July 4th is a special day in German football history. On that day in 1954 the West Germans came from two goals down to beat Ferenc Puskás’ Mighty Magyars and lift their very first World Cup in what is known as ‘The Miracle of Bern’. Perhaps it is fitting that Joachim Löw’s side progressed on the anniversary of that game and did so with relative ease against a disappointing French team.
In a repeat of the 1982 World Cup semifinal, the French who were thus far impressive in this tournament failed to spark. Germany scored the goal that counted in the 12th minute and have now progressed to their 10th World Cup semifinal in 13 tournaments since 1966. This was an impressive display by the Germans and it’ll take something special to stop them from reaching another final.
Here are my 5 observations from the France-Germany game:
1. German midfield dominated Pogba and company
Joachim Löw made a couple of tactical switches shifting Philipp Lahm to right back and drafting in Miroslav Klose as an out and out striker. It was his midfield though that shone with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira bossing that area of the pitch. Off the ball they closed the space, overloaded the area where an opponent had possession and suffocated the French midfield. When they had the ball the trio passed with confidence and penetration. Staying tight as a unit allowed the midfield three to play intricate football and gave Lahm and Benedikt Höwedes the opportunity to break into the wide spaces. At times they threatened to cut right through the French defense.
The Germans duly took the lead in the 12th minute when Toni Kroos curled in a delightful free kick that Mats Hummel headed home after outmuscling Raphaël Varane. Shortly after Sami Khedira played in Miroslav Klose but unfortunately for the German frontman his touch was a bit too heavy.
If a team can manage to tame the trio of Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Khedira they’ll go a long way to beating the Germans.
2. France had joy with balls over the top
Despite the Germans being the better side they were vulnerable to balls over the top as a result playing a relatively high line. Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann found pockets of space and exploited the wide areas. Indeed had Karim Benzema been a little more clinical and were it not for the intervention of Manuel Neuer who made a good save from Valbuena the French could have scored a goal or two despite being off the pace.
Yohan Cabaye was playing extremely deep, at times in line with his defenders. When he did play five to ten yards further up he was able to spray long passes. More often that not though he was a fair distance away from Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba who were overrun in the midfield area. Indeed for long periods of the match the Juventus star was out of the game and didn’t really influence events as much as he would have liked.