Argentina loss raises doubts over Germany depth
One charge that detractors of Germany threw at the World Cup winners was that no nation at the Brazil finals exploited their weaknesses on paper. Argentina got this right, but 50-odd days too late.
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino went some way to repairing his tattered reputation, following his trophyless campaign at Barcelona last term, in his first game in charge of La Albiceleste. Argentina ran out comfortable 4-2 winners, and Manchester United fans will be delighted to hear Angel Di Maria was the man of the match.
British football’s record transfer laid on three assists before scoring himself to give Martino’s men, without Lionel Messi, a 4-0 lead with little more than 50 minutes played. La Albiceleste changed from 4-3-1-2, essentially a diamond with Di Maria at its head, to a 4-3-3 with their match winner returned to a wide berth.
The effects, admittedly against a Germany outfit fielding nothing like its first-choice defence, were staggering. In the absence of Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero took up a central striking berth and the Manchester City frontman netted the opener inside 20 minutes. Di Maria then helped much-maligned Tottenham winger Erik Lamela to get his first international goal.
A Premier League scoring theme continued after the break when Swansea City summer signing Federico Fernandez nodded in a corner, before Red Devils record signing Di Maria netted himself. German pomp was punctured.
Die Mannschaft manager Joachim Low can console himself safe in the knowledge he’ll not be facing a side anything like as talented as Argentina in qualifying for Euro 2016. He has lost record scorer Miroslav Klose (though there was an air of inevitability about that), skipper Philipp Lahm and giant centre back Per Mertesacker, who have all retired from internationals.
Other defenders Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were not risked for this friendly fixture, and remain doubts for the Group D opener against Scotland. Hosting the Tartan Army at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion is not as tough on paper as playing neighbours Poland, though.
Germany’s pool also contains newest UEFA members Gibraltar, Eastern European outfit Georgia and the Republic of Ireland, and they are heavily odds-on at 1/9 to come through qualification on top. They are short in the full back berths, however, with utility man Kevin Grosskreutz and Erik Durm failing to impress.
Fellow Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter did little to stake a claim either, and there are also injury concerns for Low in midfield. Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and new skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger are all out of the Scotland game, along with Julian Draxler. They join long-term absentees the Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, and Ilkay Gundogan, so there’s little strength in depth.
In attack, there were Die Mannschaft returns for Marco Reus, who missed the World Cup, and Mario Gomez, after a debut season with Fiorentina was wrecked by injuries. It’s an indication Low still values an out-and-out striker, though Mario Gotze or Thomas Muller may play the ‘false number nine’ role against Scotland.
That is a match which Germany are still strong odds-on favourites for at 1/6. What price on a Scottish upset? A temptingly long 14/1.