Sweden vs. Germany: 6 Things We Learned
It was fireworks aplenty to see off another successful World Cup campaign for Germany as they came from behind to beat Sweden 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Although Germany were far from full strength and playing against a very good Swedish side, the excellence and sheer dominance that we've seen from Joachim Low's side over the course of this campaign dictated that anything but a win would have been a disappointment for the potential World Cup winners.
Alas, despite making hard work of it over the course of the game, the victory was indeed Germany's to saviour as they finished atop of Group C with just two points dropped over the course of 10 games.
Yet Germany made hard work of the first half, when an unlikely opening goal came about in the sixth minute thanks to an outstanding through ball from Sebastian Larsson that found itself at the feet of an oncoming Tobias Hysen, who had the time and space to peg Manuel Neuer in goals.
Despite that, the visitors continued their blase approach to the game with a constant degree of pressure that had been expected of them from the very first minute. Then Sweden scored again, this time through the exploitation of a slow offside trap and the right foot of Alexander Kacaniklic. Germany were now in trouble.
Then came Mezut Ozil.
He scored with an ounce of luck and a ton of class like he has done on so many occasions for his country in this campaign. The sides went in at half-time with Sweden leading by a goal, but the winds had already changed and Germany were in pursuit.
The second half was then another 45 minutes of sheer drama. If Sweden had indeed sucker-punched the Germans in the preliminary stages of the game, it was now Germany's chance to really dig in for a comprehensive win.
Mario Gotze's introduction during the break, at the expense of a tired-looking Thomas Muller, was a stroke of genius as he scored just eight minutes in to the new half. Then came Andre Schurrle again, again and again with a hat-trick that'll stick in the mind for months to come.
Sweden did indeed grab some solace from a wonderful volley in the 69th minute from Hysen as he again peeled of Jerome Boateng to swing yet another shot past Neuer in goals. Upon replay the striker was clearly offside but few bothered to protest. There was only ever going to be one winner in this game and that was table-topping Germany.
Schurrle Thrives in Role Again
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If Germany truly purred up front tonight then it was Andre Schurrle who drove them on to such a comprehensive victory.
Oddly enough a hat-trick for his troubles hardly seems like a fair reward for what was a truly outstanding performance from the new Cheslea winger.
With 11 goals in just 10 starts for his national side of late, Schurrle has done everything within his power to prove to his coach that he deserves to be considered amongst Marco Reus and Mario Gotze in this squad.
Schurrle's a wonderful player who just keeps getting better and better for Germany.
Kruse Didn't Take His Chance with Cherished Start
If there was one unfortunate fly in the ointment of Germany's superb front line, it was the introduction of Bundesliga high flyer Max Kruse and his inability to adapt and offer anything in particular to the side.
Although Sweden defended admirably throughout the game, it was only once Germany had altered their rhythm and began attacking in different styles that they slowly began to break through.
For a player like Kruse—and Muller to a similar extent—who relies on a more direct style of football, this just wasn't going to work.
Sweden Strong Without Zlatan
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It comes as no surprise that when the news of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's inability to play in Tuesday night's game was made available, the already-dwindling odds for Germany got even shorter.
The PSG behemoth has been in exquisite form this season and following their win over Austria, in which Zlatan scored the winning goal, it was considered viable to assume that the hosts would be rather toothless without him.
Yet that simple wasn't the case and as Erik Hamren started the game with two strikers (Tobias Hysen and Ola Torvonen), the German back line discovered the hard way just how potent the Swedish attack could still be without their key striker.
Of the 10 goals Germany conceded in this campaign, Sweden were responsible for seven—a statistic that Zlatan and co. will undoubtedly wear as a badge of honour.
Germany Still Shaky at the Back
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Although the party line will undoubtedly be that the DFB, Joachim Low and the team itself will be happy to take three points away from such a strong opponent, the performance of Germany's back line will be up for review until next summer.
Although Sweden deserve credit for their attack, the absence of Per Mertesacker and the return of Mats Hummels almost proved disastrous as individual mistakes had put the side two goals down within the first 43 minutes.
Fortunately Schurrle, Gotze and co. were able to rescue Germany from an embarrassing defeat, yet Low will know that the likes of Brazil, Spain and other World Cup hopefuls will be licking their lips at the thought of testing themselves against such a shaky defence.
Ozil Is Germany's Key Man
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To compliment Mezut Ozil on his simple brilliance seems almost like a cliche in itself these days, given the sheer consistency of his excellence for both Arsenal and Germany. Yet he was at his most recognisable best on Tuesday night to ensure Die Nationalelf once again picked up all three points.
Although the plaudits will go to Andre Schurrle for his wonderful hat-trick, we must of course remember that it was a moment of brilliance from the Arsenal playmaker that pulled back that initial goal from nothing and set Germany on their determined course for victory.
8 Goals to Suggest International Football Isn't All That Boring
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From one cliche to the next, our final point is that if there was one clear winner from this continental goal-fest, it was of course the neutral sitting at home.
From Hysen's exquisite Volley, Ozil's jink and finish, to Schurrle's cut inside and long-range curler into the top corner, both sides provided excellent entertainment in the form of outstanding goals.
In a week that has seen the international calendar scrutinised to incredible degrees, it is worth noting just how much fun this game was to watch and how it stacks up against the usual, repetitive chore that domestic football sometimes embodies.
Sweden 3-5 Germany was quite simply an excellent game of football.