Germany vs. Argentina: Sabella's Substitutes Surrender the Match to Low

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 13, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 13:  Head coach Alejandro Sabella of Argentina gestures during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Germany lifted their fourth FIFA World Cup on Sunday evening after beating Argentina 1-0 in extra time.

A cagey match was decided by super-substitute Mario Goetze, who fired home on the volley after great work by Andre Schurrle down the left.

Formations and XIs


Germany intended to go unchanged in a 4-2-3-1 but were forced to replace Sami Khedira, who pulled up injured in the warm-up, with Christoph Kramer.

Argentina started Ezequiel Lavezzi up front for his fourth consecutive game and left Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero on the bench.

Germany on the Ball

Germany's possession dominance became clear from the off, recycling the ball cleanly and working each area of the pitch for weakness.

By the 20-minute mark they'd racked up 71 percent of the possession, per WhoScored.com, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos dominating with 60-plus touches.

They soon settled on the right-hand side as the most profitable outlet, targeting Marcos Rojo (a centre-back by trade) by pushing Philipp Lahm forward and allowing him to combine with the clever Thomas Mueller.

Miroslav Klose often drifted over and dragged Ezequiel Garay with him, opening holes in the central zones for Kroos and Co. to fill.

Argentine Counter-Measures

Alejandro Sabella played a reactive game, surrendered possession and sat seven or eight behind the ball.

It's how this Argentina side plays best, as when they're forced to dominate possession they tend to move the ball too slowly, lack true width and struggle to get around opponents' formations.

Enzo Perez played out of position on the left side to help protect Rojo and track Lahm, while Ezequiel Lavezzi started on the right to try to take advantage of any one-vs.-one opportunities with Benedikt Hoewedes.

Mueller, Ozil & Kroos vs. Mascherano.
Mueller, Ozil & Kroos vs. Mascherano.Squawka.com

Gonzalo Higuain's deep positioning drew Mats Hummels and the German defensive line forward, and Lionel Messi played a free role that enabled to him to spring into space wherever it appeared.

Lavezzi and Messi were the biggest first-half threats with the ball at their feet, creating two clear-cut chances that forced Jerome Boateng and Hummels into vital defensive action.

Three No. 10s?

After a cautious opening spell, Germany began pushing midfielders forward, trying to create space between Argentina's defensive and midfield lines.

That meant dropping Kroos in and around Javier Mascherano, bringing Mesut Ozil inside and bringing Mueller off the edge to make room for Lahm's runs.

Crowded: Ozil, Mueller, Gotze, Kramer and Schweinsteiger all played in a similar area.
Crowded: Ozil, Mueller, Gotze, Kramer and Schweinsteiger all played in a similar area.FourFourTwo.com/StatsZone

What Die Mannschaft ended up with, essentially, was three No. 10s trying to find space between the lines—specifically in the central and right channels.

Getting in behind Lucas Biglia and Perez was easy enough, but Mascherano was at his imperious best in the heart of midfield and quelled most attacks that came his way.

What Low needed, in truth, was to take one No. 10 out and create an out-ball on the left, but Ozil isn't suitable for that and Lahm's link-up with Mueller is too good to sacrifice.

Game-Changing Substitutes

Alejandro Sabella made bad substitutions that reduced his own side's attacking threat, losing him the game in the process. Low's subs look fantastic on paper—he brought on Goetze who scored the winner—but it was Sabella who surrendered this tactical match.

After the bright start to the second half, in which Argentina switched from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-1-2 and created five minutes of pressure, they leveled out and flat-lined.


Lavezzi, their most impressive dribbling threat, was taken off at half-time for Aguero who looked hesitant, rusty and unwilling to run beyond.

Later Rodrigo Palacio came on for Gonzalo Higuain, and while the latter had a very bad day, Palacio was even worse. He sabotaged every single one of his team's attacks without fail, miscontrolling, shooting wide, being tackled and being crowded out.

The pattern of Argentina's game was set out for victory: Mascherano tackles, one raking pass into the channel, goalscoring chance. Unfortunately, every chance seemingly fell to Palacio.


This Germany side are young, hungry, multitalented and wildly impressive.

Lahm and Schweinsteiger can seal their careers with this achievement, Low will finally get the recognition he deserves and had Khedira not pulled up in the warm-up, this could have been done in 90 minutes.

It was by no means a walkover—the consensus Man of the Match was Jerome Boateng for a reason—but there was only one winner here despite Die Mannschaft being dealt so many injury blows.

Sabella retires on the back of a colossal disappointment, but second place is nothing to be sniffed at. Tactically La Albiceleste were questionable throughout the tournament, but the biggest thing that let them down was the poor performances from every central midfielder not named Mascherano.


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