Germany Can't Limp To WC Glory

Should Joachim Low be concerned or are Germany just hoping to peak in time for the business end of the World Cup? Ian Watson isn't convinced...

Last Updated: 01/07/14 at 11:36 Post Comment

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There are two ways of looking at Germany so far: The glass-half-full view from Joachim Low's perspective is that his team are in the last eight without yet displaying anything like top form. The more pessimistic, though, will focus on the gaping chasm between Germany's potential and their present form.

Present indications suggest it will take something special from the coach and his players to bridge that gap in time for the quarter-final against France. The extra-time victory over Algeria owed more to wasteful finishing from the Africans and a Beckenbauer-like display from Manuel Neuer at sweeper, rather than a tactical masterplan or any moment of inspiration that Germany's world-class attacking stars were able to conjure.

The likes of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze are yet to step up for Low and after their quarter-final scare, the coach will be far less assured that his big names are not just saving themselves for when it matters. Thomas Muller has also been tamed since his hat-trick in Germany's opening win over a poor ten-man Portugal team.

While Germany are flailing, France are thriving. Didier Deschamps has his squad pulling in the same direction, with Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena succeeding in standing out among the quality of Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema and co. The France coach will no doubt show his vibrant squad the video of Germany's defence throughout their four games so far and nowhere will they see anything to fear.

Low was forced to select somebody other than a centre-half at full-back for the first time through the tournament due to Benedikt Howedes replacing Mats Hummels in the middle, though Shkodran Mustafi's injury makes him a major doubt for the next round. Low's back four of centre-backs offers height and power in the box but both Ghana and Algeria have caused them major problems when they stray closer towards the half-way line. Only Neuer's sense of danger, speed and timing denied Algeria a series of one-on-ones in Porto Alegre.

Nor do centre-halves offer a great attacking threat down the flanks, but Low is too clever not to understand this. Perhaps he doesn't want attacking full-backs clogging up the space around the likes of Kroos, Ozil or Gotze. But with those players having a natural inclination to travel inside, a Plan B is required when defences squeeze and become narrow.

Injuries could be a blessing for Germany. Moving Philippe Lahm back to full-back, with Sami Khedira taking his place in central midfield, as he did late on against Algeria, may offer Die Mannschaft better balance in defence and attack.

Eventually, the win over Algeria was strikingly similar to how Low described their draw with Ghana: "An open exchange of blows at a crazy pace." If the tempo and flow of the quarter-final against France follows that same pattern, Germany may well find themselves on the end of a knock-out punch.

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