Although Germany continued their march toward World Cup success on Monday with a 2-1 win over Algeria, it was the type of victory that felt almost like defeat through the manner of the performance.
Joachim Low's side spent much of the game as the second best team on the park, as plucky Algeria defied the odds and pushed the German side all the way to extra time; an enjoyable game for neutrals alike but one that Thomas Mueller and Co. will rarely enjoy revisiting.
What was most remarkable about Germany's performance was the collective lack of incentive or belief that seems to have spread throughout the side since their humbling 2-2 draw with Ghana in the group stages.
The two games that followed—the final group game against the United States and Monday's knockout clash with Algeria—should have been fairly enjoyable affairs for German fans across the world, but instead both opponents exposed an ugly truth to Low's team; too many of this side's key players simply aren't up to scratch.
The most notable of these was Mesut Ozil—Arsenal's most expensive transfer ever and undoubtedly the attacking linchpin of this side—who once again drifted through another match for Germany as no more than a passenger.
Where Ozil would once demand the centre of attention from his national teammates and decide the fate of international games as well as Andres Iniesta or Andrea Pirlo, he now offers no more than an extra body in attack and a lazy final ball.
His goal in the 119th minute of Monday's game was quite befitting for all the wrong reasons; having received a perfect pass from Andre Schurrle, Ozil opted to instead pass it back to the Chelsea player rather than finish the move himself. It was only once the rebounded shot had returned to him that the attacking midfielder thumped the ball in with nothing but pure instinct.
A goal neither he nor Germany deserved and one that the troubled playmaker almost did his utmost to stop from going in.
However, what will ultimately bother Low more than anything else is the manner in which Ozil's poor form is affecting the way his side attack with the ball.
Despite being two very different sides, Germany and their opponents in the next round, France, actually play with a similar 4-3-3 system. Yet it is this French side who have thrived through their in-form winger Mathieu Valbuena; a player who plays a similar role to Ozil but is likely to completely outshine him on Friday.
If we were to look at the crosses from each player in Monday's games, via the Squawka.com graphics above and below that display Valbuena and Ozil's crosses respectively, we can see just how more involved Valbuena seems to be in the French attack compared to his German counterpart.
What our German playmaker really lacks is the direct line to goal. Low's decision to stick with both Ozil and Mario Goetze—two inside, attacking midfielders—rather than more conventional wide players has at times suffocated Germany's attack.
It was only once we saw the introduction of Schurrle, a winger by trade, that their front line really began to open up. The Chelsea forward ran the lines, took on his markers and most importantly crossed the ball as Valbuena does for France, eventually leading to him scoring the first goal and assisting for the second.
It may seem like an oversimplification of what is a very modern and complicated player role, but what Germany really need from Ozil at this competition is to simply hit that goal line and cross the ball into the box. With goalscoring strikers such as Mueller and Miroslav Klose constantly awaiting such service in the box it should seem almost too obvious, yet the German wideman continuously fails to deliver.
When we take a look at the table above, which shows the average crosses of some of the World Cup's best wide players, as recorded by Whoscored.com, we can see the clear correlation between the success of these players this summer and their ability to get the ball into the opponent's box.
Fans of Ozil will point to the fact that this isn't how he plays his game for Arsenal or indeed how he usually plays under Low for Germany, yet with the unfortunate injury to Marco Reus prior to the competition this is a responsibility that has fallen on him and something that he has to address if he hopes to make something of this World Cup.
Germany aren't a great side at the moment—it would seem that no side in this competition are—but if they can get Ozil back to his best then it would go a long way to ensuring that they don't end up on an early flight back to Berlin. Fix Ozil's form and you may well fix Germany.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!