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.