Sami Khedira Role Pays off for Germany in World Cup Drubbing of Brazil

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

Germany's Sami Khedira celebrates after scoring his side's fifth goal as Brazil's David Luiz, left, passes by during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Brazil and Germany at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Sami Khedira was the perfect example of how well Germany overcame Brazil in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Tuesday night. 

As well as scoring a rare goal for himself, it was the Real Madrid player's tireless closing down and passing from one box to another that showcased a perfect blend of technique and strength that has turned Joachim Low's side into potential world champions. 

Khedira was ever-present in Germany's success on the night with a performance that will undoubtedly go down as one of the key highlights of his career. 

Like a complete midfielder, the towering German was often the last tackle most Brazilians faced before reaching Manuel Neuer's goal, as well as the first player to close their buckling defensive line down with the intense pressure that would eventually overcome the hosts. 

It was Low's tactics—a notable highlight of Germany's success this summer—which made Khedira push much further up the pitch and, with the help of Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose, effectively break Brazil's attack down before it had even left the defence. 


As we can see from the Squawka graphic above, showcasing Khedira's heat map throughout the match, the midfielder spent a lot of time covering his defence when needed, but he also paid just as much attention to Brazil's own back line, closing down deep-lying midfielders and tracking wandering full-backs. 

On Tuesday night, in the heart of Belo Horizonte, Khedira was simply everywhere for Germany, playing a perfect game to ensure his side finally overcame their semi-final hurdle. 

One of the most notable differences in Khedira's game comes when team captain Philipp Lahm isn't in the midfield trio.

This may seem rather odd, considering the Bayern player's brilliance throughout the competition, but when we look at Khedira's behaviour with and without Lahm it becomes clear that he suits playing with just Schweinsteiger and Kroos. 


The graphic above, from FourFourTwo's Statzone, shows Khedira's passing on Tuesday night against Brazil. As we can clearly see the midfielder was tasked with playing on the right side of midfield and keeping tabs on Marcelo's attacking runs down Germany's right wing. 

As a natural box-to-box midfielder, Khedira spent plenty of time covering his right-back, as we can see from the amount of passes he made in his own half. But he also spent a large portion of his game pushing up the right wing and supporting Thomas Mueller in attack. 

This is because Khedira was playing alongside Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger—two holding playmakers for club and country—and was well aware of the fact that he could make late runs into the opposing half without leaving Germany's midfield exposed. 

Like any successful midfield partnership across the sport, Schweinsteiger and Khedira have a natural understanding of each other's game plan. That in turn simplifies things for the Madrid star and allows him to play his game effectively—as we saw against Brazil. 

When we introduce Lahm into the equation, things become a little more complicated. 

Despite clearly being a very talented defender, whenever Lahm plays in midfield, he actually tends to take up the role of box-to-box midfielder rather than anything akin to a defensive midfielder—the very same job as Khedira. 

Rather than having one player sit and the other track runs, both Lahm and Khedira tend to overlap in their responsibilities and in turn make for a rather ineffective German midfield. 


In the graphic above, again via FourFourTwo's Statzone, we see Khedira's movement and passing against Ghana when he was asked to play alongside Lahm in midfield. 

Unlike Tuesday's performance against Brazil, Khedira clearly didn't enjoy himself against Ghana as we can see from the total lack of consistency in any of his passes and the positions in which he found himself throughout the match. 

Despite playing in the exact same position—the right side of midfield—Khedira found himself getting dragged out to the other side of Germany's formation whilst also making longer, riskier passes across the park.

Of course, we shouldn't take anything away from Ghana's excellent performance on the day, but it is evident that Khedira struggled to play his usual game with Lahm in the holding role instead of Schweinsteiger.

Our Madrid star is an exceptional talent but one who begins to unravel when asked to play in the German midfield without the status quo.

Fortunately for Die Mannschaft, Low has been quick to pick up on this and now seems to have committed to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has Lahm in defence, Khedira in midfield and Germany back winning games. 

With this old system back in place, we should continue to see the best of this talented midfielder in a role that he simply thrives in.

Come Sunday night we may just see another perfect performance from Khedira, as he showed against Brazil, but this time for the ultimate prize: the World Cup.