Now that we have all had a very pleasant night’s sleep – or not, if you happen to be currently in Lviv – we can take a closer look at yesterday’s performance – and the player ratings. There were some major misses, but also some massive hits in what was something of a vindication of Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw’s tactics and decision-making.
So let’s get to it…
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s seventeenth match against Portugal, and their ninth win. It was also their third positive result in a row against this opposition, following their 3-1 win in the third-place play off at the FIFA World Cup in 2006 and the thrilling 3-2 victory in the European Championship quarter-final in Basel four years ago.
Seven players from FC Bayern München started for the Mannschaft, the biggest single-club representation in any major tournament match. When one notes that Mats Hummels and Lukas Podolski were also once on the books at Bayern, that makes nine players out of the starting eleven with a connection to the Bavarian club.
With their 1-0 win Germany extended their unbeaten record in the opening matches of major tournaments to fifteen – their last defeat being the shock 2-1 reverse against Algeria in Spain 1982. The string of results is as follows: EC84 Portugal 0-0; WC86 Uruguay 1-1; EC88 Italy 1-1; WC90 Yugoslavia 4-1; EC92 CIS 1-1; WC94 Bolivia 1-0; EC96 Czech Republic 2-0; WC98 United States 2-0; EC00 Romania 1-1; WC02 Saudi Arabia 8-0; EC04 Netherlands 1-1; WC06 Costa Rica 4-2; EC08 Poland 2-0; WC10 Australia 4-0; EC12 Portugal 1-0.
With his seventy-second minute winner, FC Bayern München’s Mario Gómez scored his twenty-third goal in his fifty-second international, and his first in a major international tournament in his ninth tournament match. We can only hope that this breakthrough opens the floodgates – entirely possible, given that Gómez is a player who appears to feed off his own confidence.
When he came on for Gómez in the eightieth minute, veteran Miroslav Klose would be making his 117th international appearance, though he would not have enough time to add to his record of sixty-three goals. It was also Klose’s thirty-fourth birthday.
The Team and Tactics
There were a couple of surprises when the starting lineup was revealed, and while there would be plenty of positive reaction to Mats Hummels starting instead of the more experienced Per Mertesacker there would be a few eyebrows raised at the selection of Gómez instead of Klose. There would be no deviation in tactics however, with the coaching sticking with the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation.
When Hummels started off fairly nervously some watchers would immediately start to doubt the coach’s selection, but as the match went on the Borussia Dortmund man would simply get better and better as he worked himself into his role. The story would be a little more dramatic for Gómez: having had few opportunities for the first seventy minutes, he was all set to be substituted. With Klose ready to come on, the goal came – and with it a celebration that expressed a massive sense of relief as much as anything else.
Until the German goal the Portuguese had employed a highly defensive approach, which led to a game that was fractured and at times rather tedious. With Paulo Bento’s side relying on set-pieces and hoping to catch the Germans on the break, the game took on a completely different complexion from the high-scoring barrage everyone had expected. Portugal’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was sufficiently neutralised by a highly effective performance from Jérôme Boateng, while the only weak point was at left-back where skipper Philipp Lahm looked out of sorts against the dangerous Nani.
Things would get a little hairy for the Mannschaft when Portugal finally decided to play some football – though Torhüter Manuel Neuer would once again prove his worth with a stunning save to protect the lead.
The 1-0 win was the Nationalmannschaft’s second clean sheet in a row, and a positive sign for a team whose defence had long been seen as the soft underbelly. Apart from skipper Lahm who had a serious bad day at the office, the defence was not only solid but at times impressive. They now need to remain so for their next game against the Netherlands, who having been defeated by Denmark will be playing for their very tournament lives when the two teams meat in Kharkiv on Wednesday.
Conclusions and Player Ratings
With Portugal not helping with their defensive approach, this would turn into a match where the result would be far more important that producing a spectacle. As the game went on it looks increasingly likely that the two teams would perform a reenactment of their first European Championship meeting in 1984, when a positive German side were held to a goalless draw by a Portugal team prepared to park the bus and earn the single point.
This would change dramatically after the German goal, with the Portuguese reverting to type and throwing everything and the kitchen sink forward in their search for an equaliser. It almost came off, but Manuel Neuer and the German defence would remain firm.
Which brings us nicely to the player ratings.
Had little to do for most of the match, but when called upon once again proved to be a Gigant between the sticks. Pulled off a neat save from a Ronaldo snapshot that had taken an awkward bounce, but truly showed his shot-stopping abilities to deny Silvestre Varela when it looked easier for the Portuguese substitute to score.
A poor performance from the skipper, but one that we know that is not likely to be repeated. Was often found lacking against the sprightly Nani, and found himself under pressure as the Portuguese pressed for an equaliser. Offensively he was also less effective than usual, and the coordination was Lukas Podolski was almost non-existent.
The FC Bayern München centre-back has quickly acquired a reputation for his spatial awareness and reading of the game, to the point where he appears to walk through games without appearing to do anything spectacular. Was once again in the right place at the right time to block a goalbound Portuguese shot in the dying seconds of injury time.
After a slightly nervous start where he seemed desperate to get rid of the ball every time it came near him, the Borussia Dortmund fullback quickly realised to he can play at this level after all. And how. As the minutes ticked by Hummels would get better and better: he quickly made his presence known to the opposition and backed this up with some excellent distribution. The clear man of the match – hopefully the Mertesacker debate has now run its course.
The FC Bayern München right back had made headlines for late-night shenanigans and encounters with a permatanned model, and one could say that he was perfectly set up for taking on Cristiano Ronaldo. In what was a solid and professional performance, Boateng completely neutralised the Portuguese captain – and pulled off a challenge that was truly world-class. Gina-Lisa Lohfink may or may not have got to see Boateng’s tackle, but Ronaldo certainly did.
Another solid role from the man who appears to have established himself as the lower part of the Mannschaft’s defensive spine. Excellent vision and distribution, with the added bonus of sending in the cross that produced the winning goal.
There’s no doubting Schweinsteiger’s passion and commitment, but there was plenty of evidence to suggest that he is still not fully fit. Was more than adequate in his defensive role, but the usual verve going forward was not at all visible.
Yet another frustrating performance from the left-winger. Was unable to combine effectively with Lahm down the left, looked isolated from the attack and when on the ball would continually look for the spectacular option when something a little easier would have sufficed. In days gone by a leathered Podolski shot may have ended up in the back of the net, when they are continually crashing against defenders or flying into Row Z it is time to think of something else. Why Poldi was allowed to play the entire ninety minutes remains a mystery. Germany’s poorest player on the pitch – by a considerable distance.
Was in the middle of things going forward as usual, but was clearly subdued by the Portuguese tactics and the lack of the link-up man ahead of him. Try as he might, Mario Gómez does not combine with Özil as effectively as Miroslav Klose, and it showed. Was replaced by Toni Kroos with four minutes left on the clock.
Bustling into opposition defenders and often moving like an inebriated spider, Thomas Müller was, well… Thomas Müller. Looked sharp at times and sent in some testing balls into the opposition box when he was able to get an opportunity. Was replaced by Lars Bender as the coach tried to kill off a few seconds of injury time.
Got a header on target in the opening minutes, but after that was left isolated – a fault more with the system than himself. It was looking like the same old story for the ninth tournament match in a row when a chance finally came his way – and he took the opportunity to repay the coach’s faith in him and delivered a stunning header to break his tournament duck. The timing was perfect: he was mere seconds away from being subsituted. Replaced by Klose with ten minutes remaining.
Came on the for the last ten minutes, but by that stage it was all hands to the pumps defensively. Managed to get a run around on his birthday, but that was about it.
Replaced Özil with four minutes of normal time remaining, but it was more of a run on and run off than anything else.
Probably the least-merited international cap in the history of the Nationalmannschaft, but they all count. Came on for Müller in the dying seconds of injury time, and had hardly take up his position when the final whistle blew.
Neuer (1), Boateng (1.5), Hummels (1), Badstuber (2), Lahm (4), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (4), Müller (3), Özil (3), Podolski (5), Gómez (2.5). No subs before 75 minutes.
Neuer (1), Boateng (2), Hummels (1), Badstuber (2), Lahm (4), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (3), Müller (4), Özil (4), Podolski (4), Gómez (2)
Neuer (1.5), Boateng (2), Hummels (1), Badstuber (2.5), Lahm (4.5), Khedira (3), Schweinsteiger (4.5), Müller (4), Özil (4), Podolski (3.5), Gomez (2.5)
On this occasion my ratings and those from Bild are more or less the same, but one still has to wonder if they were watching the same game in order to give Müller and Özil the same rating as the truly dreadful Podolski. The conclusions from Kicker are even worse, giving Podolski the highest rating out of the midfield trio. Maybe they liked his row Z efforts… Who knows?
As for the official UEFA “Carlsberg Man of the Match” … Mesut Özil. Were these people actually watching the match, or simply reading the pre-tournament guides and making things up?