Germany and Poland played out the first goalless draw of the 2016 European Championship in Paris on Thursday. Though it was frustrating to watch revered internationals failing to score, it was not all drab. Here are our five takeaways from the game.
Poles are a delight
Yes. Most German fans would disagree on that, and they may have a point or two, for Poland had only 37% possession, had no shots on target against Germany’s 3, and their number of passes, 184, looked abysmally low in comparison to Germany’s 523.
But then a little context won’t hurt. No team had scored more goals in the European Championship qualification than Poland. With Robert Lewandowski pairing with the young Arkadiusz Milik, goals had been coming thick and fast for Poland. Against, Germany, Poland showed they can also do an Atletico Madrid. This versatility would do any team good in a knockout tournament.
On that two forwards
When was the last time a not-so-bad team used two proper strikers up front? The two-striker formation has gone so out of rage that even when teams have two very good ones in their squad, rarely use them together up front. For instance at Paris Saint-Germain, Edinson Cavani had to endure the flanks while Zlatan Ibrahimovic ruled the opposition penalty box.
It is no different internationally, even England, whose love for 4-4-2 runs deep, do not use Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane together as two proper strikers. On that note, to see Lewandowski and Milik together up front, and combining well, though they failed to score against Germany, was a welcome respite.
False nines are great. There is a reason why a lot progressive managers like to use them. It puts the opposition defence in a conundrum, unable to decide who among the drifting forwards is the focal point, and thereby who to guard against the most. It also adds fluidity to a team’s attack, since most false nines are superb ball players.
Having said that, Mario Goetze as false nine in Germany has been woefully disappointing. It maybe that Goetze is short of match experience and confidence, or he has taken practice session lightly (he does look a little heavier, doesn’t he?). Whatever the reason, Germany with Goetze up front look less intimidating.
Hello, Mueller there?
Thomas Mueller is an enigma. Most pundits do not get him. Most players do not get him. Sometimes, it appears he doesn’t understand it himself. But Mueller has an uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time. That has helped him score a lot of goals, especially at cup tournaments, so much so that he is ahead of Diego Maradona in World Cup goal tally.
This Euro, however, Mueller hasn’t shown that ability. He is doing well on other areas, especially that chance he created for Toni Kroos in the first half was commendable. But with Germany unable to find the right forward, the onus is on Mueller to step up.
Loew needs to scratch, his head
Germany coach Joachim Loew started the game with Mario Goetze as the front man, rather a false nine. Later, with that looking unconvincing, he pushed Goetze wide and brought Thomas Mueller to the role. That experiment lasted just a few minutes, before Mario Gomez (good to see you, Gomez. But, goodbye) came on to lead the lineup as a proper targetman. None of that looked promising.
With Goetze failing as a false nine, there would be the expected clamour to start Gomez. But Gomez as striker would not complement the passing ingenuity of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil; he is no Plan A. Whatever be the case, Loew needs to scratch his head and decide on a front man. Can Julian Draxler play there or would Andre Schurrle be a better bet? Loew, you have to do it yourself, we can’t help you here.