Wednesday June 16, 2021
The riddle of the DFB offensive
No chance, in every way
By Tobias Nordmann
For the first time, Germany loses a European Championship opening game. But there is still no fear of a knockout scenario. National coach Löw wants to “use the right levers” before the next duel against Portugal. The subject of impact is right at the top of his agenda.
Latvia is not France. Raivis Jurkovskis is not Lucas Hernández. Marcis Oss is not Presnel Kimpembe. Antonijs Cernomordijs is not Raphael Varane. Vladislavs Fyodorovs is not Benjamin Pavard. And Roberts Ozols is not Hugo Lloris either. Whereby this comparison is a bit slow. Because while Ozols was taken under fire by the footballers of the German national team in the test match a week and a half ago, the official statistics of UEFA count only one shot on the goal of the French number one for Tuesday evening. And you have to think carefully about which action was counted. In fact, it is a scene from the 70th minute when Antonio Rüdiger put a Joshua Kimmich cross on goal with an arc lamp. Well, you wouldn’t have come up with it without help. But it’s good that there are official statistics.
What do you do with all this information? One tries to put together a coherent picture of the state of the DFB team from these small pieces of the puzzle. So this team is much, much better than the 138th in the Fifa world rankings. That’s good news. Not always in the past few years one had the impression that Germany also had small opponents in an international comparison. The second good news is that the team is in good shape to offer a passionate fight to second in the rankings. But there is also some not so good news: the DFB team is not strong enough to seriously endanger the second in the ranking. See above. See a “shot on goal” by Rüdiger.
Now two readings from this game are allowed. The nice one is the one that national coach Joachim Löw and his selection players try. In essence, it is important to them that they have shown a really good performance, “in a brutally intense game” (Löw). In essence, it’s about the fact that they deserved a point. In essence, they are concerned that they were only missing a goal to luck, to get off to a strong start in this European Football Championship. You can see it that way. With a little less after-work pulse, however, a slightly different version will probably prevail. And this: Germany played well. Better than most expected. But Germany didn’t have a real chance of a, well, sensation. The French, who mostly kept their ludicrous quality hidden on the offensive, had this game mercilessly under control.
Pogba and Kanté shut everything down
What was up to Paul Pogba. This strange footballer who can do anything. But often stands in his own way with his megalomania. Which was also due to N`Golo Kanté, about whom everything has been said. Like this one: 70 percent of the world is covered by water, the rest by Kanté. What that means: The 30-year-old is the boss. All over. You can’t have more control than this little man assumes. Not even against Germany. The fact that Löw’s team still looked superior, because more on the ball, was due to a peculiar administrative mode that the “Équipe Tricolore” was apparently imposed by their coach Didier Deschamps. Because what would have been possible if the tempo offensive around head sprinter Kylian Mbappé would have been left off the chain more often, the team suggests with their two offside goals by Mbappé and Karim Benzema.
The fact that France, with what is probably the best attack in world football, only won this game because Mats Hummels had scored (20th), that is a bitter punchline in this opening game of the two great powers. As in the 2014 World Cup, back then in the quarter-finals, the head of defense decided the game. Just on the wrong side this time. The German view of things. The fact that France really had to do without a goal with what is probably the best attack in world football is only the second biggest mystery of this game. The performance of the German offensive was even more puzzling. Where was Kai Havertz, the man who was so ripped off in the Champions League final, who had given Latvia insoluble problems? The answer: He was there. You could see him on TV. And also in the stadium. But somehow he wasn’t there.
It’s a bad judgment. No question. Unfortunately, it is also something that can be enjoyed by many teammates. What is wrong with Serge Gnabry (he threw a ball over the goal from the best position), who once had one top performance after the other in the national team, as the only footballer to receive the “always play guarantee” from the national coach? Where was Thomas Müller (he headed a ball over the crossbar)? And even more urgently the question must be asked: Where was Ilkay Gündogan, the driver, the best player in the Premier League, the best player in the best league in the world (he put a ball badly and imprecisely next to the goal)? The answer: they were all there. And there are mitigating circumstances for their commitment, their passion, for their attempt to take responsibility. But not for the fact that they hardly or never succeeded in using their strengths profitably. A reproach that the coach in particular must urgently listen to. After all, the quality is there. But where is the idea? Little dynamism, hardly any depths. A couple of good crosses over the outside. Approaches, harmless approaches.
Even more harmless: the standard situations of Toni Kroos, who at least deserves mild judgment with strong conquests of the ball. Löw says: “France are also world champions in defending and have been the best team at defending defensive standards for the last two or three years. They were always relatively low. Maybe one or the other corner was too short or too long. We have to look that we can improve there, because we need one or two goals against Portugal. ” And for that better chances first.
That’s not enough. Not against France. Who defended some situations so bored that it almost hurt. A realization that is now gaining ground: Loew was actually right when he did not make the defensive a problem at the beginning of this year, but the offensive. Finding solutions for this department is more difficult than getting a grip on the shaky defense. So far, it has rarely been successful. Against Latvia, for example. Now a global solution is needed from the national coach. In a flash process. Until Saturday, then it’s against Portugal. Then it’s a matter of surviving this preliminary group before Hungary is still waiting for the end. The “levers” that Löw now wants to use are almost all that shape a team’s offensive game. He says: “We have to get even better at running routes, moving up and coordinating up front.”
Maybe a little encouragement: France is not Portugal.