Germany entered the World Cup today in dramatic fashion, dispatching a competent Portugal side 4-0. It was a very impressive performance, despite the Portuguese having to play with ten men from the 37th minute – at that stage the Germans already had a two goal lead.
Joachim Low’s side are my tip to win the competition and, though it’s very early days, of the four favourites for the title, they have started the most convincingly. The Germans play an exciting brand of fast paced, offensive football. They have a team of athletic players and thrive on quick transitions and fast, direct attacks.
Low is a sophisticated tactician, the make-up of his side is one of the most interesting and unorthodox in the tournament. This is partly a result of the manager trying to make the best of the personnel available and to minimise the squad’s weaknesses.
Against Portugal, Germany set up in a 4-3-3, which may not seem so unusual. However, when you look closer things are a little stranger. All four of the backline are usually found at centre back. In fact the only recognised fullback in the starting line-up – Phillip Lahm – was chosen to play in the centre of midfield (as he has done frequently for Bayern Munich this season). This lack of fullbacks – Erik Durm, with one senior cap, is the only other specialist in the squad – is one area of concern.
Equally, this team doesn’t feature an orthodox centre forward. This is probably Germany’s biggest weakness; Klose, at 36, is the only real striker in the squad. On the other hand, they have an embarrassment of riches in midfield. Here Muller, who is more of an attacking midfielder, played in the centre forward role. On this occasion, it didn’t seem to affect their ability to score goals.
One charge that could be laid against Germany, is that they rely too heavily on counter attacking football. With this in mind, the early goal against Portugal certainly helped. It would be interesting to see how they would fare against a more defensive team or chasing the game.
It was an impressive opening match for the Germans but Portugal’s mistakes and Pepe’s sending off, made life easy for them. There will be much sterner tests ahead. Low has managed to pick a team and a formation that maximises the strengths and minimises the weaknesses in his squad but it remains to be seen if these will get found out later in the tournament.
Interestingly, Germany have a record of starting quickly at World Cups, having won their last four openers – 4-0, 4-0, 4-2 and 8-0. Of course, they didn’t go on to win the competition in any of those four years.
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