FIFA World Cup

Thomas Mueller Shows Jogi Low Was Right to Not Focus on Strikers for Germany

Germany's Thomas Mueller runs off the pitch during the second half after scoring his side's fourth goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2014

There was plenty of talk about Jogi Low's Germany squad when the manager announced his final 23 for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, mainly on account of his decision to name just one out-and-out striker, Miroslav Klose.

Mario Gomez was left out due to lack of game time, Pierre-Michel Lasogga suffered an injury when he was called up in March and didn't make his debut, and Kevin Volland was axed from the preliminary squad.

It was thought that the decision might cost Germany in the biggest games—and that could yet prove to be the case—but the manager looks to have chosen wisely after an offensive, vibrant win over Portugal in what was surely the toughest group game that they will face.

 

Mueller

Thomas Mueller started as the most advanced player and certainly played the part of poacher extraordinaire, though his position on the pitch was anything but an out-and-out striker.

Mueller netted a hat-trick against Portugal in the 4-0 wina penalty, an opportunistic driven finish and a close-range tap-in.

B/R

That takes him to 20 international goals in 50 appearances, with none of his starting team-mates having netted more than him for Germany. He's used to the requirements of playing as the most advanced forward, of course, and showed both the technical and tactical aptitude needed to be a success.

Instead of sticking to the centre-forward area, Mueller dropped in deep, was happy to stand wide in space and, on occasion, ran in diagonally behind the full-backs.

 

Movement

Key to the win was a fast tempo in possession when moving into the final third and great movement from the entire midfield.

With Mueller roaming all across the final third and creating spaces between the centre-backs, Mario Gotze was one of the main beneficiaries of the gaps that remained, making diagonal runs and trying to move between centre-back and full-back. He was far from the only one, though, as Germany made sure they had constant runners from the second line.

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  Joao Pereira of Portugal fouls Mario Goetze of Germany leading to a penalty kick 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.  (Phot
Pool/Getty Images

In the first half, there were occasions when Sami Khedira made driving runs into the final third, too, though that largely stopped after the break once the game was already wrapped up.

It all made it very tough for the Portugal back line to stay with or track the forwards, aiding the rapid exchange of passes that created so many chances on goal for Germany.

 

Bench

The options for Germany off the bench were similarly able to offer movement, interchanging of positions and no fixed face up front. Andre Schuerrle can play wide or central, Lukas Podolski the same.

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 16: Head coach Joachim Loew of Germany claps as Mesut Oezil exits the match 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 Clive
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Had he been fit, Marco Reus would have been another to offer that threat.

Klose didn't get his chance this time to attack the World Cup goals record, as Low looked elsewhere to raise the tempo and keep the pressure up on Portugal. A 4-0 win shows both the excellence of the German side and the impressive clinical edge they can have against tough opponents—even without a true No. 9 on the pitch.

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