5 Things for Germany Fans to Look Forward to in Wake of Win vs. Portugal
Germany had a dream start to their World Cup group-stage campaign on Monday as they hammered 10-man Portugal by a 4-0 margin. The Mannschaft were 2-0 ahead before Pepe was sent off and completed their rout thanks to a hat-trick from Thomas Mueller and another goal from Mats Hummels.
The result was a resounding success for the Mannschaft, affirming the value of Joachim Low's revolutionary philosophy. And it was a sign of many things to come.
In the wake of Germany's outstanding victory, click "Begin Slideshow" for a preview of what fans can look forward to in the coming games.
Thomas Mueller, Fussballgott
Neymar, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie set a high standard in the opening days of the World Cup. Against Portugal, Thomas Mueller matched and surpassed them with a glorious hat-trick that increased his career tally to eight goals in seven World Cup matches.
Each of Mueller's goals had the player's signature.
His penalty was typical: a perfectly executed, strong shot into the lower-left corner. His next came from a spark of ingenuity as, instead of lunging at a ball he'd never reach, he anticipated Bruno Alves' clearance and blocked it before stabbing home his second goal of the day. And later, the ever-well-positioned Mueller was first to the ball after Rui Patricio spilled a cross.
Mueller had little more than to shuffle his feet at the goalmouth to complete his hat-trick.
Just one tournament plus one game into his career, Mueller is already halfway to exceeding Ronaldo's record of 15 World Cup goals and has scored twice as many as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi combined.
The Bayern man's hat-trick was a statement that he's the man to lead the line for Germany at this World Cup (shout-out to B/R's Mark Lovell for calling it) and that even with Marco Reus out and several key players only just recovering from injury, the Germans have a downright lethal option in the center of attack. Fans, sit back and enjoy the show.
Four years ago, Joachim Low coached Germany to a 4-0 blowout of an Argentina that, among other tactical oddities, included a back line of four players known as centre-backs. Considering the result, it may have been a little surprising that the trainer used Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels and Benedikt Howedes as his back four against Portugal.
But in fairness, it worked quite well.
Hummels was an absolute rock at the back and was a candidate for man of the match before coming off injured. The player told reporters (per Goal.com) after the match that he'd only taken a minor blow to the thigh and that he would be healthy within the next few days. Based on Monday's performance, he'll start as long as he's fit.
Mertesacker played his part very well in the centre of defense—a somewhat muted role with Hummels meant to be the more aggressive of the pair—and was never put under huge pressure. Boateng was also excellent in nullifying Cristiano Ronaldo, a tall task for a player used out of position. The Bayern man even got forward on a few occasions.
Of the back four, Howedes was perhaps the weakest link. Although caught out of position once or twice, he wasn't punished. And given the fact that left-back is Germany's position of least depth, he'll more likely than not keep his starting role.
The fact that Low opted to replace Hummels with Shkodran Mustafi as opposed to a full-back strongly suggests that the four-centre-back plan is something he intends to keep at least for the short term.
A Fresh and Ready Team to Face Ghana
The harsh conditions on the pitch in Brazil are one of the biggest concerns for European teams, especially Germany. Analysis by Bloomberg found that based on historical weather patterns, the Mannschaft will face the most extreme conditions among all teams at the World Cup. It's therefore important that they not overexert themselves. And they certainly did not against Portugal.
Per FIFA, Germany covered a modest 111,651 meters. Among the outfield positions, the average distance covered was 9.7 kilometers, an extremely low number for a German team. The only players to exceed 11 kilometers on the day were Toni Kroos (11.7), Mario Goetze (11.6) and Philipp Lahm (11.1).
The fact that Germany were 3-0 ahead with an extra man at half-time of the Portugal match allowed them to cruise through the second period without too much trouble. Assuming they qualify, their fitness in the knockout stages will be key to their World Cup dreams.
Little of Klose, More Great Movement Among the Front Three
Miroslav Klose is the only out-and-out striker Joachim Low brought to Brazil, but the veteran is unlikely to play very much.
The second half of Monday's game was the perfect time to introduce the Lazio man and give him a chance to match or break Ronaldo's record of 15 goals at the World Cup. But Low, who before the match told reporters (via Reuters) that personal records are a "secondary" concern, opted instead to bring on Lukas Podolski and Andre Schurrle as attacking substitutes.
Some may be disappointed with Klose not having many opportunities for personal glory, but Low's decision was the right one. More important than individual success is that of the team, and no one understands that better than Klose, who, after twice being a losing finalist and three more times a semifinalist, is desperate to win a major international tournament before he retires.
It's more important that those who are younger and fitter than the 36-year-old Klose are in form and synchronized with one another; hence the introduction of Schurrle and Podolski.
Klose may remain an emergency option, but as long as the likes of Podolski, Schurrle, Mesut Ozil, Goetze and especially Mueller are providing the goals, the veteran's role in the Germany team will be one of leadership and veteran guidance more than anything else.
More of Low's "Mini-Games"
Despite all the criticism he receives from fans and the press, Joachim Low is a master tactician whose consideration of fine details could make the difference for Germany.
His plan against Portugal quite clearly was to use a fluid front three, supported by runs from Sami Khedira, to confuse the Portuguese defense and dart into free space while leaving the back four relatively static to ensure that Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were unable to have an influence down the flanks.
Low's tactic worked brilliantly well, and it took only a few minutes before Goetze was able to win a penalty that put the Mannschaft ahead. Germany were soon two goals up, prompting a change in tactics. Goetze helped much more in defense and even Ozil played in a more tactically conservative role. Having won their first "mini-game," the Germans coiled, not so much attacking Portugal as containing them.
In the second half, Low created another "mini-game" as he brought on Schurrle and Podolski as fresh and fast legs capable of springing their opponents' high-playing offside trap and creating opportunities on the counterattack, perhaps relieving the midfielders and defenders of their duties in a renewed attempt to attack. Schurrle did just that with immediate effect, with his run and pass to Goetze on 69 minutes being a prime example.
Low and Germany passed all their tests in their opener, cleanly progressing from one "mini-game" to the next at the trainer's will. It will be interesting to see how Low reacts should his team struggle to take the lead or even fall behind. No doubt he'll have something else up his sleeve.