On Tuesday, Germany and Sweden faced off in a game that was played entirely for national pride.
Germany had already clinched the group, giving them an automatic bid to the World Cup while Sweden is still vying for their birth, making the game more of a formality. Germany was able to come back from being down 2-0 and win the match 5-3. In their first matchup, it was Sweden who came back; down 4-0 in the second half, the Swedes earned a 4-4 draw.
Offense has been at a premium in these matchups, and both managers know that come World Cup time, the back lines must tighten up.
Let’s take a look at some adjustments each team must make heading into next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Sweden has played Germany very competitively in their two matches in qualifying play.
Manager Erik Hamren has to be pleased with his team’s performance, as Germany is one of the best teams in the world.
When on the attack, it is no secret that the Sweds are looking to get star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic involved as much as possible. Ibrahimovic leads the team with six goals in 10 qualifying games and has also added five assists.
Looking forward, Ibrahimovic needs to continue to play at an incredibly high level if Sweden is going to compete for the World Cup.
The defense is letting up too many goals and they are not controlling the ball enough. Look for Sweden to try and slow the game down and give Ibrahimovic as many touches as possible.
Against Germany, Sweden had possession only 26 percent of the time. This will need to improve because relying on the long ball and counterattack doesn’t work against the great teams.
Germany dominated their table, going 9-1-0 with a goal differential of plus-26. They are currently ranked third in the world and proved worthy of that throughout qualifying play.
The Germans can attack with a number of different weapons; against Sweden it was Andre Schurrle, who netted a hat trick.
The German attack is extremely lethal with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger leading the charge. Ozil, who is only 25 years old, brings incredible finesse and improvisation to the game and anchors the German front line.
On the defensive side, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, will be relied on heavily by the German faithful.
In 2010, Neuer was named the No. 1 keeper for Germany's semi-final match against Spain. Although the Germans lost, Neuer has the confidence that he can be the best keeper in the world.
Manager Joachim Low will have a hard time making adjustments to a team that appears to already be playing at a first-class level heading into next summer.
Look for Germany to once again be one of the favorites and to win their first World Cup since 1990.