Germany goals at World Cup will come from guile and graft
Joachim Low’s Germany crushed Armenia 6-1 in their final warm-up friendly for the Brazil finals, but such a result needs to be set in its proper context. Coral rate them as the best hope from Europe in their World Cup outright betting at 6/1, narrowly ahead of holders Spain.
A cynical interpretation says Low’s lads demolished a one-man team – a point only reinforced further by Henrikh Mkhitaryan winning and scoring a penalty against them, which proved to be a mere consolation.
Taking the cynicism further, you could call this ideal preparation for playing Portugal, the first side and main challengers Germany tackle in Group G. Without star man Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Bento’s boys have scored once in their last two warm-up matches, but he is expected to be fit to figure in that upcoming encounter.
It is not the scoreline which is significant for Low and observers of German preparations. The result would only have been important had they failed to win. Instead, it is the nature of their victorious margin, namely the performance, and how they went about that is of interest.
The Germany national team of today is a microcosm of a contemporary club debate over which Bundesliga big boys’ tactical approach is best: Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund?
Going over rehearsed arguments about the pros and cons of possession football using a false number nine or, alternatively, playing on the counter with a proper striker, are lazy journalism and weak analysis from media outlets.
All punters need to know is this; Germany have the personnel to play a variety of systems, and for those to be flexible throughout their World Cup games. It is notable that Low has used Thomas Muller nominally up front to start recent matches, just as Pep Guardiola often does at the Allianz.
Perhaps bringing Miroslav Klose on moments before they were pegged back, thanks to naïve defending from fellow sub Kevin Grosskreutz, is now a go-to tactic for Germany. In games where they narrowly lead and are conserving energy, as they will in Brazil, through patient passing, Low can crank up the tempo with a quarter remaining and play on the break.
Against Armenia at least, it was the perfect response. One style of play transformed into another in the blink of an eye. Virtue was its own reward here. Germany grabbed three goals in a rampant five-minute spell, with Mario Gotze, another off Low’s bench, bagging a brace thereafter too.
Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, an Arsenal pair whose respective injuries surely impacted on the Gunners faltering in the Premier League title race, were assist machines here. Two for the latter and three for the former.
Such a crushing victory, in a game where Klose broke the great Gerd Muller’s record for Germany international goals, came at a price, however. Marco Reus will miss the finals after sustaining ankle ligament damage.
The lesson for Low here was whichever style he sends his side out to play in, and however seamless the transition from one approach to the other may be if necessary, injuries are mounting up on Germany. Key players such as Sami Khedira, captain Philipp Lahm, number one Manuel Neuer and Bastian Schweinsteiger have all yet to prove their full match fitness.
Mario Gomez, a regular under Low until his own struggles to stay off the treatment table got the better of him, failed to even make Germany’s preliminary roster. A genuine alternative out-and-out striking option to, and with younger legs than, Klose is conspicuously absent without him, so perhaps the current tactical nuances are borne of necessity.
Germany are 23/20 favourites to beat Portugal in the Group G opener. Klose, meanwhile, is 5/4 to extend his scoring record to 70 international goals anytime against Bento’s boys, and a better priced 9/2 to net last. This game is likely to determine who tops the pool, with Low and company odds-on at 4/7 to be top dog ahead of Portugal.