The false No 9 has been a favoured strategy for German coach Joachim Loew for some time now, and his team selection for Euro 2016 made it evident that the strategy will be used in the European Championships.
Loew decided to include just three forwards in the 23-man squad, with the 30-year old Mario Gomez being the only out-and-out striker among them. Sure enough, he started the tournament with Goetze playing the false No 9 against Poland before opting for Gomez in the later stages. It was injury that led to the German’s downfall in the semifinal against France.
Gomez was the highest scorer for the Germans with two goals to his name and the world champions looked the most powerful with him on the pitch. As a result, Loew did not opt for the striker-less formation after the first match of the tournament and the team looked dominant from that point onwards.
But, Gomez picked up an injury during the quarterfinal match against Italy and his absence loomed large as they faced France with Thomas Muller at the front.
The plan would have worked for Germans as Muller is a world-class finisher, but this wasn’t the Bayern man’s tournament. He worked hard to play as the main man at the heart of the German attack, but ended the tournament without a goal to his name. As a result, the Germans were unable to find a single goal against the hosts despite having 67.9% possession and 18 shots on goal.
At the end of the match, Loew summed it up. “In 2010 and 2012 when we went out, the sides were better than us. Today, that was not the case. If we would have scored, we would have dominated this match to a large extent… everyone was shocked (at going behind).”
The false No 9 strategy did not work for the Germans, but it was worse for its true pioneers.
The tactic was famously used by Spain during their title run at the Euro 2016, although the team still boasted of true strikers like David Villa or Fernando Torres. But even the Spanish team did not find much luck in the 2016 edition of the European Championships as they were defeated by Italy in the round of 16. The team faced a problem similar to the German team, but the reasons were quite different.
The Spanish side stuck to their possession football, but the finishing was missing when it came to the young strikers chosen by Vicente del Bosque.
Although youngster Alvaro Morata scored three goals for his team, he had almost no support from the other side, with only two other players finding the back of the net in the entire tournament. Spain also dominated possession in most of the matches, but it was their lack of finishing which resulted in their early elimination from the competition.
Spain and Germany were both quite good in this tournament when it came to possession, but their downfall lay in the conversion of chances. But, this is an aspect that can be improved by both teams by getting better strikers for the future and it can be safely said that their elimination marked the end of the campaign, not an era.