Germany edged France, 1-0, in a match with far less fireworks than expected to reach the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup. While the Mannschaft will be happy to move one step closer to the ultimate goal, their form must improve in order to raise the trophy.
As expected, the Germans have been able to control the pace of their matches thanks to strong play in the midfield leading to a possession edge. A troublesome trend has developed since the last game of the group stage, however.
In that fixture, Germany was the clear aggressor against a United States side that was desperately trying to hold on to survive the "Group of Death." Despite dominating possession and creating numerous chances, it only scored a single goal.
There was no initial concern because the Mannschaft had scored six goals over their first two matches, including four against Portugal.
Then a common theme started to develop against Algeria in the round of 16. Germany controlled a majority of the match and generated more than two dozen attempts, but it couldn't find the net during regulation.
The side went on to score twice in extra time to earn a 2-1 victory. It should have never come that close to a massive upset, though.
Coming into the tournament, the singular concern about an otherwise rock-solid German squad was the lack of strikers. Miroslav Klose was the only true forward on the roster. It's a fear that's proven accurate since the clash with the United States.
The trend continued against France as the only goal came courtesy of a Mats Hummels header. Klose drew the start from manager Joachim Low, who was surely hoping the 36-year-old veteran could showcase some of his prime form.
Instead, WhoScored.com provided some worrisome stats concerning both the team's lone striker and one of its most influential playmakers:
Afterward, Football Italia passed along comments from Low, who said his side was focused on shutting down the dangerous French attack and that led to the lack of goals:
I think both teams played well defensively today.
There weren't many goalscoring opportunities, so that went according to plan. We didn't want to give France chances with the quality of strikers they possess. We closed them down well—and that was the key.
It's not a surprise to see the head coach put a positive spin on the performance because his squad did move through to the semifinals. But the reality is the attack was once again too easily contained in the final third.
Is Germany the team to beat in the World Cup?
Looking ahead, Germany will face either Brazil or Colombia in the next round. Though avoiding the hosts would be the preferred result, both potential opponents are very dangerous on the counter and that means improved offensive efficiency is critical for the Germans.
Low must continue to tinker with the lineup in hope of finding the right combination. The lack of touches for Klose suggests he's not the right target to lead an attack at this stage of a career. Thomas Mueller probably belongs in the middle.
The decisions he makes will end up playing a key role in whether or not Germany wins the tournament. If the attack finally clicks, the rest of the squad is definitely playing well enough to capture the title they have worked four years to attain.
If not, surviving two more matches against elite competition will be an uphill battle.