The victorious German team are back home or on holiday, the World Cup trophy is safely in the locker for another four years, and it’s now time for what will be one of most memorable tournament post-mortems. The recent retirement of captain Philipp Lahm – choosing to bow out at the very top after ten years and 113 international appearances – is by far the biggest news to come out of the German camp since the emotional victory over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro, and you will be seeing my own tribute on here soon.
The “School Report”
There will be a number of review pieces to keep you all occupied until the start of the new international season – ironically, a repeat of the World Cup Final in September in Düsseldorf – and the first of these is the obligatory “School Report” from Brazil 2014. Here you will get my view of the the individual performances from Jogi Löw’s side over the seven games, from the ever-presents through to those who would play a no less important walk-on role.
Three players were on the field for the full 690 minutes played; two were pretty much expected in skipper Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, but the third was something of a surprise for many. Drafted in at left back in the final run-in to the tournament, Schalke 04 skipper Benedikt Höwedes start and finished every match – and despite being criticised for a few sluggish performances early on in the group phase, he would grow into the role. Despite his being a specialist centre-back, the faith shown in Höwedes by the coach was wholly vindicated.
A titanic tournament for the man between the sticks, which included an oustanding performance in the second round against Algeria where he established his reputation as the world’s premier “sweeper keeper”. In the games where he had nothing to do Neuer would remain a considerable presence, and when called into action he was nothing short of magnificent as he kept four clean sheets. Based on my own match ratings, the ever-present Neuer emerges as my own player of the tournament with an average German-style 1 to 5 rating of 1.78.
The “silent assassin” in this winning German team, the FC Bayern München defender started out at right-back before returning to his more familiar position in the centre, and excel throughout. Over the tournament Boateng would string together a series of consistent performances, culminating in the final itself for which he saved his best display. Boateng was subbed at half-time against Ghana meaning that he wouldn’t see out the full 690 minutes, but over the seven games was the highest scoring outfield player on the Schwarz and Weiß ratings with a mark of 2.07.
The Chelsea winger didn’t start a game, but proved to be the perfect supersub with three goals from his six appearances off the bench, the most by any substitute in the history of the tournament. Schürrle scored the crucial opener in the second phase against Algeria to break the deadlock, scored two second half goals against Brazil in the semi-final, and then provided the killer cross for Mario Götze in the final. Was profligate in the quarter-final against France, but still finished with an overall rating of 2.10.
Along with Jérôme Boateng, one of the big performers. Scored in the 4-0 thrashing of Portugal, found the back of the net again in heading home the winner in the quarter-final, and looked rock solid alongside Boateng during the latter stages of the tournament. Was subbed with a knee problem in the opener and missed out on the second phase with flu, but when on the field was the model of consistency with an overall final score of 2.12. The one blip came in the final where he looked a little short of pace – probably due to his earlier injury.
The Nationalmannschaft’s World Cup Wonder, the energetic Müller started all seven games, finishing eight minutes short of the full pitch time on account of his late substitution against Portugal. In that game he scored the tournament’s first hat-trick, and against the United States in the final group game would win all three points with a beautiful curling shot before scoring the opener against Brazil to set the script for the historic 7-1 mauling. Marked to death in the final, Der Raumdeuter was his usual energetic self – over the seven games he covered a phenomenal eighty-four kilometres, more distance than any other player in the tournament. Averaged out at a score of 2.14 per game.
The FC Bayern defensive midfield engine room started under an injury cloud, worked his way back to fitness and back into the starting lineup, and then capped off a memorable tournament with an epic display in the final. His being able to start alongside Sami Khedira was crucial to the stability of the 4-2-3-1 formation, and as the beating heart of the team helped maintain control of the game and drive the team over that final hurdle. At the end of that tense evening in Rio we saw a battered and bruised warrior, a far cry from the peroxide blonde hothead from just six years earlier. Average score of 2.25 over six matches.
The thirty-six year old veteran was always going to be used sparingly, but started in the final three matches. Klose’s crucial equaliser against Ghana snatched a point and equalled the record as the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer, and he would save his record-setting moment for that historic game in Belo Horizonte with a typical poacher’s effort at the second time of asking. After a special World Cup career spanning four tournaments and sixteen goals, Klose would win his fourth World Cup medal, finishing on a high with that coveted gold one. With the gradual development of the strikerless system, Klose may well be the last of the great German number nines. Averaged a rating of 2.70 in five matches.
One of the players of the tournament, Kroos would let the ball do most of the talking with his metronomic distribution and smooth management of the play in the middle of the park. Kroos created a number of the teams goals both through his smart movement and from set pieces, and twice got on the scoreboard in the 7-1 demolition of Brazil. Finished a minute short of the maximum quota after being substituted right at the end against France, and his score of 2.71 over the seven games would have been considerably better were it not for a slightly patchy performance in the final.
Like Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Real Madrid defensive midfield tyro came into the tournament fighting for fitness having made a miraculous recovery. Made a huge contribution on and off the pitch and was one of the stars in the semi-final where he was at his most effective, but his fitness woes would strike right before the final during the pre-match warmup. Overall rating of 2.80.
The skipper finishes with an average score of 3.00 from the full set of seven matches, but this slightly ordinary average is mainly down to the 4-3-3 system employed during the first four matches. Poor games by Lahm’s high standards against Ghana and Algeria were more than offset during the final two matches against Brazil and Argentina, where at right back he was at his supreme and confident best. Led from the front, and with his subsequent retirement from the Nationalmannschaft ended his international career on a high.
Started all of the first four matches in the middle of the defence, but was dropped following Philipp Lahm’s return to the back four and some criticism in the media of his lack of pace with the Viererkette playing such a high line. Despite the obvious disappointment of making the starting lineup for the final three games, Merte continued to play his part from the bench, and his status as a senior pro would be recognised with his cameo appearance in the final. Averaged out at 3.10.
The surprise of the team, and the provider of some of that good old-fashioned German grit and determination. Had a poor start where his pace showed him up, but following the tactical changes made by the coach looked a whole lot more comfortable in an unfamiliar position. Improved with every match and won the majority of his one-on-ones, and was denied a goal by the post in the final. Over the seven games he achieved a score of 3.21.
Despite scoring the opening goal against Ghana, the hugely talented Götze was at best ordinary for most of the tournament, hence his low average score of 3.25. His nadir would come in the second phase match against Algeria where he was hauled off at half-time, but he always remained the go-to man for coach Jogi Löw. Played a bit-part role in the final stages of the tournament, but delivered the most crucial blow when it really counted. Asked by the coach to prove that he was “better than Messi”, the little FC Bayern man would do just that with his stunning volleyed winner.
A frustrating tournament for the playmaker, who continued to work well behind the scenes without ever really clicking into top gear. Scored a welcome goal against Algeria, but overall looked timid with the target in sight. It is clear that the watching public demands a lot more from Özil, and he would play a constructive but quiet role in both the semi-final and final. His slightly below average score of 3.43 is a pretty decent indicator of a tournament where he failed to fire and inspire.
A surprise addition to the squad, Kramer showed that he was not out of his depth with two decent cameo appearances in the quarter- and semi-final. The trust placed in him by the coach saw his being drafted into the starting line-up for the final following Sami Khedira’s late injury, and after an encouraging start his game would come to a sad end following his being blindsided by Argentinian defender Ezequiel Garay. Those thirty-one minutes would give the Borussia Mönchengladbach man his score of 3.50.
The Arsenal winger brought himself back into the reckoning with a barnstorming show in the final warmup game against Armenia, and was in the picture at the start of the tournament. A late cameo against Portugal was followed by a start against Ghana, but a flat and fairly unimaginative forty-five minutes would signal the end of his time on the pitch in Brazil. Despite his not playing a major role “Poldi” quickly establish himself as the team’s unofficial morale-booster, publicist and king of the “selfie”. One significant appearance, one score: 4.00.
Probably the biggest disappointment of what was overall a fantastic team campaign. Started solidly enough with a decent seventeen-minute showing in the opening game after he came on for Mats Hummels, and an injury to Jérôme Boateng against Ghana would give the Sampdoria man a chance to play a complete half. The withdrawal of Hummels with flu from the second phase game threw Mustafi right into the deep end, but he would not respond well with an error-strewn display. To really cap things off, his game ended with a tournament-ending thigh injury. Average rating 4.50.
The talented Schalke 04 youngster would get a fourteen-minute cameo at the end of the semi-final, guaranteeing him a little slice of history but a minute short of receiving a match rating. He will be one of those to look out for in four years’ time.
The following table provides the details of the lineups of for all seven matches, including minutes played and their match ratings. The red boxes represent substitutions out, the blue boxes substitutions in, while the green ones indicate those players who would be on the pitch for the maximum 690 minutes (5 x 90 minutes, 2 x 120 minutes).
|v POR||v GHA||v USA||v ALG||v FRA||v BRA||v ARG||Ttl/Avg|
Players who didn’t make an appearance: Roman Weidenfeller, Ron-Robert Zieler, Kevin Großkreutz, Erik Durm and Matthias Ginter.
* Match ratings are only provided where a player has been on the pitch for fifteen or more minutes.