For so long, German teams were perceived as cohesive, diligent and supremely disciplined. But at the 2010 World Cup, that notion was obliterated, as a youthful team swept teams aside a host of nations with a stylish swagger. Four years on, they currently look like a team stuck in limbo between those two aforementioned philosophies.
Joachim Low’s team pass the ball with panache, for sure. But having lost Dortmund forward Marco Reus prior to the tournament, there is a sense that this German team is lacking an attacking edge to their play.
But without wanting to be clichéd, they’ve been very efficient and extremely tough to beat. They were given a scare by the counter-attacking prowess of Algeria in the Round of 16, but they eventually forced their way through to the quarter-finals, where they’ll take on a France team that have shown glimpses of real quality throughout this competition.
Here’s a full rundown of Low’s team ahead of their clash with Les Bleus, and a look at how they are likely to fare against Didier Deschamps’ progressing French outfit.
Likely Line-Up vs. France:
Editor’s note: The team selection was created before news was announced that Lahm may start in defense, instead.
What have they done well?
Primarily, kept the ball. In the metrenomic Toni Kroos, they have arguably the best playmaker remaining in the tournament, and a central midfield triumvirate of him, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm have proven extremely effective at preserving the German initiative in that area of the pitch.
Some of the movement between the front three has also been very pleasing on the eye. Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil are the men Low has chosen to spearhead the German attack, but with none of those players what you’d call a natural centre forward, they tend to roam about the pitch.
That makes it very hard for the opposition defenders to pin the German forwards down, and when these three get it right—like they did in their 4-0 hammering of Portugal in their tournament opener—they’re perilously difficult to contain.
Off the ball, the Germans have also been very industrious their work. They press high up the pitch with plenty of aggression, limiting the time afforded to the opposition players on the ball. Teams have tried to exploit this high line with some direct passing, but so far, sweeper-keeper extraordinaire Manuel Neuer has been able to prevent any major scares.
Which players have shone?
Typically, the German skipper Lahm has not put a foot wrong. After starring in a central midfield role for Bayern Munich throughout the course of the 2013/14 campaign, Low has utilised his broad skill-set in the heart of the pitch too. Lahm’s impeccable standards never seem to waver and whether as a full-back of a midfielder, his influence is irrepressible.
Muller has been Germany’s other star performer, leading the line with distinction. His performances have been bristling with endeavour, intelligence and a clinical edge in front of goal. He has the desirable trait of popping up with big goals for this Germany team and looking ahead, he’s the most likely of the front three to cause big problems for the French defence.