As expected, Germany made short work of Kazakhstan in their Euro Qualifying game, winning it comfortably by four goals to nil. Braces each from veteran striker Klose and Bayern Munich youngster Müller made it look like a cakewalk in the end. This was their very second face-off with the European minnows and Germany dictated terms right from the word go, maintaining 70% of the possession throughout the game.
This victory makes it five out of five for Jogi Löw’s team in the qualifier, eight points ahead of second placed Austria, who suffered a shock defeat at home against Belgium. A victory in the next game will seal their qualification to Euro Championship and the players are warming up to that occasion.
Löw did not make any changes in his strategy that he adopted during the World Cup. The same old 4-2-3-1. The only difference being that instead of sitting back they have looked to attack and pressurize the opponents whenever they lost the ball. It was largely expected, as they played against lowly ranked Kazakhstan. Continuing to play Müller and Podolski in the wide midfielders’ role again proved fruitful for Löw. Though, they have been harnessed to track back and help the fullbacks with defensive duties, it is their goal scoring intent that helps the team produce attacking threat every now and then and it never looks like Germany play with a single striker up front. The adaptability of Müller and Prince Poldi transforms the tactics from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 with fast, one touch movement and Özil pulls the string from the centre, coordinating with the rest of the players upfront.
Kaiserslautern was ready for the occasion with huge expectation. Löw maintained that he was looking for an early goal to put pressure on the opponents. Germany had five Bayern Munich players in the starting lineup and later on Kroos and Gomez came on as substitutes. Klose seemed to have read the script well and within three minutes he gave Germany the lead, in front of a packed Fritz Walter Stadion where the veteran maestro cut his Bundesliga teeth. It was folLöwed by a brace from Müller, making it 3-0 before going to the break. In the second half Germany failed to turn up to the extent the crowd expected and the game lost its color for the next half an hour or so. 12 minutes from time, with the introduction of Kroos and Gotze, Germany looked sharp again and after creating 4-5 quick chances the Germans found their fourth goal in the form of a brace for Klose who is hot on the heels of Gerd Muller’s record. Let’s have a look at how each of them faired in this contest between the unequals.
Manuel Neuer: He was hardly involved in the game. He touched the ball for the first time on the 21st minute. In the second half he was called on action more frequently but he was never tested not even once in the entire game.
Philipp Lahm: Der Kapitän turned up big time in this game. Did not have to do much in defense. Teamed up excellently with Müller in the right flank. He came close to score a goal himself when he leapfrogged a couple of Kazakh defenders and played a cheeky one-two with Müller inside the penalty box, but could not control his shot from a close range. His slalom dribbling runs posed threat to the Kazakh defenders throughout the game and had Gomez taken the chance in the closing time, he would have got an assist as well.
Per Mertesacker: Not going through a good domestic season and it showed in his game. He has sLöwed down considerably and was caught for lack of speed on quite a few occasion. Came mighty close to concede a penalty when Kukeyev almost rounded him off.
Holger Badstuber: A good solid performance from the underfire Bayern Munich rookie. Won the ball on every occasion by putting in decent challenges and played the part of the ball playing defender well. Must have been instructed otherwise, as a result of which he wasn’t seen in the centre of any of Germany’s set pieces.
Dennis Aogo: Was not tested defensively so it is difficult to rate his defensive capabilities. Paired up brilliantly with Podolski down the left flank and won a few corners for the hosts. The third goal resulted from one of those corners.
Bastian Schweinsteiger: Just like Badstuber, did the right thing unspectacularly. He Held the ball well. Synchronized well with Khedira. Assisted Klose’s as well as Germany’s first goal from the set piece. Made 147 touches on the ball and was replaced twelve minutes from time when he gave way to teammate Kroos.
Sami Khedira: Amidst rumors of him moving to Juventus in a swap deal from Real Madrid, Khedira played well alongside Schweini. Did well to win the ball from in front of the penalty box and after drawing Loriya, the Kazakh goal keeper towards him, he assisted Klose for his second of night. Should have scored one goal himself, when he failed to keep the header down from the far post in the second half.
Thomas Müller: Till date he had a forgettable Euro qualifier campaign. Though he had two assists to his name, he had not scored a single goal in the campaign and was only able to muster six shots off the target. Tonight was perhaps his night. Played dinky passes with Lahm and Özil and breached opponent’s penalty box on numerous occasions. He scored with beautiful flick off his head for the first goal. He was at the right place in the right time to pull off his second with a cool chest trap and shoot from an Özil cross. His clever backheel almost resulted in a goal for Lahm.
Mesut Özil: Der Neue Diego is perhaps in the form of his life. Assisted both of Müller’s goals. One from a set-piece and the other one, right from the edge of the penalty box folLöwing a clearance off a corner. Teamed up with Podolski on a number of occasions. Had he not suffered from ‘After you’ syndrome, might have had a couple of shots on goal. Wasted a couple of chances by trying to be too cheeky inside the box instead of shooting, but otherwise did well enough to feed Müller and especially Podolski.
Lukas Podolski: The Koln captain paired up well with Aogo to create havoc down the left flank before being substituted by Gomez. Invaded the penalty box on a number of occasions but was lost in execution. He seemed undecided whether to shoot or cross the ball. His indecision got the better of him and he shoot from a distance when he should have put in a cross, tried to play cheeky one-twos or crossed the ball when he should have had a couple of shots on goal. He must improve his judgment.
Miroslav Klose: He was going through a tough time, having scored only once in the season. But he celebrated his ten years of services to Die Nationalmannschaft in style. Ten years ago, on his debut, he came on at around 72nd minute and scored the winner in a game against Albania. Tonight he scored a couple of goals too, taking his tally to 61 goals from 107 games, only seven goals shy off Der Bomber’s national record. He had a few more bites on the cherry, two of which were spectacularly saved by Loriya, the Kazakh number one.
Mario Gomez: Came in for Podolski and had around 25 minutes to cement his place in the side. Unfortunately, the man who has scored 30 goals from 38 matches in this season failed to turn up. Managed to complete only seven touches and was hardly involved. Should have scored from Lahm’s cross in the dying moments but he put his effort wide of the target from a very close range.
Toni Kroos: He took part for the final 12 minutes, replacing Schweinsteiger. His introduction along with that of Gotze brought back the early goal scoring spirit again.
Mario Gotze: Only twelve minutes to play for. The 18-year old Dortmund whizkid replaced Müller. Made 26 touches on the ball and completed 14 out of 14 passes. Almost provided an assist when he cut inside the penalty box, skipped past two Kazakh defenders and found Klose unmarked, who unfortunately made a mess of the chance.
Despite this sweet disposition, there are a few of glitches that Löw must address to. From the very beginning it looked like Kazakhstan are in for a shellacking. And despite letting in four goals it did not turn out to be one. The Kazakh coach was of course glad to avoid a heavier defeat. After the break Germany just failed to turn up. Yes, they already had the game in their pocket and there was no need to exert more pressure. If that was the case, then Gomez, Kroos and Gotze should have been given more playing time to impress Löw with what they can do. It happened in the international friendly against Italy as well, a few months back when they lacked the killer instinct to finish off the game. They created the opportunities but more importantly they blew them off with great aplomb. Germany should maintain their concentration and commitment level, irrespective of the opposition and what the scoresheet reads.
Germany has been trying to be too cheeky inside the penalty box. In a bid to make the build up look like eye candy stuff, they let shooting opportunities go by. It was very disappointing to see Podolski trying to find his teammates when he was in a good position to shoot or Özil playing the role of the Good Samaritan by helping other find the net when he was left with an opportunity. Schweinsteiger seemed to have totally forgotten his skills of shooting from the distance.
Defense is still a suspect. Both the centre halves Badstuber and Mertesacker have been pretty ordinary in the domestic season. But Löw took the risk of playing them together. Against Kazakhstan the pressure was not felt much. Though, Mertesacker tried hard to question Löw’s decision of selecting him by almost conceding a penalty in the second half. He has sLöwed down considerably. In the game against Italy, he was unable to recover once he was beaten in pace by Guiseppe Rossi. His partner Badstuber is having a forgettable season as well. His positioning, decision making and tackling has all been put under scrutiny. Yet Löw included him in the side, overlooking an ever impressive Hummels. It will be interesting to see how these two perform against the likes of Belgium and Turkey, who are more potent than Kazakhstan. It will be hard to ignore a talent like Hummels and any mistakes by the current centre half pairing will question the decision of Hummels’ exclusion.
Löw has so far tried five fullbacks for the left back spot since the World Cup – Boateng, Westermann, Jansen, Aogo and Schmelzer. It’s now time for him to concentrate on a couple of names for that position. Boateng hasn’t had a good time playing for his new employers Manchester City. Westermann was brilliant defensively in the first three Euro qualifiers but he was not offering much attacking threat. Defense is a suspect for Jansen, who has a penchant of playing a more attacking role. Aogo has proved to be a decent prospect. But he has not been tested much defensively. In the game against Italy he was caught out of position on a few occasions but managed to recover. Schmelzer is another hot prospect. Löw must zero in onto a couple of options as fullbacks to bring back stability in the side.
Presently Germany has only Klose and Gomez as strikers. It will be interesting to see whom Löw picks up for the upcoming games, especially in the international friendly against Autralia. Schurrle and Mlapa are interesting options. Even Podolski, who has been amongst goals of late, can be used up front and making way for Großkreutz or Kroos to fill Podolski’s shoes in the left side of midfield.