With an exceptional performance during a 4-0 opening victory over Portugal on Monday, Joachim Low’s Germany have proven they have the perfect platform for success at the World Cup this summer.
The effortlessness within which the likes of Thomas Mueller and Mario Gotze tore apart the Portuguese defence was belied by the dismissal of the abhorrent Pepe from the heart of the Portugal back line.
In truth, this performance would have been more than a match for most in this year’s World Cup, and looking forward, Low can rest assured that his Germany side have what it takes to go the distance.
From the back four to a tightly organised midfield linked with a fluid attacking line, Germany have the perfect platform for success at Brazil 2014.
Defensive Composure and Steel
One of the hallmarks of Germany’s game apparent in this victory was a finely balanced defensive line, typified by a mixture of composure and a steely, no-nonsense approach across the back four.
To use a fairly recent example of a side utilising four centre-backs with less success, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool lined up with the back four of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho in their 1-0 loss to Southampton in September of last year.
The wholly defensive nature of all four was of significant detriment to the side’s balance, as they failed to support the attack consistently; however, the same cannot be said of Germany’s defence.
Low’s back line of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker and Benedikt Hoewedes all play their club football at centre-back, and on paper this may have seemed an oversight by the manager.
But the acting full-backs work diligently and effectively in both the defence and attack, with Hoewedes in particular standing out.
Elsewhere, Hummels and Mertesacker proved the solidity of their partnership, complementing each other astutely.
Mertesacker served as the side’s defensive general, and his composure on the ball set an example for those around him, dealing with the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo superbly.
This composure will no doubt be aided by the knowledge that Manuel Neuer, one of the world’s very best goalkeepers, is lining up behind the defence.
Alongside Mertesacker, Hummels proved a more bullish defensive charge, and his quality in the air stood out in particular.
This quality could be seen as a terrific bullet header put the Germans 2-0 up on the night.
Limping off to be replaced by Shkodran Mustafi on 73 minutes, the potential loss of Hummels could be a cause for concern for Low after such a confident performance from his back line; however, the 25-year-old is confident his World Cup is not over, as per Rob Bleaney of The Guardian.
If Low can keep his back four together for the majority of the competition, this will serve as a watertight basis for a challenging side.
Ahead of the back four, Low deployed Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira as a midfield three in a move that may have seemed fairly regressive, given the reserved nature of all three.
However, with Khedira moving, more often than not, to support the attack—with moderate success—this linked play effectively.
Meanwhile, Kroos and Lahm served as a dynamic midfield pivot, taking cues from their partnership in the Bayern Munich midfield.
Both are efficient, economical ball players, and the performance of Kroos in particular will give comfort to Low as he plans to advance throughout the tournament.
The 24-year-old has emerged as the lynchpin of all things Bavarian and is a key player for both Bayern and Germany with his canny ability to recycle possession.
Furthermore, it was Kroos’ accurate corner that contributed to Hummels’ headed goal.
Glancing at the Germany bench for the Portugal game shows that Low still has players of the supreme quality of Bastian Schweinsteiger in reserve for the tournament; however, following the hugely impressive showing of this midfield three, perhaps it would be wise to leave things settled.
Seen within the hapless displays of forwards Fred and Jo in Brazil’s 0-0 draw with Mexico on Tuesday night, the importance of a goalscoring centre-forward in this tournament is paramount.
Fred in particular lacked the dynamism, or even motivation, to open up the Mexico defence; the target man remained stationary as playmakers such as Oscar failed to find a key pass time and time again.
In Low’s squad for the World Cup, only an ageing Miroslav Klose can be considered a genuine centre-forward, a selection which would have been a worry in the lead-up to the tournament.
However, the role of Klose in the squad is supplemented by that of last World Cup’s Golden Boot winner, Thomas Mueller, amongst others, and the performance of the Bayern man will serve to provide Low with confidence moving forward.
At the beginning of the game, another Bayern man, Mario Gotze, lined up in a modern false-nine role, and it is in this that Low may have found the key to his World Cup success in terms of goals.
With Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle, Julian Draxler, Lukas Podolski and the aforementioned Mueller all able to fulfill this role adeptly, Low can rely on a malleable forward line with the promise of plenty of goal-scoring options.
Muller was the main man against Portugal, helping himself to a hat-trick with consummate ease, and will now be a favourite to retain his top goalscorer prize at this World Cup.
With a plethora of options in the attack, Low’s Germany will be one of this tournament’s most attractive sides to watch.
A Platform for Success
Overall, Germany’s performance against Portugal has rightly underlined their credentials in their quest for World Cup glory.
The balance between the defence, midfield and attack is fluid and incredibly effective, allowing Low to line up in any encounter with supreme confidence.
Furthermore, the quality of players in reserve means that the leader of "Die Mannschaft" is able to switch up play without causing detriment to his game plan; it would be hard to argue that the addition of Schweinsteiger to the midfield, for example, would be costly.
All in all, whilst this was a victory over a side playing with 10 men for more than half the game, Germany’s performance against Portugal on Monday night has proven that Joachim Low's side have the perfect platform for success at the World Cup.