Are Germany Vulnerable in the Knockout Stages of the World Cup?

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Are Germany Vulnerable in the Knockout Stages of the World Cup?
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Germany take on African opponents Algeria at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Monday in their opening tie of the World Cup knockout stages.

Yet following a rather dismissive race to the top of Group G, many have begun to question whether Germany are a little vulnerable as they move into the latter stages of the competition. 

Although Joachim Low's side have been quite fortunate to draw Algeria—with the likes of Belgium, Russia and even South Korea available as possible opponents from Group H—fans of Die Mannschaft will be far from relaxed at the prospect of going up against another African side. 

Specific issues do continue to trouble some fans. The form and overall performances given from Benedikt Hoewedes strikes many as far from that of a left-back ready to win the World Cup, while Low's constant reshuffling of the three central midfielders can't be too good for cohesion, either. 

Germany are perhaps the strongest in the tournament when it comes to squad strength, and Low has tried to make full use of that with the ever-changing midfield and forward line. However, his side just haven't looked consistent at all thus far, and that can't help their chances of going all the way to the final. 

This is all down to the fact that Group G opponents Ghana almost staged one of the competition's most heroic upsets when they came up against Germany and were unfortunate to only gain a draw from the match. 

Squawka.com

The Black Stars were truly relentless on the day, as the Squawka.com graphic above of each side's shots throughout the game shows, and they actually created more chances than Low's team. This game was where we saw Germany's vulnerability and exactly why many fear for their susceptibility in the coming rounds. 

Low will of course point to the fact that Germany simply succumbed to second-game syndrome—a process by which a side let their guard down in the second match of the group following a convincing opening-day win—but there is a lot more to it than that. 

As stated on Whoscored.com, Ghana actually created more key passes than Germany on the day, whilst they also dribbled almost twice as often as their European opponents. And it wasn't just in attack, either; Ghana also outranked Germany in interceptions by 23 to seven.

There is absolutely no doubt about it: The African side completely outplayed their European opponents in every department that day. 

Datawrapper.de

Yet Germany still held on for a result. 

The final game of the group, against the United States, offered very little to get excited about, either, with a simple 1-0 victory against an opponent who never seemed interested in competing. 

To be fair to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, his priority was to ensure that his side's goal difference remained higher than that of the Portuguese. Without a single shot on goal, the U.S. went through to the knockout rounds with Germany at little cost. 

Where the question marks arise is in the manner of Germany's victory on the day—a simple 1-0 win over the U.S.—which really should have been much higher considering the standard of the opponent. 

With players such as Mario Goetze, Mesut Ozil and Miroslav Klose in the side, Germany should have really racked up a healthy goal tally that day, yet they didn't seem interested in it at all. Rather than World Cup contenders, they looked flat and lacking ambition. 

Competitions such as the World Cup are all about momentum, and the group stages should have really offered a genuine opportunity for Germany to build up some speed and hit the knockout rounds at full pace.

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Instead, we found Germany flash at first against Portugal only to come down to a steady jog by the end of their Group G campaign. Enough to get through, but not quite what we expected from a team built on hard work and team morale. 

Low's side are strong favourites to overcome Vahid Halilhodzic's Algerian side, and they probably will do exactly that. But we may just find Thomas Mueller and Co. struggling to up their game when genuine opponents come searching for answers. 

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