Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

Ein Perfekter Anfang (A Perfect Start)

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Hopefully that title is correct. Please let me know if it isn’t. I’ve been learning German for only a year, so cut me some slack for not writing this entire article in German. Despite my German last name and German nickname (my friends call me Klaus), I’m not all that Deutsch. But I was rooting for Germany in this game for a number of reasons. And they didn’t disappoint.

Germany ran rampant against Portugal, dominating from the opening minutes. The 4-0 undressing of Portugal should provide a little more hope for the U.S., who will now face a Portugal team without its usual mojo and likely without two of their star defenders. Portugal looked lost against Die Mannschaft most of the game. Everyone tried to defer to to Cristiano Ronaldo, with experienced players making unnecessary passes to their star when they had the better position. Given that Germany hardly needed to mark anyone else due to this deference, they bottled up Ronaldo well, limiting his chances, as once they sensed that every single pass was heading to Ronaldo, defending counter attacks became simpler.

This German team might have possessed 8 of the best 11 players on the field (the three Real Madrid Portuguese players being the exceptions), but not many of the Germans played in positions they normally man for their clubs. This game goes to show that talent wins out in the end, regardless of where of the field the players are operating. Germany’s two converted fullbacks might be exposed against more dynamic offensive teams, but Portugal’s singular threat did not trouble them. Going forward, the Germans looked incredible at times. The continuos movement of Özil, Götze, Müller and Kroos kept the Portuguese defense guessing during the first half, as they could pop up anywhere in the final third. Müller’s hat-trick was well-deserved, and once again displayed his knack for being in the right position.

It’s easy to watch Germany today and marvel at their offensive talent, but a few times in the early going they lost the ball too easily in their own half, leaving themselves susceptible to counter-attacks. While Portugal didn’t convert those chances, Jogi Löw needs to address that going forward, because with so many players forward, Philipp Lahm can’t be losing the ball cheaply. The other worry for Germany will be the injury to Mats Hummels, as his absence could force Lahm into defense so that Boateng can shift next to Mertesacker.

Having seen Germany tear Portugal apart, the U.S. should go into their game with Ghana tonight confident that they can survive this group. They shouldn’t play for a draw by any means, but a tie with the Black Stars won’t completely derail the American campaign as it seemed it would have before this result. With big injury worries for Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida as well as the Pepe suspension, the U.S. certainly has a chance against Portugal later this week.

From an Arsenal standpoint, Mesut Özil looks to be getting back to his best. Given the freedom to operate both on the flanks and through the middle, he was making a lot of intelligent runs and picked out a number of good passes. I would have liked to have seen him convert the chance that fell to him early in the second half, but I’ll take his overall performance any day. Hopefully, his hour-long performance will see him keep his place going forward, allowing him to earn back his confidence. Per Metesacker was hardly involved, but he defended appropriately when called upon. His leadership at the back of this makeshift defense cannot be underestimated. In his short time on the field, Lukas Podolski looked alright too.

Lastly, I want to say a word about all the penalties that are being called at this World Cup. Such a high percentage of them have been more American football like than European. It has got me wondering why referees are so much more likely to award a penalty for a shove or a tug than for a kick to the shin. There is always a certain amount of shirt-tugging and upper body jostling that goes on, so why are so many more of those penalties being called now than in years past? There have been a number of potential penalties from sliding tackles that haven’t being called, but referees have had no hesitation blowing the whistle for a tug.

What were your thoughts on Germany’s performance? Should the U.S. feel more confident of advancing? Please leave your thoughts below.

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5 thoughts on “Ein Perfekter Anfang (A Perfect Start)

  1. Really good review of the match. Don’t agree with Gotze playing wider in midfield. For me CR7 underperformed and the balls into him seemed un natural. He really has to step up otherwise their hopes of qualification could take a bad turn against USA

  2. Really good review of the match. For me CR7 underperformed and the balls into him seemed un natural. He really has to step up otherwise their hopes of qualification could take a bad turn against USA

  3. Regarding your point about the penalties, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say that referees are awarding penalties for simply a “shove” or a “tug”. From what I’ve seen, most of the penalties resulting from upper-body fouls have been pretty egregious transgressions – for example, the bear hug on Lugano. And even though Fred obviously dived in the Brazil-Croatia game, the referee’s rationale for awarding was sound; he saw Lovren’s hand on Fred’s shoulder, followed by Fred going to ground – for a defender, pulling an attacker down by the shoulder has never been legal (Of course, this is not to say that the decision was correct, given that Fred wasn’t exactly pulled down; I’m simply making the point that if Fred falls naturally and doesn’t dive in that situation, it is always a penalty).
    Basically, I’m not surprised by the number of penalties called for upper-body antics, given that the penalties have mostly seemed like rational decisions (or at least, explainable calls).
    Furthermore, little whacks at the shin and ankles are part of the game – a lot of the time, they’re not called even outside the box. Granted I haven’t seem all of the games, but in the games that I have watched, I haven’t noticed any obvious no-calls on tackles. The only potential controversy that comes to mind is the tackle on Eder in the second half of the Portugal-Germany game, but even then Eder got his shot away first. I’m not convinced that there have been many slide tackles which should’ve been penalties but weren’t called.

  4. Perfect German 😉 Özil seems to be the opposite of Mario Gomez: he was brilliant at München but cut a rather sad figure when playing for Germany…

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