Germany's Defensive Issues Exposed by Gallant Ghana

Mark Lovell@@LovellLowdownFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

Low can't bear to watch this defence.
Low can't bear to watch this defence.Associated Press

Germany's old Achilles' heel came back to haunt them in a 2-2 draw against Ghana in Fortaleza.

Despite taking the lead through Mario Goetze’s head (and knee) on 51 minutes, the defensive frailties of Joachim Low’s side were twice exposed by the gallant Ghanaians.

And the Germans had to rely on substitute Miroslav Klose’s record-equaling 15th World Cup goal to earn a share of the spoils in a pulsating second half.

Low stuck with the tried and trusted 4-3-3 system that worked so well in the pummelling of Portugal, employing four centre-backs spread across the back line. Mats Hummels recovered from injury sufficiently to join Per Mertesacker at the heart of the defence, while Jerome Boateng at right-back and Benedikt Hoewedes on the left provided height and cover on the flanks.

Manuel Neuer was arguably the busier of the two goalkeepers during a pedestrian opening period, making some smart saves in sweltering temperatures. Sulley Muntari brought out the best of the Bayern keeper just after the hour mark as the two sides went in goalless at half-time.

Given Low’s liking for four centre-backs, it shouldn't come as a surprise that another in the shape of Shkodran Mustafi entered the fray after the break to replace the indisposed right-back Boateng. 

However, the inexperienced Mustafi inexplicably failed to rise at the back post, and Andre Ayew rose well to nod past the stranded Neuer for the equaliser.

Might as well jump
Might as well jumpMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Captain Philipp Lahm had a low-key game by his standards, remarkable only perhaps for his mistake that led to Ghana’s go-ahead goal on 63 minutes. The normally ultra-reliable Lahm gave the ball away in midfield, and Muntari sliced open the Germany defence with an inch-perfect pass into the path of Asamoah Gyan, who didn’t need a second invitation to plant an unstoppable shot past Neuer

Hoewedes had a solid game at the back and had a major part in Klose’s history-making equaliser. The Schalke captain rose well to flick on a Toni Kroos corner, and the 36-year-old could not miss at the back post. The prolific striker now has 15 goals in just 20 games with 11 almost-perfect celebration saltos!

Hoewedes laid on the equaliser.
Hoewedes laid on the equaliser.Matthias Schrader/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Some interesting stats: Ghana had 19 shots on goal to Germany’s 12, while the Black Stars were caught offside five times compared to Germany’s sole occasion. 

Mertesacker reached his century of caps, becoming the 13th player to reach the milestone for Germany. The Arsenal man has the classy Hummels as his defensive partner and the offside stats indicate that Germany are making a conscious effort to keep a high line.

Even Neuer suffered an unusual bout of the jitters, flapping at a corner just before half-time and had German hearts in their mouths late in the game when a simple throw-out went astray, before clearing hurriedly on the volley.

The game could have gone either way with both sides admirably going for the win. Germany’s gung-ho tactics almost cost them dearly (and left Low tearing his hair out on the touchline) as Ghana spurned a glorious opportunity on the counter-attack, when outnumbering the Germans, 5-2, with just a few minutes to play.

As good as Germany tend to look going forward, you cannot say the same about their rather fragile back line. This frailty at the back could cost them again at the business end of the competition, as it arguably has in the past three major tournaments under Low.

Germany face USA in the final group game on Thursday, pitting their wits against former boss Jurgen Klinsmann in the battle for Group G supremacy.

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