold, but is still far and away the best option at left-back. Made way for Kevin Volland with nine minutes remaining.

Toni Kroos

Another classy display from the passing machine, but a little quieter than usual – which was pretty much in keeping with the overall team performance. had a few shots on goal, and controlled the pace of the game nicely.

Sami Khedira

A decent all-round performance. Bold going forward, solid when called up at the back, and again worked well with Kroos as Germany bossed the middle third of the park. Capped off a good ninety minutes with his sixth international goal.

Thomas Müller

A quiet and subdued match for der Raumdeuter, who flitted in and out of the match. Pulled his weight defensively and worked well with Kimmich on the right, but looked isolated at times.

Mesut Özil

Had a decent first half and was involved in the opening goal, but the conditions were not exactly conducive for a display of Mesut magic. Might have taken a knock during play, as he was replaced at half time by İlkay Gündoğan.

Julian Draxler

The usual pattern for the Wolfsburg man. Started brightly and netted his third international goal with a classy and composed finish, but faded after that as the team slowed down. Draxler is an exciting player to watch, but can often disappear for long spells.

Mario Götze

Had the ball in the Northern Irish net only to have it chalked off, and flitted between the sprightly and the anonymous. Is the false nine experiment working? Only Jogi knows the answer.

İlkay Gündoğan

Replaced Özil at the start of the second half, and was solid enough without offering anything special. Had the best chance of the second half, but blazed his effort high over the target.

Shkodran Mustafi

Replaced Boateng with just over twenty minutes remaining, and was never really tested defensively. Got forward well, and had a sniff of a chance at goal.

Kevin Volland

Had a nine-minute outing after replacing Hector, but didn’t have the time to make any impact.

Sport-Bild Ratings:

Neuer (3), Kimmich (2), Hummels (2), Boateng (2), Hector (3), Kroos (2), Khedira (2), Müller (3), Özil (3), Draxler (2), Götze (3). Substitutes (until 60 minutes): Gündoğan (3)

Kicker Ratings:

Neuer (3), Kimmich (2.5), Hummels (2), Boateng (3.5), Hector (3.5), Kroos (3.5), Khedira (2), Müller (4), Özil (3.5), Draxler (2.5), Götze (4). Substitutes (until 60 minutes): Gündoğan (4)

My Ratings:

Neuer (3), Kimmich (2), Hummels (3), Boateng (3), Hector (3), Kroos (3), Khedira (2), Müller (3.5), Özil (3), Draxler (2), Götze (3). Substitutes (until 60 minutes): Gündoğan (3)

Germany v Northern Ireland: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

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