Having suffered the ignominy of blowing a four-goal lead in Berlin against Sweden at the end of 2012, Joachim Löw’s German side would look to get the 2013 leg of their campaign off to a winning start against Kazakhstan in Astana, with the opposition arguably posing less of a problem that the awkwardness of a long round flight, an artificial pitch and a midnight kickoff.
In the end, what we all saw was a 3-0 victory that was easy as it was workmanlike 3-0 win – a case of doing enough without the need for anything spectacular. This was an expected and straightforward victory, the scoresheet being a carbon copy of the previous midnight encounter between the two sides in 2010.
Following with the withdrawal the previous day of sole striker Mario Gómez, the Nationaltrainer would select a strikerless starting eleven for the first time in over a century. In what was an adaptation of the traditional 4-2-3-1 model, Löw would assign BVB starlet Mario Götze the role of “false nine” – marking what could be the beginning of a new era for the Nationalmannschaft.
The formation would appear to work as intended as the team bossed the possession and the midfield units shared the three goals, but it is hard to say how effective it might have been against a stronger side than the competitive but limited Kazakhs.
Facts and Stats
This would be Germany’s third game in as many seasons against Kazakhstan, with the two previous encounters resulting in seven goals for the Mannschaft with none conceded. Having defeated the Kazakhs in Astana with goals from Gómez, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, they would score four times in Kaiserslautern, with Klose and Thomas Müller sharing the spoils.
Germany would come into the match with ten points from four games played, while their opponents and hosts would have just the one point courtesy of a goalless home draw with Austria.
The Team and Tactics
The absence of central defender Mats Hummels, the late injury to Gómez and the one-match suspension of Marco Reus would leave the coach having to rejig the starting lineup, but these problems would be alleviated slightly with the return of midfield stalwart Bastian Schweinsteiger. Manuel Neuer would be back between the sticks in place of René Adler, and youngster Julian Draxler would make his third appearance in the Nationaltrikot.
With no Hummels the back four would have a slightly new look to it. Skipper Philipp Lahm would stay in his preferred position on the right with the fit-again Marcel Schmelzer on the left, while Benedikt Höwedes – pushed out to left back against France in Schmelzer’s absence – would join Per Mertesacker to form yet another central defensive combination.
The defensive midfield duo would see Schweinsteiger join Sami Khedira, while ahead of them Mesut Özil would be joined by Draxler on the left and Müller on the right. The roving role would meanwhile be assigned to Götze.
Germany would dominate the match from the start, and would effectively strangle the opposition during what was a well-organised and clinical first half performance. A few openings would be created before Schweinsteiger opened the scoring with a well-taken goal – though Müller could very well have claimed it with what was a final deflection on his chest – before just minutes later Götze capitalised on a goalkeeping error to double the lead and effectively end the match as a contest.
Apart from the two goals in what was a one-sided half where the Mannschaft would retain close to eighty percent of the possession, the main talking point would be the withdrawal of Draxler – whose bright start was ended prematurely following a clash of heads with not even twenty minutes gone. The energetic and keen Schalke 04 youngster would be replaced by Podolski, who once again would flatter to deceive. Whether it was his trying to shoot from every available angle or attempting to muscle his way through a crowd of blue-shirted defenders, the Arsenal winger would deliver yet another uninspired performance in what was his 108th international – drawing him level with Jürgen Klinsmann in third place on the all-time appearances list.
If the first half had been a clinical exercise in possession and control by Löw’s side, the second forty-five minutes would see a clear lowering of the gears that would allow the home side to come back into the game. The decision to sit back would present Kazakhstan with some excellent opportunities, and ‘keeper Manuel Neuer – who might as well have been sitting in the stands during the first half – would see a ferocious shot clatter his crossbar before pulling off a fine save to deny the Kazakhs their first international goal against the Mannschaft.
The ability of the Germans to up a gear was always evident however, and after what had been probably the best period of play for the home side they just flicked the switch again to settle matters with a well-taken third goal from the tireless Müller.
Conclusion and Ratings
Not a spectacular performance, but all of the main requirements easily met. A solid match, a clean sheet, three points. Probably the biggest problem would be injuries and suspensions: Julian Draxler would be out of Tuesday’s return match in Nürnberg as a precautionary measure along with Schalke colleague Benedikt Höwedes, and Bastien Schweinsteiger would miss out on what would have been his 99th international appearance with a slightly silly yellow card.
The strikerless system would prove to be effective enough, but one cannot really draw any conclusions against such weak opposition. On the other hand there was clearly a lot more in the tank: had the team not wound things down in the second half there could have been a couple more goals.
Had a very quiet first half, but when his services called upon in the second produced a world-class save. Looked assured as usual.
The skipper didn’t have much to do, and was pretty quiet going forward.
Like the rest of the defence, had little to do all evening.
It’s a little repetitive, but Höwedes was yet another case of a defender that had next to nothing to do all evening. Suffered a thigh strain that would keep him out of the return fixture.
A quiet night also for the Borussia Dortmund left-back.
Controlled the play in front of the defence, as was his usual efficient self. Hit little to do defensively, and continues to remain a fixture in his position.
Scored the opening goal with a well taken volley (though Thomas Müller may well claim the final touch) and delivered yet another solid performance. Blotted his copybook slightly with a late booking which would keep him out of the next match.
Could lay claim to the first goal, and scored Germany’s third to wrap up the match. After a barren spell the FC Bayern winger is looking settled again, and served up another energetic and professional display.
Had a relatively quiet game by his own usual high standards, but played his part in the third goal with a neat touch to set up the chance.
A bright and energetic start by the youngster which saw him miss an early chance, but his game would end early following a clash of heads with an opponent. Replaced by Lukas Podolski after nineteen minutes.
A positive performance in the “false nine” role, capped off with a well-taken goal. Gelled well with those around him and looked comfortable in the role.
Came on for the unfortunate Draxler early on, and for all his efforts would turn out yet another very ordinary performance. Overdid things with his left foot when a more thought-out pass would have sufficed.
Came on for Khedira late on, and had a quiet ten minutes or so.
Replaced Thomas Müller, and had enough time to create half a chance during his ten minutes on the pitch.
Neuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (3), Höwedes (3), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (2), Özil (4), Draxler (NR), Götze (2). Subs: Podolski (3).
KickerNeuer (3), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (3), Höwedes (3), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (2.5), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (2), Özil (2.5), Draxler (NR), Götze (2.5). Subs: Podolski (4).
Neuer (2), Lahm (3), Mertesacker (3), Höwedes (3), Schmelzer (3), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (1.5), Özil (3), Draxler (NR), Götze (2.5). Subs: Podolski (5).