Spain v Germany: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

Germany closed off a successful 2014 with a visit to 2010 World Champions and reigning European Champions Spain, and following a series of iffy displays in their opening four European Championship qualifiers they finished the year on a high with a well-worked win in a wet and windy Vigo. A mid-November friendly it may have been, but both sides would have enough on the line to provide a competitive ninety minutes.

While the world champions had come into the game with their pride slightly battered after a painfully nondescript victory over qualifying group whipping boys Gibraltar, their hosts were looking to extend an an unbeaten home record that had run for more than eight years.

For a number of commentators, experts and pundits Spain’s dismal performance at the World Cup in Brazil had marked the end of an era: their elimination at the opening group stage was in stark contrast to Germany’s victorious march to the Maracaña. Having secured back to back trophies in 2010 and 2012 coach del Bosque had been under pressure, and things would get worse with a 2-1 defeat for his team in Slovakia in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier.

Of course, readers here will be more than familiar with the story of Germany’s post-Brazil malaise, a long and heavy hangover accompanied by a litany of injury problems. The two teams that would line up at the compact Estadio Municipal de Balaídos would both have an experimental look about them, but while Spain’s would largely be out of choice the starting eleven for the Nationalmannschaft would be the product of desperation. If the list of missing names was not bad enough, just days before the game both ‘keeper Manuel Neuer and defensive rock Jérôme Boateng would withdraw from the squad with minor injuries.

In what was a solid rather than spectacular display nobody would stand out for the world champions – but on the other hand it would be a well-drilled team performance. Spain would begin stronger and continually look dangerous, but after a shaky opening twenty minutes Jogi Löw’s side would start to control the ball a lot better and produce the better goal-scoring opportunities. In the end, they would just need the one opportunity to beat a team that had in recent years become something of a stumbling block.

Facts and Stats

This would be Germany’s twenty-second meeting with Spain, and their first since that evening in Durban when their World Cup dreams would be shattered by Carles Puyol’s second-half header. From the previous twenty-one meetings Germany would have the statistical upper hand with eight victories to Spain’s seven – with six draws – though to find their last win on Spanish soil one would have to go back to the World Cup in the summer of 1982, when Jupp Derwall’s side would overturn the tournament hosts with a 2-1 win as they set their course for the final.

Spanish coach del Bosque would take over from Luis Aragonés after La Roja’s triumph at Euro 2008, and from that time his team had not been defeated at home. The unbeaten run would actually stretch back eight years and three days to 15th November 2006 – and a 1-0 friendly defeat at the hands of Romania in Cadiz. Germany meanwhile had not registered a positive result in Spain since that July day in 1982 – long before even the oldest member of the current squad had been born.

The last victory for the Nationalmannschaft against the Spaniards had come on 16th August 2000 in Hannover – Rudi Völler’s first match in charge. Mehmet Scholl would get things underway with a stunning free-kick, and another goal from the mercurial FC Bayern winger and two more from team mate Alexander Zickler would see the Germans complete a comprehensive 4-1 triumph.

The Match

Despite the match being a friendly and the adverse weather conditions that match would be more competitive than expected, with Spain providing much of the early threat as the visitors struggled to find their feet. The enforced exit of Thomas Müller following an unnecessarily strong challenge by Sergio Ramos would mean that the coach would have to change things around earlier than he had hoped to, but a good save by ‘keeper Ron-Robert Zieler and increasing confidence in the defensive formation would see the visitors come into the match as the first half progressed. Perhaps the best chance would come when Spanish ‘keeper Iker Casillas dived low to his right to deny Mario Götze.

Both Benedikt Höwedes and Antonio Rüdiger would stand out at the back for the Mannschaft and Toni Kroos would pull the strings of the midfield in his usual languid manner, while most of the threat would come down the right through substitute Karim Bellarabi who would not be afraid to run at the Spanish defence.

The second half would be a fairly even contest as del Bosque rang the changes, and as the final whistle approach neither coach would have been too disappointed with a goalless draw. The game seemed to be heading this way at it entered the final minute of normal time with Spanish substitute ‘keeper Kiko Casilla doing well to keep out a Kevin Volland effort, but after a few more wobbly moments at the back the Germans would make the most of their final attack on the Spanish goal.

Kroos had been horrifically profligate with his selection of long-distance efforts against Gibraltar earlier in the week, but this time he would make it could right at the death. Having collected a square ball from sub Max Kruse some twenty-five yards from goal, Kroos would have plenty of time to take aim before sending a low right-footed shot that skidded awkwardly through and past the ‘keeper to complete Germany’s first win in Spain for more than thirty-two years.

Conclusions and Ratings

This would be the ultimate team game for Germany, with nobody really standing out. Perhaps the most noteworthy performances would come from Rüdiger and Bellarabi, but Kroos would cap off a solid if at times subdued performance with a great goal and ‘keeper Zieler would do himself no harm at all with a well-earned clean sheet. Manuel Neuer is obviously head and shoulders above every Torwart in Germany at the moment, but the Hannover 96 man would make a solid statement in his battle with Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller for the number two slot.

While it can hardly be described as revenge for Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010 – this will hopefully come in France in 2016 – it would be a welcome result against an opponent that no German team had beaten for fourteen years.

Ron-Robert Zieler

An excellent display by the number three ‘keeper in his mission to become number two. Would increase in confidence after a slightly nervous start, and crown a good evening with some excellent saves to keep his second clean sheet in a row.

Antonio Rüdiger

The VfB Stuttgart man is still unpolished at times, but continues to show plenty of potential. Rüdiger has excellent pace on the ground and is strong in the tackle, and would successfully marshal a nimble and energetic Spanish attack.

Shkodran Mustafi

Another solid display, and hopefully he has put his nightmare at the World Cup behind him. Still needs to polish up his positioning and can panic when put under pressure, but was good going forward.

Benedikt Höwedes

Back in the starting eleven after missing two games through injury, the Schalke 04 skipper would do himself no harm at all with a composed defensive display. Made a couple of crucial challenges in the second half, and although he lacks a lacks a little pace would make this up with his positioning and intelligence.

Erik Durm

A largely error-free ninety minutes from the Dortmund man, though this would be the result of a somewhat conservative approach. Would show little daring going forward, often resorting to the safe backward pass – a shame given his natural ability and turn of pace.

Sebastian Rudy

Would struggle a little in the first half in giving the ball away a little too cheaply, but would settle down well. Was comfortable going forward and more than played his part as the team established themselves in the second half.

Sami Khedira

Skipper for the day Khedira would be solid enough, but is still not his usual self as he continues to work towards peak fitness. Was guilty of a couple of misplaced passes, but his presence in the middle of the action would allow the team to keep their heads and build momentum as the game progressed. Was replaced by Lars Bender in injury time.

Toni Kroos

Slightly anonymous in the first half and also guilty of some slack passing, but like the rest of the team would improve markedly in the second forty-five minutes when he would assume more control. Sealed a more than satisfactory evening with his well-taken goal.

Thomas Müller

Was his usual energetic self early on, but would be unceremoniously clattered by Sergio Ramos early in the piece. He would return to the field but would be unable to continue. Replaced by Karim Bellarabi after twenty-two minutes.

Mario Götze

Götze remains an enigma, flitting in and out of anonymity. Would test Iker Casillas with a well-struck shot in the first half and would be influential in patches in the second, but would do nothing special. Made way for Max Kruse with six minutes remaining.

Kevin Volland

An energetic display by the Hoffenheim man, who would come close to opening his international goal account with a well-struck shot in the second half. However he would look slightly predictable at times, preferring just to run at a nearest red shirt rather than look for the pass.

Karim Bellarabi

Replaced the injured Müller midway through the first half, and immediately injected a sense of urgency into the attack with his movement off the ball and darting runs with it. Was a little more subdued during the second half, but overall another good display by the Leverkusen winger.

Max Kruse

Came on for Götze with six minutes left, and would play a part in the winning move with a neat square pass to goalscorer Kroos.

Lars Bender

A few seconds on the pitch, replacing Khedira deep into injury time.

Bild Ratings:

Zieler (3), Rüdiger (4), Mustafi (4), Höwedes (3), Durm (4), Rudy (3), Khedira (4), Kroos (2), Müller (3), Götze (4), Volland (5). Substitutes (until 75 minutes): Bellarabi (3)

Kicker Ratings:

Zieler (3), Rüdiger (3.5), Mustafi (4), Höwedes (3), Durm (3.5), Rudy (4), Khedira (3), Kroos (2.5), Müller (NR), Götze (4), Volland (3.5). Substitutes: Bellarabi (4.5)

My Ratings:

Zieler (3), Rüdiger (2), Mustafi (3), Höwedes (2.5), Durm (4), Rudy (3), Khedira (4), Kroos (3), Müller (3), Götze (4), Volland (3). Substitutes: Bellarabi (3)

Spain v Germany: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

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