Ranking the Germany Players on Their World Cup Group Stage Form
Germany finished their World Cup group stage campaign on Thursday, wrapping up a first-place finish in Group G with a 1-0 win over the United States.
The result left the Germans with seven points, following their 4-0 hammering of Portugal and 2-2 draw with Ghana.
Joachim Low generally stuck with a consistent lineup during the group stage, using just 13 different starters as well as three players who featured only as substitutes.
With the first stage now over, B/R has run the rule over all the Germany players who have featured in the group stage, compiling stats from FIFA.com and assessing and ranking them individually for form. The main criterion is subjective performance, adjusted based on the player's historic performance and giving special emphasis on more recent matches.
Click "Begin Slideshow" to commence the countdown, starting with number 16.
16) Shkodran Mustafi
Recovered Balls: 1
Pass Completion Rate: 85.4%
Shkodran Mustafi was a last-minute call-up to the German team following Marco Reus’ ankle injury, but the Sampdoria defender has proven to be more than just a “23rd man” in Low’s eyes. A natural center-back, Mustafi played right-back in Germany’s first two games of the group stage, appearing as a substitute in both cases.
The 22-year-old came off the bench to replace the injured Mats Hummels in the Portugal match and deputized well, although the result had been decided by that point. His second appearance of the tournament was far less convincing, however. Against Ghana, he replaced Jerome Boateng at half-time and struggled to handle the lightning-quick Ghanaian counterattack. His biggest fault, though, was failing to adequately contend with the Andre Ayew header that put Ghana level.
The defender was benched throughout the USA game.
Mustafi is young and apparently well rated by Low, but the trainer may be reluctant to call upon him again after the Ghana debacle.
15) Benedikt Hoewedes
Recovered Balls: 19
Pass Completion Rate: 82.1%
Benedikt Hoewedes has, by some distance, been the least convincing German defender at the World Cup; his lack of pace and agility and his questionable positioning have raised a skeptical eye among viewers.
The Schalke man was fortunate not to be whistled for a penalty against Portugal and was caught upfield in the USA match, forcing him to concede a free-kick and draw a yellow card. To his credit, though, he's been surprisingly useful going forward, and it was his header that set up Miroslav Klose for the equalizer against Ghana.
14) Lukas Podolski
Solo Runs Into Area: 3
Lukas Podolski was in blistering form heading into the World Cup, and with Marco Reus having injured himself shortly before the tournament, he looked a top candidate to replace the Dortmund man in Low’s starting XI.
Things did not turn out as such for Podolski, who played just eight minutes against Portugal and was benched throughout the Ghana match. He was given a starting role against the United States, but apart from an early shot over the bar and one dangerous cross, he didn’t provide very much to the German attack and was substituted at half-time.
13) Sami Khedira
Pass Completion Rate: 88.8%
Recovered Balls: 5
Sami Khedira had only a couple games to build his form after returning from a six-month injury lay-off, and his lack of form and fitness have shown at times. He played well against Portugal but struggled greatly in the Ghana game and took a knock in the process.
Perhaps due to his form, perhaps due to the injury, Khedira was kept on the bench for the duration of the USA match. Whether he'll return to the starting XI for the round of 16 is still very much unclear considering Bastian Schweinsteiger's fine performance in his stead, as well as the Real Madrid man's apparent lack of fitness.
12) Manuel Neuer
Save Rate: 81.8%
Pass Completion Rate: 89.1%
Manuel Neuer entered the World Cup having only just recovered from a shoulder injury, but it was rare that an opponent of Germany had the chance to test him. He was never put under any danger he had to deal with directly against the United States and rather easily kept a clean sheet.
The Bayern 'keeper was forced to make a couple of good saves against Portugal in order to keep his clean sheet. It was only against Ghana that he conceded, although the two goals he allowed in that match were entirely unavoidable. Neuer’s true class will be tested in the knockout rounds.
11) Andre Schurrle
Andre Schurrle started off the World Cup on a generally positive note, but he will be disappointed not to have had more chances after coming on as a substitute for the final 27 minutes of the match against Portugal. The Chelsea man set up Mario Goetze for a good chance that was blocked before setting up Thomas Mueller’s third goal of the match.
Schurrle was not rewarded for his performance and instead spent 90 minutes on the bench against Ghana and 89 more on the sidelines against the United States.
10) Mesut Ozil
Pass Completion Rate: 76.3%
Mesut Ozil’s World Cup has been a rather unconvincing one thus far, at least on a personal level. Used as a wide forward, the playmaker has been a useful outlet in attack, his creative touches and flicks probing opposing defenses and taking advantage of his teammates’ runs.
Where Ozil has been found lacking, however, is in the penalty area. He’s yet to assist a goal and missed a couple great chances to score. But despite his lack of end product, the Arsenal man has added a touch of class to the German attack that Low appears to value. He’s started all three matches, which is better than can be said of Mario Goetze, for example.
9) Philipp Lahm
Pass Completion Rate: 89%
Recovered Balls: 14
Philipp Lahm started the World Cup in rather questionable form but came up aces against the USA. But for one instance, in which he was easily muscled off the ball in the first half, he played generally well against Portugal. However, in the Ghana match he looked completely overrun in midfield, most notably conceding possession in the build-up to the Black Stars' go-ahead goal.
A new Lahm showed his face on Thursday, though, in what was an assured performance against the USA. The captain had his mojo back; he was not only accurate in the pass but had the skill to evade opponents in midfield and made a brilliant, win-saving block at the death to deny an equalizer.
8) Miroslav Klose
Solo Runs Into Area: 1
Miroslav Klose turned 36 years of age shortly before Germany's World Cup opener, and to no surprise, the veteran began all three group stage games on the bench. After sitting out the entire opener, he came on as a late substitute against Ghana.
Klose made good use of his limited minutes, scoring just seconds after coming on in the Ghana game. On another day he might have scored a winner, but regardless, Low appreciated his influence and trusted in him more in the USA game.
Although he didn’t start against the United States, Klose replaced Lukas Podolski at half-time. The veteran didn’t score, but his introduction freed eventual scorer Thomas Mueller without having a negative impact on the mobility and fluidity of the German attack. Even in his advanced years, Klose proved that, at least for a half, he’s able to play at a high intensity and make his classic defense-bending runs at the focal point of the German attack.
7) Jerome Boateng
Recovered Balls: 12
Tackles Won: 3
Jerome Boateng was made a victim of his own versatility when Joachim Low decided to use him as a right-back at the World Cup. The Bayern man is a natural central defender, but he has plenty of experience playing in a wide role for club and country and was drafted to play as a full-back in Brazil.
Despite being somewhat predictable going forward and only offering the option to cross, Boateng generally held down the right flank to the best of his ability. He was nullified Cristiano Ronaldo in the group stage opener and locked down his flank before coming off injured at half-time of the Ghana match. The fact that Germany conceded twice in his absence speaks volumes of what he provides at the back.
Boateng’s only disappointment came against the United States, a game in which the Stars and Stripes aggressively attacked his wing and were able to get free on a couple of occasions. On the whole, though, Boateng was generally able to recover. He’s the only player among the German defenders who have played who has not seen a goal conceded during his time on the pitch.
6) Mario Goetze
Solo Runs Into Area: 4
Perhaps a surprise starter for the opening two matches of the group stage, Mario Goetze was effective in patches before being dropped for the USA game. The 22-year-old won the penalty that led to Germany's first goal against Portugal and scored the opener against Ghana.
Goetze put in tremendous effort as a starter, and after the Ghana game (per Goal.com), Low admitted that the player was "exhausted and had no strength anymore" by the time of his substitution. He came on for the final quarter hour of the USA match but was unable to make any substantial impact.
5) Per Mertesacker
Recovered Balls: 17
Pass Completion Rate: 92.7%
Slow, awkward, clean and effective, Per Mertesacker has had a very Per Mertesacker-esque tournament thus far. The towering defender was quiet at the back throughout the group stage, letting Mats Hummels take on attackers as the first line of central defense. He was able to read the game well and was always on hand to support his fellow defenders when the time came.
Mertesacker was, as one might expect of a 6'6" player, dominant in the air. In fact, it was his header that forced the save that led to Thomas Mueller’s winner against the United States.
4) Bastian Schweinsteiger
Pass Completion Rate: 91.1%
Recovered Balls: 6
Nursing an injury heading into the tournament, Bastian Schweinsteiger had a slow start to his World Cup campaign. He sat out the entire opener against Portugal before coming on as a second-half substitute against Ghana.
A fresh and motivated Schweinsteiger helped turn the game in Germany's favor against the African side, even if the Germans were ultimately unable to claim three points. It was enough to convince Joachim Low to start him in the final group stage game against the USA.
Schweinsteiger was fit enough for 76 minutes in Thursday's match, in which he deputized for Sami Khedira. His influence was useful in keeping the pace of the game slow, an attribute that served Germany's interests, especially after they went ahead early in the second half.
Low now will have a tough decision to make as he considers whether to keep the in-form Schweinsteiger in his starting XI and who he'll have to bench if he is indeed to restore the vice-captain to the lineup.
3) Mats Hummels
Recovered Balls: 31
Pass Completion Rate: 83.9%
Just as he did at Euro 2012, Mats Hummels had an excellent group stage for Germany in the 2014 World Cup. The Mannschaft’s wide defense and holding midfield areas were perhaps suspect at times, but the 25-year-old was reliable and consistently strong at the back.
Hummels’ keen anticipation kept the Portuguese quiet, and he also headed in a goal in Germany’s opener. And although Ghana scored twice against Germany, neither goal could at all be considered the fault of a generally impressive Hummels.
In the final group game, Hummels silenced the USA attack through the center. Although dangerous on the wings, the Americans were stymied through the middle thanks to the strong partnership of Hummels and Per Mertesacker.
2) Toni Kroos
Pass Completion Rate: 87.8%
Toni Kroos played all 270 minutes of the group stage, which speaks well for his importance in Joachim Low’s team. The central midfielder has been consistently excellent for Germany during the World Cup, driving the midfield game as the critical link between deeper areas and the forwards.
The 24-year-old set the bar high for himself early in the tournament, assisting two goals against Portugal. He had a slightly less direct effect against Ghana, but his deliveries from distance were spot-on and his distribution typically immaculate.
Against the United States, Kroos maintained his fine form purely in a distribution role, his assuredness in possession playing a big role in limiting the USA’s possession and chances going forward. As Germany head into the knockout rounds, Kroos is absolutely one to watch.
1) Thomas Mueller
Attempts on Target: 85.7%
The group stage had its ups and downs for Thomas Mueller, who began the tournament in blistering form against Portugal before having more of a muted performance against Ghana.
Mueller took just 12 minutes to open the scoring against Portugal before becoming the first player of the tournament to net a hat-trick. He also assisted Mario Goetze's opener in the Ghana match, but largely struggled to find space in that match and was effectively nullified as a striker.
Germany’s final group stage match began as the last had ended for Mueller, with the player struggling to find his way through the opposing defense as a striker. He was moved out wide in the second half and scored with an exceptional strike from the edge of the box to lift Germany to victory.
Having played a hand in a goal in every match he has featured in so far, scoring four and assisting one, Mueller is one of the most dangerous and successful attackers at the World Cup. He's absolutely Germany's most dangerous player and could yet be named the winner of the Golden Ball.