After the goalless draw against newly-crowned world champions France three nights earlier, Jogi Löw’s German team were just about good enough against a limited but energetic Peru in Sinsheim. The coach rang the changes for the friendly against the South Americans, introducing all three of the uncapped players in his 23-man squad.
Close it may have been, and there is still plenty of work to do, but this was also not just about getting the right result. The coach would have been happy to see the increased level of commitment shown out on the pitch, and with it a desire to win that was desperately lacking in this summer’s World Cup.
The German squad had been found wanting in a number of key areas in Russia, and it will take more than just two early season matches to fix these problems.
Some of these problems are down to personnel. The left-back position has always been problematic. There are far too many talented midfielders (Löw’s ongoing “Luxusproblem”) and a disturbing dearth of specialist goalscorers. There have been confidence issues for some key players, who may have suffered under the burden of responsibility and expectation. Then there were the tactical failures, which the coach has been openly honest about.
One can add to this the fallout created by the Özil affair, the strained relationship between the DFB and the players, and stories of rifts and cliques in the squad itself.
There is no single miracle solution, and it would be foolish to believe that all or even most of these problems can be solved overnight. There will be a time where we will be able to wrap up what happened in Russia and lock it away, but that time is not there yet. Nevertheless, the first steps have been negotiated.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s second meeting with Peru, the first coming more than a generation ago in the World Cup in Mexico in 1970. Meeting in the group phase, the Germans eased to a straightforward 3-1 win, with Gerd Müller scoring a “perfect” hat-trick. One goal with his left foot, one with his right, and one from a header.
It was just the second international hosted in Sinsheim, the home of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. The first was in May 2011, also against South American opposition. Interestingly, the scoreline was the same, with Germany winning 2-1 against Uruguay.
By far the most significant milestone belonged to the German coach, who equalled the all-time coaching record of 167 matches held by Sepp Herberger. While the man who took Germany to its first World Cup triumph would take eighteen war-interrupted years to reach the mark, Löw has matched it in the first game of his thirteenth season in charge. He will have the record all to himself when his team step out against the Netherlands in Amsterdam next month.
There were a number of significant events on the personnel front. The three new debutants were the 938th, 939th and 940th players to play at senior level for Germany, with Hoffenheim’s Niko Schulz (number 938) scoring on his debut on his home ground. When Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz (number 940) replaced Timo Werner with two minutes remaining, he became one of the youngest players to wear the Nationaltrikot. At 19 years and 90 days, Havertz joined Willi Arlt at number 25 on the all-time youngest debutants list.
Elsewhere, Jérôme Boateng became the 32nd German player to reach the 75-cap milestone to earn a place on the Schwarz und Weiß honour roll. When he replaced İlkay Gündoğan after 84 minutes, Thomas Müller moved ahead of fellow Bayern legends Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Sepp Maier. He is now just four away from the hundred mark, level with Berti Vogts.
In the absence of skipper Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos led the team out for the first time.
In addition to debutant Schulz, a straight swap at left-back for Antonio Rüdiger, four changes were made to the team that had played the French in Munich. Marc-André ter Stegen replaced the rested Neuer in goal, Niklas Süle came into the back four for Mats Hummels, İlkay Gündoğan took the place of Leon Goretzka, and Julian Brandt got a start, with Thomas Müller on the bench.
In front of a full house at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Germany set off with purpose. After just two minutes, they almost made the perfect start. Gündoğan’s low pass sliced through the Peruvian defence, but Marco Reus was unable to make the most of what was an excellent opportunity.
The home side could have been out of sight in side the first ten minutes. Gündoğan and Brandt’s neat interplay almost set up Timo Werner, and a Matthias Ginter header was somehow kept out by Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
Reus fluffed another good chance after twenty minutes, and within ninety seconds the deadlock was finally broken. At the other end, completely against the run of play. An error by debutant Schulz opened things up for the Peruvians, and right-back Luis Advíncula’s well-struck finish was good enough to beat ter Stegen at his near post.
The opening quarter of the match provided a perfect microcosm of the current German team. A toxic mix of poor finishing and bad luck in front of goal, accompanied by a defensive howler. Thankfully for the home crowd, parity was restored almost immediately. After another patient buildup, there was a touch of fortune as Kroos managed to work the ball out to Brandt, whose finish was cute as it was clinical.
The equaliser satiated the crowd, and Löw’s men were able to continue as they had started. Werner had the ball into the net, but was flagged offside. Schulz and Gündoğan both tested Gallese.
Peru were far less timid in the second half. Goalscorer Advíncula was popping up everywhere, and the German defence were put through their paces. There were chances for both sides. Werner should have done better after collecting Brandt’s perfectly timed pass. Peru’s Ex-Schalker Jefferson Farfán blasted over with the goal at his mercy. Substitute Nils Petersen then curled a shot wide.
It looked like the South Americans were going to leave Sinsheim with a creditable draw, but new boy Schulz put paid to that idea. Petersen’s square ball found the debutant at the edge of the box, and his left-footed shot found its target. The Peruvian ‘keeper was clearly hindered by one of his own defenders, who ran right into his line of sight just as Schulz was about to shoot. His dive was a fraction too late, allowing the ball to squirm under him before rolling into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Nobody in the ground was complaining, and neither were a relieved German team. It was much closer than it should have been, but Germany were able to ride out the remaining time to take a much-needed win.
Looking at the raw statistics, Germany should have dispatched Peru by half-time. Has his team mates managed to find the target, İlkay Gündoğan could have crowned a glorious opening spell. For the first twenty or so minutes, the Manchester City man was sublime. Instead, the Germans conceded a sloppy goal – not for the first time in recent seasons. It was a good thing that the equaliser came quickly, or the crowd could very easily have turned against the home team.
Knowing that they had more than a decent opportunity to topple the Germans on home soil, Peru were a different team in the second half. They created plenty of chances of their own, and it was only some awful defensive sloppiness on their part that allowed Nico Schulz to net his late and rather fortuitous winner.
Not that Germany did not deserve it. They were the better team over the ninety minutes, and the result was a fair reflection of the contest.
As in the game against France, there was plenty of promise from the Mannschaft, but no cutting edge. The same problem that had dogged the team at the World Cup.
There is no lack of talented midfielders in Germany. Jogi Löw has an array of attacking wingers at his disposal. One of those, Julian Brandt, scored a terrific goal to equalise. But the lack of a decent striker is showing. Brandt is a terrific player, and can score goals. But he is not a striker. Marco Reus, long established as a major talent, was tried in a more central attacking role. If he was poor against France, he was even more off-key against Peru.
Timo Werner would get off to a great start in the Nationaltrikot, but he too has been disappointing in recent outings. There was plenty of energy and pace on show against both France and Peru, but his finishing was woeful at best. Having scored seven goals in ten matches in 2017, Werner has found the back of the net just once in the nine matches he has played this year.
Over the years, Germany has always managed to have at least one reliable goalscorer. The names roll off the tongue. Fritz Walter. Uwe Seeler. Gerd Müller. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Klaus Fischer. Rudi Völler. Jürgen Klinsmann. Karlheinz Riedle. Oliver Bierhoff. Miroslav Klose.
For a long time, Thomas Müller had threatened to join this illustrious bunch. But even he started to seize up. At the end of 2015, Müller had scored 31 goals in 68 matches. Since the start of 2016, he has played 28 internationals, scoring just seven times. In his last eleven internationals, he has only scored once.
When nobody else is scoring the goals and a one-time reliable source like Müller is struggling, there is always going to be a problem. Werner, seen by many as the heir apparent, is not a striker in the traditional sense. He has the speed and he has shown that he can finish, but lacks physicality.
There are options, though the self-exclusion of Sandro Wagner and retirement of Mario Gómez has thinned the already shallow pool even further. That said, both of these players were tactical alternatives, straightforward poachers, not an all-rounder like Klose. Löw has certainly tried to fill the void. Both Kevin Volland and Max Kruse have failed to impress. The latest possible option, Nils Petersen, has also not been up to scratch, though it is fair to say that his opportunities have been limited.
Nearly all of the other German young guns are essentially wingers. Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané and the next generation of talent stacking up behind them in the youth ranks.
Pace is one thing. But when you are up against teams that are determined to shut down the supply lines, a player with off the ball ability and spatial awareness can be far more valuable. The ability to find the right spaces and make the task of finishing as simple as possible.
Many of these young German attacking midfielders are great on the ball. But when you have the ball, it attracts attention from the opposition. Against highly defensive teams, you inevitably run into a wall. One of Miroslav Klose’s great attributes was his movement off the ball. The key is that nobody is going to tackle you if you do not have the ball.
Since Klose’s retirement in 2014, there has been a major hole in the German attack. He may not have been one of the fastest around, but made up for this with a sharp footballing brain and ability to link seamlessly with those around him.
When Klose played well, he made all of those around him look better. He could finish with both feet, and his ability in the air was outstanding. While he was no Horst Hrubesch, he had a physical presence. He was also more than just a finisher. In addition to his record 71 goals for Germany, Klose contributed 30 assists.
There may never be another Miroslav Klose. But Jogi desperately needs a player who can at least try to bridge the gap. Maybe Petersen is that man. He scored fifteen goals for SC Freiburg last season, making him the most successful German scorer in the Bundesliga. He, and Schalke’s unheralded Mark Uth, are probably the closest to the Klose-type player right now.
It is no good experimenting with false nines, playing taki-taka through the middle of the park, or employing Müller or Reus as a striker. Petersen needs to be given a decent run in the side, not ten minute huff and puff sessions off the bench.
Next month will be tough. The Netherlands have not been great for the past two qualifying cycles, but they have a new coach and a new approach, and will always step up when playing Germany. By the time die Nationalmannschaft play France next month in their third UEFA Nations League match, les Bleus could already have secured top spot.
Löw’s team will need to take every chance they get against these two opponents.
Marc-André ter Stegen
With Manuel Neuer rested for this match, ter Stegen was given the chance to prove himself. Overall, he was far from convincing. Made a couple of decent saves in the second half, but should have done a whole lot better when Luis Advíncula beat him at his near post to give the visitors the lead against the run of play.
Not as convincing as he was against France, but that may have been asking too much. That said, the Mönchengladbach man was solid at right-back, and almost managed to get on the scoreboard for the second match in a row. Has power and good positional sense, but ponderous going forward. Was replaced by Thilo Kehrer after 72 minutes.
A strong showing in the first half, and he could do little to prevent Peru’s goal. Süle was a little less secure in the second half when the South Americans decided to chance their arm. Overall, a decent performance from a man who is still learning his trade.
The plan was for Boateng to complete a half, and this he did with minimum fuss. Did his job effectively at the back, without having to resort to anything desperate in winning his 75th international cap. Was subbed off in a straight swap for Antonio Rüdiger at the break.
The debutant was given a bit of a rough time early on, and it was his hasty pass that set up the opening goal for Peru’s Luis Advíncula. In the second half Schulz settled down a lot better, and capped off a memorable evening by scoring the winning goal on his home ground.
This was Joshua Kimmich in a nutshell. Good on the ball with excellent distribution, and a more than decent long-term bet as a holding midfielder. His problem is his propensity to go AWOL, leaving far too much open space for opposition counterattacks.
The German number eight started as captain for the first time, and turned out another polished performance. Nothing magical, but consistently good. Was in complete control with his trademark accuracy, and also played his part at the back when Peru ventured forward.
Had others done their bit, Gündoğan could have had two assists inside the opening twenty minutes. He then tested the Peruvian ‘keeper with a decent effort. Was considerably quieter in the second half, and made way for Thomas Müller with six minutes remaining.
Caused plenty of trouble for the Peruvian left-back, and was a consistent creative threat. Made good use of a rare start, and scored a lovely chipped goal to even the score with his second international goal. Was replaced by Nils Petersen with twenty minutes left on the clock.
As against France, Reus was employed in an advanced position. As against France, it failed to come off. The Dortmund man should have done better when he was set up by former club team mate Gündoğan early in the first half, and clearly needs to be out on the wing. Replaced at half time by Julian Draxler.
A case of all puff but no cigar for Werner, who after a decent 2017 has turned into something of a white elephant this year. Showed plenty of pace, energy and creativity, but the final ball again lacked quality. Had one good sight of goal, but found he crowd instead. Made way for debutant Kai Havertz with two minutes remaining.
Replaced Boateng at half time, and served up a mixed bag. Was decent going forward and showed a decent turn of pace, but was guilty of giving the ball away far too easily.
Replaced the disappointing Reus at half time, but was not much better. Got a bit of a knock, had one shot on goal that flew over the target, and apart from that was pretty anonymous. Given his lack of form a limited match practice, one could argue that Draxler’s selection was at best questionable.
Replaced Brandt for the final twenty minutes. Had a couple of half-chances, the best of which was a weak shot over the target as he attempted to capitalise on an error by Peruvian ‘keeper Pedro Gallese. Provided the assist for Nico Schulz’s winner, but this was more down to good fortune than design.
The newly-signed PSG right-back stepped on to the field for his senior international debut after 72 minutes, replacing Ginter. Made a big difference down the right flank with his pace, and managed to send in at least two decent crosses. He will be one to watch.
Replaced Gündoğan after 84 minutes, and almost immediately Germany scored the winner. He did not have anything to do with it, but strange things happen with Müller is on the pitch. It was a straightforward six and a bit minutes of pitch time for die Raumdeuter, who was winning his 96th international cap.
A late two minute cameo for the Bayer Leverkusen teenager, who became the youngest player to make his senior international debut since Leon Goretzka in 2014.
ter Stegen (4), Ginter (4), Boateng (4), Süle (4), Schulz (3), Kimmich (4), Gündoğan (3), Kroos (3), Brandt (2), Reus (4), Werner (3). Substitutes (until 75 minutes): Rüdiger (5), Draxler (5), Petersen (3), Kehrer (3)
ter Stegen (4.5), Ginter (3.5), Boateng (3.5), Süle (3.5), Schulz (3), Kimmich (2.5), Gündoğan (3.5), Kroos (2), Brandt (2.5), Reus (5), Werner (4.5). Substitutes (until 75 minutes): Rüdiger (4.5), Draxler (4.5), Petersen (NR), Kehrer (NR)
ter Stegen (4), Ginter (3), Boateng (3), Süle (3), Schulz (3), Kimmich (3), Gündoğan (3), Kroos (2), Brandt (2), Reus (5), Werner (4). Substitutes (until 75 minutes): Rüdiger (4), Draxler (5), Petersen (3), Kehrer (2.5)