Germany would round off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a visit to Stockholm’s new Friends Arena, in a game that given both sides’ qualification for the finals would be tantamount to a friendly warm-down. That said, both sides would be be playing for nothing: the Swedes would be looking to impress their home supporters and sign off on a positive note, while Joachim Löw’s side would be looking at maintaining the Nationalmannschaft’s long unbeaten record on the road in World Cup qualifiers.
The result would be another exciting encounter, and another eight-goal frenzy – with the usual mix of defensive gaffes and spectacular finishes from both sides.
Having been caught by two sucker punches to go two goals down just minutes before half-time, Germany would display the dynamic attacking qualities they have become famous for in recent years to haul themselves back into the contest and then accelerate away from the battling Swedes – and with it maintain their proud unbeaten record.
Facts and Stats
Following Germany’s defeat of the Republic of Ireland in Köln four days earlier and Sweden’s come-from-behind win against Austria, the top two positions in the group would already be decided with the Mannschaft clear at the top and Sweden safely in the play-off spot – six points clear of the Austrians.
Germany and Sweden have a long history, and this would be the thirty-sixth match-up between the two countries since their first encounter in Stockholm in 1911. While the Swedes would hold the upper hand in the early years, since the Second World War the Nationalmannschaft have proved to be the more consistent outfit. Before the meeting in the Friends Arena Germany had won fourteen matches and the Swedes thirteen – including a penalty shoot-out in 1988 – with eight draws, but in their twelve competitive meetings the Germans would have the far superior record, with eight wins, three draws and just one defeat.
The last match between two would be the infamous 4-4 draw in Berlin, which would see the Mannschaft throw away a four-goal lead for the first and so far only time in their history.
As expected, the match would be open and entertaining, with the Swedes forging a two-goal lead before being blasted away as things opened up during an action-packed half an hour in the second half which would see five goals being scored.
The Swedes would be missing a number of key players including their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimović and regular goalkeeper Andreas Isaaksson, but the impressive Tobias Hysén – for a long time a player on the outer edge of the Swedish squad – would score two excellent goals, including a spectacular volley would would give his side a momentary glimpse of another 4-4 draw.
Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw would field a pretty much unchanged side: Mats Hummels would come into the back four in place of Per Mertesacker, and Toni Kroos would be shifted down the pitch int the defensive midfield in place of Sami Khedira. Meanwhile, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Max Kruse would make his second start in the Nationaltrikot.
The star of the match would be left-sided winger André Schürrle, who would be involved in the build-up to the second goal before scoring a spectacular nineteen-minute hat-trick in the second half. Having slowly been shifted to the fringe of the squad after a number of ordinary displays, Schürrle’s move from Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea appears to have given him a new lease of life. Schürrle would show excellent positioning and tactical nous to score his first two goals, while his third would be of those that will be repeated again and again.
Defensively, there would be more questions to answer again after the previous three clean sheets. While the combination of Mertesacker and Jérome Boateng had looked solid in the earlier matches, the partnership of Boateng and Hummels would look more than a little shaky – prompting questions as to whether the latter two may be too similar in style to be a successful defensive duo.
Conclusion and Ratings
Overall, this was an exciting game to watch – made better for the fact I was not “reporting” at the time and having dinner and drinks in München instead. Germany would concede three arguably soft goals, but the same could be said of the Swedes who were even more careless. While there will continue to be questions asked of and about the defence, if the team continues to score goals there will be no complaints from me. I’d happily take a 5-3 win over anyone in the World Cup final at the Maracanã next year.
Strangely, was not very busy for a man who would concede three goals. The FC Bayern stopper could do little or nothing about any of them, and in between the sudden attacking bursts from the Swedes was largely left to roam his penalty area in peace. OK, he might have done better with the first Swedish goal, but that would be just a little harsh.
Continued to make dangerous runs down the right, and played his usual solid game. Moved into the midfield during the final fifteen minutes, and looked just as home there too.
Looked less comfortable than he did against Ireland and was caught slightly flat-footed for the first Swedish goal, though it is clear that he doesn’t work as well with Mats Hummels as he does with the more orthodox Per Mertesacker.
Like Boateng, had his patchy moments and was guilty of slackness leading to Sweden’s second goal. Hummels is a defender who likes to move forward and join the attack, and it remains to be seen whether he can work effectively with Boateng, who is a very similar player.
The HSV left wing-back is not the first choice in what is a weak position for the coach, but performed adequately enough.
A weak performance from the usually reliable Schweinsteiger, who looked distinctly off-colour. Not his usual dominant self going forward, and guilty of more than one poor pass at the back.
A solid if not spectacular performance from the FC Bayern man, who really needs to slot in further up the field. Was adequate enough in the defensive midfield role, but for a player of his creativity he will always end up being underused.
Müller is one of those players that can do nothing for ninety minutes before popping up with a winning goal, but this time he wouldn’t get the chance. After a fairly ordinary first half, the FC Bayern “Raumdeuter” would be replaced by club team mate Mario Götze.
Pulled the strings in midfield, and was constantly on the move and pulling the opposition defence out of shape. His neatly-taken goal just on the brink of half-time would bring the Mannschaft beck into the contest, but a wonderful piece of skill to set up Götze would be the highlights of another satisfactory evening for the midfield maestro. His job done, was replaced by Julian Draxler with eight minutes remaining.
A world-class display from the Chelsea winger, who just a few months earlier would have been struggling to make the starting line-up. Showed great awareness for his first two goals, and audaciousness for his spectacular third. If this was not enough, he was a constant threat down the left all evening. Probably the most clear-cut man of the match in a while.
Failed to add to his goalscoring tally, but this was yet another solid display from Kruse who certainly looks the part. Was always involved, showed good awareness and movement, and was closely involved in both of Germany’s first two goals. Was replaced by Benedikt Höwedes with fifteen minutes remaining as the coach sought to close out the game.
Came on at the start of the second half for Müller, and made an immediate impact. Scored a fantastic goal to pull Germany level, and was also involved in numbers four and five. A dynamic display from the youngster, who continues to impress in the Nationaltrikot.
The Schalke 04 captain would replace Kruse fifteen minutes from time as the coach looked to shore up the defence and let the game roll to a quiet finish.
Another little closing cameo for the Schalke teenager. This time he would get eight minutes after replacing Özil.
Neuer (3.5), Lahm (3), Boateng (4), Hummels (3), Jansen (3), Schweinsteiger (4.5), Kroos (3.5), Müller (4), Özil (2.5), Schürrle (1), Kruse (2.5). Subs (before 75 mins): Götze (2)
Neuer (4), Lahm (3), Boateng (4), Hummels (4) Jansen (4), Schweinsteiger (5), Kroos (3), Müller (4), Özil (2.5), Schürrle (1), Kruse (3). Subs: Götze (2)