Well, huh? After a summer where all their heavy-hitters are sunning themselves in Las Vegas, Miami Beach and parts unknown, U-21 trainer Stefan Kuntz and the Mannschaft’s Joachim Löw have engineered a pair of competent teams that are hitting above their weight. Kuntz’ men may likely see a whipping in their EURO final against an absurdly gifted Spain on Friday, but we’re here to chat about a winnable Confederations Cup final against Chile on Sunday.
Both Chile and Germany would always go through in their group, though both Cameroon and Australia played lively. The Chilean-German tie in the group stages allows us to parse what is a surprisingly tasty final. But first, Mexico.
A highly entertaining (for German supporters) match pretty much ended just eight minutes in with a brace for Schalke’s Leon Goretzka. But Löw’s tactically defensive response to being up 2:0 gave the Mexican side plenty of chances to get back in the match in the first half. Javier Hernández got near, and Héctor Herrera was tipped away by a resurgent Marc-André ter Stegen.
Still, the 4:1 scoreline defies the match play. There is little doubt that what the best thing the DFB does is (tritely) march forward, but Löw’s 3-4-2-1 here exposed a common flaw with his and Kuntz’ squads. To put it colloquially? They’re Scheiße at the back.
Mexico’s trainer, Juan Carlos Osorio, lamented post-match: “They are fair winners, but I think the score line seems like we were too far away and I do not think that was the case.”
El Tri managed 58% possession and 25 shots in a match where Antonio Rüdiger, Matthias Ginter and Joshua Kimmich auditioned for backline spots next summer (hint: Kimmich gets a nod), while brace-scoring Goretzka and Sebastian Rudy were allegedly backing them up. You’ll forgive Goretzka for being amazing going forward while criticising Germany’s kryptonite: the experimental defense.
The one guy, besides Kimmich, that has solidified his return to Russia next summer would be a surprisingly good ter Stegen. For a dude I have given so much stick to in the past, I will now wholeheartedly admit that he owns the #2 slot. He’s a more-than-competent shot-stopper, as well as being good with the ball at his feet – no Manuel Neuer, mind you – but his ideological skill-set is the best possible backup to Germany’s #1.
What about Chile, though?
I am curious to see whether Chile can keep up their press. I am curious facing an excellent Claudio Bravo in goal. I am curious about many things. There is little doubt about their full-strength team’s commitment and passion, so eloquently displayed by their victory over Portugal on penalties.
Like the 1:1 draw in their group, the strengths and weaknesses are quite similar at the end of all things. Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal may be the outlier here as he plays like he has everything to prove for a Chilean squad that is a two-time defender of Copa America, but stepping aside from him? Both teams do the same things well.
There’s a superstar dynamism between Chile’s top goal scorer, Alexis Sanchez, and wrecking ball Vidal in attack, but their furious press has also let opponents in their suspect back door. Meanwhile, Leipzig’s Timo Werner, ‘Gladbach’s Lars Stindl and captain (!!!) Julian Draxler have weaved their way in to a lot of German hearts with some silky play.
I’m not a punter, but I will say that the final rests on two guys wearing gloves. Both Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo and Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen will be up against it, and their prowess, in between either side of the sticks, is likely to be the determining factor.