Today Germany turn the last corner towards the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, with the first of two warmup friendlies. Today’s opponents are neighbours Austria, taking place in the compact Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt. Plenty of big names are rested, but it is still a pretty strong starting lineup.
Klagenfurt will be familiar to German fans, who will remember two matches played at the ground at Euro 2008. It will be a tough test against the team managed by former German international Franco Foda; while Germany’s recent friendly encounters have not been that great, Unsere Burschen come into the contest on the the back of six straight wins, including a 1-0 friendly win over World Cup hosts Russia in Innsbruck.
It is the Mannschaft’s 40th match against the Ösis since 1908, with their record standing at 25 wins, six draws and eight defeats. While Austria had the better of the early meetings between the two neighbours, the recent record has been rather more one-sided. You have to go back more than 30 years to find the last German defeat, a rather strange 4-1 reverse in a Vienna friendly in October 1986.
That defeat, and the infamous 3-2 reverse in Córdoba at the 1978 World Cup, are the only defeats Germany have suffered at the hands of Austria in almost 90 years.
The last meeting between the two countries was in September 2013, in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Having earned a 2-1 victory in Vienna the year before, the Mannschaft eased to a 3-0 win at the Allianz Arena in München, with goals from Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller.
Manuel Neuer is back into the starting XI for almost 600 days, and he takes the captain’s armband. Central defenders Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels are rested for Toni Rüdiger and Niklas Süle, with Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich outside.
Sami Khedira and İlkay Gündoğan pair up in the defensive midfield with Kroos given a rest, and Mesut Özil is the focal point of the attacking unit with Julian Brandt and Leroy Sané out on the wings with Müller also rested. Up front, SC Freiburg striker Nils Petersen makes his full international debut.
As well as the coach, there are plenty of names in the Austrian lineup that will be familiar to Bundesliga watchers. Five of the eleven ply their trade in Germany: FC Bayern’s David Alaba, TSG Hoffenheim’s Florian Grillitsch, FC Augsburg’s Martin Hintergger, FC Schalke 04’s Alessandro Schöpf and the skipper, Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Julian Baumgartlinger.
Bad news. The rain is coming down, with some rather nasty-looking hailstones too. There is a strange sense of déjà vu, going back to the 2016 pre-Euros friendly against Slovakia in Augsburg when the two teams were left waiting in the tunnel at half time. The Czech officials have delayed the kick off, and are out on the pitch. The rain is starting to slow down, but there is going to be a delay of at least half an hour.
There was initially a delay of 35 minutes, but this has been set back by another ten minutes. The rain is coming down again, and we are looking at no later than a 7pm kickoff. The players are chatting in the tunnel and looking calm, but they will be wanting to be getting on with this.
Referee Pavel Královec and his team are out on the pitch to have a kick about. There is little bounce and plenty of small puddles, but the ball is not sticking too much. Off they go again, and the players are heading back to the dressing rooms.
The referee has made another foray onto the pitch, and we are now being told that the delay is going to be at least 75 minutes. The rain appears to have died down again, but it is still looking pretty bleak out there.
While BT Sport are showing montages of goals to fill the waiting time, I am following the updates on the Kicker site. The referee has had a chat with Löw and Foda, and is back out on the pitch again. It is still raining, and the 75 minute notification has disappeared from the scoreboard. There’s a roar from the crowd, and the players are back out on the pitch for another warmup. A new announcement is projecting a delay of 100 minutes now, which should hopefully mean at 19:45 kickoff.
In short, this means that the match will kick off at around the time it was expected to finish.
The rain appears to have ceased, the players are smiling out on the pitch, and the ball appears to be bouncing nicely. So long as there are no further sudden weather changes, it is looking all good to finally get this show on the road.
This sort of weather is pretty common in early summer in central Europe. In 2016 we had the Augsburg deluge, and many people will remember the 2008 Euro semi-final in Basel against Turkey, which saw disrupted coverage as a storm was raging over the Alps. I can remember at least three biblical deluges when I was studying in the Czech Republic in 1993.
The BT Sport commentators sound as though they have been reading this website and some of my past pieces on the Bundesliga Fanatic. Mentions of Die Schande von Córdoba and the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón.
The players are now lining up in the tunnel, to the strains of the Radetzky-Marsch. They make their way onto the pitch. Endlich! The national anthems are played, and it is all systems go! The Mannschaft are back in their familiar white and black ensemble after two outings in green, while their Austrian hosts are in their traditional red shirts and white shorts.
1 min. The home side get things underway. Austria immediately look to press up the pitch, and the men in white clear their lines.
3 mins. Germany are passing the ball about well, and Petersen is hacked down by Sebastian Prödl. The referee doesn’t react though, and the hosts are able to continue with a throw-in.
5 mins. Marko Arnautovic looks to make progress down the right, but is well marshalled by Rüdiger who dispossesses the Austrian.
7 mins. Gündoğan and Hector combine down the left, and the Manchester City man’s attempted pass towards club team mate Sané is intercepted and cleared by Aleksandar Dragovic.
8 mins. Austria look to break, but Schöpf’s pass is overhit. The Mannschaft reestablish possession, and make their way back into the opposition half.
10 mins. Germany win the game’s first corner. It is taken short, and finds its way back to the fullbacks. Germany are content to bide their time, while the Austrians seem prepared to sit back.
11 mins. Out of nothing, Jogi Löw’s men are in front. There are a series of errors at the back from the Austrians, and ‘keeper Jörg Siebenhandl’s weak clearance is sent straight to Özil. The German number 10 needs no second invitation, and and strokes a beautifully languid left-footed shot into the left side of the Austrian net. The ‘keeper gets a glove on it, but cannot keep it out. 1-0.
Mesut Özil scored Germany’s opener after eleven minutes, but it was all downhill from there.
13 mins. Neuer’s clearance is poor and provides the Austrians with an unexpected opportunity, but Stefan Lainer’s shot is not good enough to test the German ‘keeper.
15 mins. More lovely movement from the Germans, but this time Özil cannot get any power on his shot as he looks to meet Hector’s cross. Siebenhandl makes the catch.
17 mins. Arnautovic almost gets in front of Süle to give himself a sight of the German goal, but Neuer makes a clean clearance. A wobbly moment there.
19 mins. Austria break down the left through Alaba, and his cross towards Arnautovic is intercepted by Süle. The big Bayern centre-back is being given a good workout here.
20 mins. Kimmich wins the ball in the Austrian half, and more quick passes sees Brandt with an opportunity. His shot is on target, and deflected behind by Siebenhandl. The short corner comes to nothing, and the hosts are able to clear.
24 mins. Sané weaves some magic down the left. He twists and turns past a number of red shirts, but cannot provide anything at the end of it. His cross floats harmlessly over and across the Austrian penalty area.
26 mins. Austria move forward, lose possession, but Brandt plays a poor pass to give the ball away again. Luckily nothing comes of it. We really do not want to see any of that nonsense in Russia.
28 mins. Sané again ventures forward towards the opposition box, but is foiled by Sebastian Prödl.
30 mins. Kimmich gets an accidental arm in the face from Bayern team mate Alaba, but quickly gets up and on with the game.
31 mins. Austria are getting shots on the German goal, but nothing to test Neuer. This time Peter Zulj sets up Lainer, whose shot is easily collected by the German Torhüter.
32 mins. Alaba shifts down the left and finds Grillitsch, whose shot is on target but turned behind by Neuer. Not the most difficult save for the German ‘keeper, but he had to do well to get down to it. Just to correct that slightly, it was not the most difficult for this German ‘keeper.
36 mins. Schöpf is brought down by Rüdiger close to the right corner of the pitch, and Alaba’s free kick is well delivered. After a bit of pinball in the box, Germany clear the danger.
38 mins. Brandt and Gündoğan break down the centre, and the Leverkusen man has an opportunity to have a shot at goal. Instead, he looks to float the ball into the box but overcooks the pass. An opportunity wasted.
39 mins. Hector charges down the left and send in a low cutback into the box, and Brandt’s right footed effort is blocked by Aleksandar Dragovic. The ball is loose, but Siebenhandl gathers before Hector can get there.
40 mins. The world champions are passing the ball around crisply now, and a lovely series of interchanges ends when Khedira is brought down just outside the box. Sané aims the free kick for the top right-hand corner, but the ball floats over the crossbar.
44 mins. Lainer sends in a low cross that takes a slight deflection off Hector, and Neuer collects. It should be a simple matter of getting the ball back up the pitch, but Kimmich opts for a suicidal horizontal pass to Rüdiger instead. It gets nowhere near its target and Schöpf intercepts. The Schalke 04 striker gets his shot on target, but it is weak and Neuer gathers the ball safely. That was just like watching FC Bayern for a moment.
45 mins. The whistle blows for half time.
A mixed bag. Germany have bossed the possession and are well worth their lead, but there are plenty of things to sharpen up. With the game being mostly played in midfield, Nils Petersen has not had much of a sniff up front, and it has been a case of “try too hard, get nothing” for Julian Brandt and Leroy Sané.
There have been a few wobbles at the back, but for Manuel Neuer it has been back to work as usual. The German ‘keeper looks like he has never been away.
There is one change from Jogi Löw as the teams come out for the start of the second half. Sami Khedira is off, and Sebastian Rudy is on.
46 mins. The Mannschaft start the second half.
48 mins. A move that has pretty much summed up Germany’s play so far. Sané wins the ball in his own half, and skips in to the opposition box. Brandt picks things up and Özil and finds Gündoğan, whose floated cross is way too strong.
50 mins. Another casual attempt at the clearance, this time from Gündoğan. Austria are unable to capitalise, not for the first time.
51 mins. A decent chance for the Austrians. Alaba has a good sight of goal, but his well-struck shot from the edge if the box flies over the target.
52 mins. There are some seriously wobbly moments at the back now. Kimmich puts Neuer in trouble with another boneheaded pass, and the home side win a corner.
53 mins. The corner is swung in by Alaba, and the ball floats over the crowd past the far post. Hinteregger is lurking out on the left at the edge of the six yard box, and meets it on the volley with his left foot. It is a terrific strike from a really acute angle, and the ball crashes into the right inside netting. Neuer really had no chance. That was close to unstoppable. 1-1.
54 mins. The flow of this match has changed completely. A stunning pass from Alaba finds Arnautovic, whose shot is brilliantly parried by Neuer. That was quite a stunning passage of play, and Austria were just a whisker away from taking the lead.
56 mins. Sané has the ball in the back of the Austrian net, but the offside flag is up. That looked very, very close. A second change for the Mannschaft. Leon Goretzka is on, replacing Gündoğan.
57 mins. The Austrians are on top here. Grillitsch makes his way to the byline, and his low cross is well gathered by Neuer. Suddenly, the German ‘keeper has got the workout he wanted. Maybe too much of a workout.
59 mins. A neat exchange between Özil and Brandt, and and Özil’s low cross is easily collected by Siebenhandl with Petersen lurking at the far post.
61 mins. More trouble. Neuer is busy again, and there is another awful pass from Kimmich. Somehow, Germany escape and Austria win another corner.
64 mins. Prödl brings down Sané, and there’s a free-kick for Germany just outside the box from just around twenty yards. Özil’s effort is weak, telegraphed, and straight at the red and white wall.
67 mins. A double change for the visitors, as Sané and Brandt make way for Marco Reus and Timo Werner. It is a welcome return for Reus, who makes his first start in the Nationaltrikot since the spring of 2016.
69 mins. Just like that, the game has been turned on its head. Austria have been well on top since their equaliser, and they are on the attack again. Baumgartlinger finds the fast-advancing Lainer, whose volleyed pass is laid on a plate for Schöpf. The Schalke man meets it perfectly with a lovely swing of his right foot, sending his shot low into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Neuer is at full stretch as he dives to his right, but again has no chance. 1-2.
71 mins. Having taken the lead, Germany had almost sleepwalked to the break. Since then, it has been all Austria, and the Mannschaft have been woefully short of ideas.
76 mins. More changes. Austria make their first change as goalscorer Schöpf makes way for Moritz Bauer, and for Germany Özil is replaced by Julian Draxler. The final change for the Mannschaft follows, as Mario Gómez is on for the disappointing Petersen.
79 mins. Austria make another change. The impressive Grilltsch is off, and RB Leipzig’s Stefan Ilsanker is on.
80 mins. Germany have free-kick out on the right, and Reus’s floating delivery is met by Werner. The Leipzig striker cannot get enough on it though, and it is easy for Siebenhandl.
84 mins. Another Bundesliga legionnaire makes his way onto the field for Austria, as Schalke striker Guido Burgstaller replaces Arnautovic.
85 mins. Werner makes a charge down the right, and his floated cross is well met by Gómez. The Stuttgart man gets plenty of power on his left-footed shot, but Hinteregger does well to close him down and execute the block. The resulting corner comes in and Gómez looks to steal in at the far post, and there’s Hinteregger again. There’s a weak handball claim against the Austrian defender, and play is waved on.
87 mins. Another misplaced pass, this time from Süle, provides Austria with another opportunity. Zulj’s cross is firm and low, but Rudy does brilliantly to intercept.
88 mins. The fourth change from Fraco Foda, as the busy Zulj makes way for another Bundesliga player in the form of Werder Bremen’s Florian Kainz.
90 mins. The ninety minutes are up, and there will be two minutes of additional time. Just 120 seconds for Germany to save the game, and avoid their first defeat against Austria in 32 years.
90+2 mins. Germany are trying to set up another attack, but there is nothing forthcoming. The crowd are baying for the final whistle now.
90+3 mins. It’s all over. Germany have now gone five matches without a win, their longest barren stretch since 1988. Austria, meanwhile, have won their seventh match in a row – their best winning record since 1934. After what had been a quiet first half, Foda’s men came alive in the second 45 minutes to claim a well-deserved victory. There is no argument about that.
If Germany were allowed to take things far too easy in the first half, they were dreadfully poor in the second. Or rather, the Austrians made then look poor, putting them under constant pressure. Chances were few and far between, mistakes were frequent, and they had no answer to opponents that were far more positive in their approach. Despite the depth of talent on the German bench, none of the changes made by the Nationaltrainer could change the momemtum of the game. Once the game had swung towards the Austrians, there was no spark to initiate a second German wind.
It is a friendly, but Austria will be talking about this one for the next few years at least. They have defeated the world champions, and there was no luck or fortune about it.
Apart from a positive return for Manuel Neuer, there were very few positives to take from this wet and delayed encounter in Klagenfurt. It means that we are none the wiser as far as the final squad of 23 is concerned.
Nils Petersen was disappointing, but one can argue that he had no service whatsoever. Leroy Sané showed a lot of promise, with little to show for it. He is still to replicate his stellar club form in the Nationaltrikot. Julian Brandt was guilty of trying way too hard. Joshua Kimmich will make it to Russia and will have better games than this, but on this showing one may wonder how he even made the squad at all. I say that as a both an admirer of the kid and an FC Bayern fan. Niklas Süle was caught for pace. Mesut Özil scored a lovely goal, but disappeared after that.
I could go on, and will go into this in more depth with the upcoming analysis and player ratings.
Two days from now, we will be hearing who is has made the final 23, and the four players who will be left behind. Next Friday, there is a final warmup against fellow World Cup finalists Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen. We will be expecting a stronger lineup, and a much better result.
v Austria, Wörthersee Stadion, Klagenfurt, 02.06.2018
Özil 11. / Hinteregger 53., Schöpf 69.
Germany: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Rüdiger, Süle, Hector – Khedira (46. Rudy), Gündoğan (56. Goretzka) – Brandt (67. Werner), Özil (76. Draxler), Sané (67. Reus) – Petersen* (76. Gómez)
Austria: Siebenhandl – Lainer, Prödl, Dragovic, Hinteregger – Zulj (88. Kainz), Baumgartlinger (c), Grillitsch (79. Ilsanker) – Schöpf (76. Bauer), Alaba – Arnautovic (84. Burgstaller)
Referee: Pavel Královec (Czech Republic)
Assistants: Ivo Nádvorník (Czech Republic), Kamil Hájek (Czech Republic)
Fourth Official: Petr Ardeleánu (Czech Republic)
Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 65% / 35%
Attempts on Target: 4 / 7
Attempts off Target: 4 / 7
Corners: 3 / 5
Fouls Committed: 8 / 12