Sunday, July 4, 2010

Direct Germans should pass Spain

Germany surged past England and then Argentina on their way to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Their direct style of play and astute tactical display helped them to crush both teams.

Spain however represent a different and more difficult challenge. England were slow, off form and had a very bad defensive display while Argentina had a poorly balanced side while Germany had their best display yet to dismantle the South Americans. Spain have the best passers in the world and are able to hold possession for long periods of time as well as having a top striker on form in David Villa.

The Germans will however cause the Spanish many problems through their lethal counter attack. The speed with which they break will cause any team problems but could cause undue difficulty to Spain who on many occasions leave themselves severely understaffed at the back. If they stick to the current line up with Villa on the left, Torres through the middle and Iniesta down the right Sergio Ramos will have to push up further than usual to cover for the gap left by Iniesta when he pushes infield much like Steven Gerrard. This will leave a gap at the back for Oezil and co to exploit.
The Spanish team is very similar in tactics and personnel to the Barcelona team, and in this bracket they share a common defensive frailty. it is often covered up by the skill level in the midfield and the ball playing ability of the players but Germany will do well to target the counter attack as their best option.

The flaws in the defense were exposed in the champions league matches against Arsenal and Inter Milan. Ramos will push up like Alvez does and the defenders always run back to the middle before spreading wide when scrambling for the counter and Podolski will sit wide on the far side and receive the ball early. All three of his goals so far have come in this fashion. Exactly as Sneijder did it for inter. Otherwise the probing runs made by Oezil and Klose could prove difficult for Puyol, whose temperament and positioning is often questionable at best.

Spain will hold the ball for minutes at a time but if you can pressure them early and win balls in key areas and then break with pace and numbers they are certainly beatable. I believe this German team has the perfect balance to do this. In Schweinsteiger and Khedira they have two solid midfielders who shield the defense well and win balls, Schweinsteigers passing range rivals the best and can fuel the running and probing of Oezil and co.

A key area for me is the suspension of Thomas Mueller. The 20 year old has had an outstanding tournament and his understanding and link up play with Oezil is often what makes the Germans so dangerous. It will be interesting to see if whoever replaces him, most likely Piotr Trochowski can maintain the threat of the right flank. If they can Germany could well be in for a second final in three tournaments.

Bongi's key men:

Bastian Schweinsteiger - the central midfielder holds this German team together and will be marking key man Xavi, this battle could be pivotal.

Lucas Podlski- Podolski will attack the gap left by Ramos and will need to offer a bit more in Muellers absence.

Phillip Lahm - He will need to keep his charges calm and confident as well as marking the dangerous David Villa.

Bongi's predo:
Germany 3- 1 Spain