Germany 1-0 Chile: Woeful Performance in Midfield Overshadows Mannschaft Victory

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Germany's Jerome Boateng, right, and Chile's Alexis Sanchez challenge for the ball during a   friendly soccer match between Germany and Chile in Stuttgart, Germany, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Michael Probst/Associated Press

Germany edged Chile 1-0 on Wednesday in what was the first World Cup warm-up match of 2014 for both sides.

Although Joachim Low's men came out victorious, the result was overshadowed by an underwhelming overall performance that saw Die Mannschaft concede far more chances than they created, with woeful finishing and the paint of the crossbar sparing their blushes.

The narrative that the DFB side have trouble in defense is a tired one, but on Wednesday it did not always apply.

Following the early departure of the injured and out-of-depth Marcell Jansen, the back four defended generally well both individually and as a unit, with Jerome Boateng and Kevin Grosskreutz, in particular, impressing.

The problem was that they were exposed again and again by an uncharacteristically underwhelming midfield. The middle third is the area where the the DFB has long prided itself in developing talent, but there was something lacking in Wednesday's match.

The first and most obvious problem was that Bastian Schweinsteiger was not at his best, nor anywhere near it. The vice-captain has played a full 90 minutes in just a handful of matches this season, and only recently returned to action following a lengthy injury layoff. He was short of match practice and perhaps not much could be expected of him.

Unfortunately for Germany, Schweinsteiger was not the only problem.

He and skipper Philipp Lahm misplaced as many passes (seven each, according to the Bundesliga live ticker) as forwards Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze, a cause for concern given that the Bayern duo played some 20 yards deeper. It was also a very disappointing performance from Toni Kroos, who was ineffective in delivering the ball from the midfield to the forwards and offered little in defense.

Germany were, for once, overrun in midfield by a Chile side that pressed with relentless intensity and reaped the rewards. The South Americans had more touches (51.5 percent to 48.5 percent) and completed more passes (414 to 377) than the Germans, whose passing accuracy was a modest (by their standards) 86.07 percent.

Tactically, what seemed like a safe compensation for the absence of Sami Khedira (adding a third central midfielder to the equation in a 4-3-2-1 formation) proved to be inadequate. Instead of feeling extra stability in the center, the major tactical difference felt, relative to Low's usual 4-2-3-1, was a lack of width.

Time and time again, Chilean midfielders broke free in the middle third with plenty of time and space to thread the ball through. Only poor finishing and excellent last-ditch defending (particularly from Boateng) denied Germany a goal. Per Mertesacker, in a repeat of a few recent matches for Arsenal, was unable to adapt when play broke down in front of him.

There are, however, some positives to take from Wednesday's match.

Most notably, the defense somehow managed to keep a clean sheet and Gotze and Ozil linked brilliantly in the few instances where they had adequate support. It also can be assumed that Schweinsteiger will improve if he remains fit, and that Kroos will put forth more effort in a competitive match.

It is also important to note that the formation Low used against Chile was experimental and may well not be Germany's go-to at the World Cup.

Supporters of Die Mannschaft can take comfort in the fact that Germany have a poor record in friendlies leading into major-tournament summers (they lost to France and Switzerland in the spring of 2012, and to Argentina in 2010). Pre-tournament form has rarely predicted their actual performance.

With all that having been said, Germany cannot be satisfied with Wednesday's performance, which should be a wake-up call to many. They were out-hustled and out-played by Chile and only just managed to get away with it. To beat Spain or Brazil at their best will take much, much more.


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