Cacau Shines, Questions Raised in Germany's 3-0 Friendly Win Vs. Malta
An improved second half performance saw the Germans see off an inferior Malta team on Thursday. Two goals from Stuttgart's Cacau solidified the 3-0 victory for the German Nationals at Aachen's Tivoli Stadion.
Manager Joachim Low was without FC Bayern and Werder Bremen squad members, both preparing for the DFB Cup Final, skipper Michael Ballack was also unavailable, due to fine-tuning for the FA Cup with his club Chelsea. Despite the key absences, Low was still able to construct a potent lineup.
Schalke's Manuel Neuer was handed the gloves for the team's first friendly since Low named the provisional squad on May 6th. Seasoned full back Arne Friedrich wore the captain's armband for this one and Cologne striker Lukas Podolski was one of the household names in the starting XI.
The match started sweetly for the Germany. Leverkusen's Toni Kroos played the role of field general at the midfield spot, eager to display his readiness to step in as the team's new playmaker to Low and his fellow teammates.
It took only 15 minutes until international first timer Dennis Aogo of HSV played in a sweeping cross from the left wing that found the noggin of the Brazilian born Cacau at a dangerous distance of 10 yards, giving the Germans the early 1-0 advantage.
However, Germany's reason to celebrate was soon replaced by cause for concern, as several of the young international neophytes that Low is planning to build his team around couldn't convert on several clear chances during the remainder of the first half.
HSV's Piotr Trochowski came close a couple of times and the buildup play between Kroos and Bundesliga hot-shot Stefan Kiessling was excellent, but ultimately amounted to nothing.
Malta threatened to close Germany's slim lead just before the break. Michael Mifsud fired a shot on target but Manuel Neuer thwarted him with a brilliant stop, preserving Germany's lead, and possibly his starting job.
Germany took a disappointing 1-0 lead into the locker room at the break. A margin that was slender enough to trouble any German supporter.
It took until the 58th minute into Act 2 of the friendly for the Germans to build on their lead. Podolski received an up field pass and slashed into the box, ultimately laying the ball off to Cacau for an easy finish, his second tally of the day.
Podolski capped off the scoring with a cross of his own that deflected off a Malta player and into the net for an own goal. Kiessling and Trochowski struggled in the closing minutes to add a fourth goal, the score was 3-0 when the final whistle sounded.
A win is a win, but an air of frustration was palpable after the friendly. "We carved out a lot of good chances, but our finishing was too slack at times as well. We should have won by a higher margin” Joachim Low summarized.
Lackluster match performances from Stefan Kiessling and Trochowski saw them create a lot of chances, but they were unable to produce on many occasions against a weak Malta side. Once again, a lack of international experience will be the knock on Kiessling as Germany takes a break and heads down to Sicily for a regenerative training camp.
Cacau's performance has to be encouraging for a team that desperately needs a viable third scoring option, preferably a pure striker. Low's starting 4-3-3 formation is solid evidence of this.
Despite the many unanswered questions Germany's unconvincing friendly win brought about, the fact of the matter is that it was an expected, comfortable win that saw Germany prevail whilst missing roughly half of their first choice squad. Once Low reels in the entire team, then Germany can expect to start really building upon these charity matches.
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