Germany vs. Portugal: Film Focus on How Lahm, Ozil & Gotze Avoided Pressing

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 16, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal controls the ball against Mario Goetze of Germany during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Portugal at Arena Fonte Nova on June 16, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Phil Walter/Getty Images

Germany opened Group G with a crushing victory over Portugal, beating them 4-0 on a day where everything that could go wrong went wrong for Cristiano Ronaldo and Company.

Mario Gotze won a penalty early on which Thomas Mueller converted, then Mats Hummels headed home from a corner to increase the lead. Mueller rifled a shot into goalkeeper Rui Patricio then cannoned into the roof of the net just before half-time. 


Formations and XIs


Portugal rolled out their standard 4-3-3 formation, famous under Paulo Bento, with a very familiar personnel selection. Miguel Veloso inexplicably pipped William Carvalho to the holding role, and Hugo Almeida started up front.

Germany also started in a 4-3-3, with Mueller up front, Gotze from the left and Mesut Ozil from the right. Philipp Lahm played in holding midfield, and Joachim Low chose four centre-backs across the back.



Portugal set out in a high-press 4-3-3, with Hugo Almeida leading pressure from the front and trying to make life difficult for Germany at the back.

Whether that was the base strategy or Bento was seeking to push Die Mannschaft's fitness in searing 32-degree heat is unclear, but for the first six minutes the Seleccao were on top.

Miguel Veloso frequently surged forward and closed off the ball-players in deeper positions, while Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles fanned wide to close out full-backs in possession.

It was, overall, a positive strategy...



But also, in its very essence, a little naive.

Germany are great on the ball, and despite high pressure from the Portuguese midfield, it didn't take them long to work out how to circumvent it without changing their system too much.

In their own 4-3-3, Ozil sat on the right, so they used a simple pass combination of Lahm to Ozil and on to the counterattack to leave Portugal in the dust.


Two passes, that's all, left six or more Seleccao players high and dry, abandoned behind the play and unable to track back in time to stop the inevitable.

Portugal should have cottoned on and reduced the intensity of their pressure far earlier, before the game was out of reach.



Germany's movement was fantastic, with Mueller, Ozil and Gotze all interchanging and swapping to give Portugal's defence a tough time tracking runs.

The centre-forward, whoever it was, would also vary his approach, sometimes feinting in behind and sometimes dropping off to keep the defence in the dark. 

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  Thomas Mueller of Germany acknowledges the fans after scoring a hat trick and defeating Portugal 4-0 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Portugal at Arena Fonte Nova on June 16, 2014 in Salv
Stu Forster/Getty Images

It became overwhelming, especially when one of the three central midfielders joined the attack in varying spots 25 yards from goal. Gotze held the width on the left exceptionally well considering he's a central player, which was conducive to much of Germany's strong, balanced play.



Bento moved to a 4-3-1-1 formation at half-time, with Ronaldo as a striker, Eder just behind him and Meireles shielding the defence. The switch accepted that Germany would dominate possession three goals up and solely seek to counterattack at pace.

It did little to stem the flow of pressure and little to spark attacks, with Eder showing some nice feet and Ronaldo proving his fitness the only real takeaways.

Die Mannschaft completed the game at a canter, with Mueller picking up where he left off in South Africa by notching a rather simplistic hat-trick.