Germany's Best Option Against Brazil Might Be Joachim Low's 1st Instinct

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew watches his team from the sidelines during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Germany and Algeria at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

For a World Cup that has provided more than its fair share of thrilling moments, it is interesting that four of the more functional sides in the competition are through to the semi-finals.

The Netherlands were spectacular against Spain but haven't convinced since, going through by finding new and varied ways to win every time. Despite the presence of Lionel Messi and his occasional moments of genius, Argentina haven't exactly been dazzling. Brazil laboured even before their two best players were ruled out.

Then there's Germany, for whom Joachim Low conducted an extended experiment based on Pep Guardiola's insistence on playing Philipp Lahm in midfield, putting Germany through to the quarter-finals with a team that was meant to flow like Bayern, but aside from the thrashing of Portugal in the opening game, never really did.

Sergei Grits/Associated Press

However, Low changed his side for that quarter-final against France, employing a slightly more conventional system with Lahm back in his old full-back role and Miroslav Klose as a traditional centre-forward, replacing the false-nine approach with Mario Goetze in the earlier games.

There was nothing necessarily wrong with Low's original approach in theory, but it didn't make the best use of the resources available to him.

Lahm has proved himself to be a fine midfielder over the last season (and indeed he would probably be excellent wherever he played). However, picking him there meant Low had to find an alternate right-back, but the options there were simply not fit for purpose.

If we are to assume that Lahm is both Germany's best right-back and best holding midfielder, Low's decision then rests in which is the better second-best player in both positions. He may have been hampered by Sami Khedira's fitness issues in the early games, but the Real Madrid man is at worst a fine deputy for Lahm, as he proved in his introduction against France.

The question for Low now is which team to pick in this gargantuan game against the hosts. Does he revert to Plan A, with a rapid attack fed by a midfield with Lahm looking to move the ball around as quickly as possible, or stick with Plan B, with a specialist striker and a more solid, if a little more pedestrian, midfield?

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

The argument for Plan A, leaving Lahm in midfield and moving Jerome Boateng to right-back, is actually strengthened by the opposition on Tuesday.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Without the injured Neymar, Brazil have been pretty toothless in attack, perhaps meaning that Low can afford to sacrifice something in defence in order to take advantage of a fairly leaden Brazilian midfield.

Luiz Gustavo will return after suspension, but neither Paulinho nor Fernandinho have been particularly inspiring, so Lahm's presence, along with Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger, might be enough for Germany to really dominate the middle of the park.

Up front is a slightly trickier issue.

Brazil will, of course, be without Thiago Silva through suspension, but Bayern Munich's Dante should step in, meaning the step down in quality won't be particularly steep.

So which attacking option is better?

Klose looked lacklustre against France, displaying few of the poaching instincts that saw him equal the World Cup scoring record, so perhaps Goetze might be the more effective option.

The pressure might be on Low from back home to choose a more "traditional" system, but he must select the right team for the situation, and this time the best option might be his first instinct.