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Jun 13

Germany 2-0 Ukraine: Loew’s men overload the left flank, Cruise to a mediocre victory

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Die Mannschaft kicked off their EURO 2016 campaign with a coasting win against Ukraine in the opening game. Shkodran Mustafi and Bastian Schweinsteiger got their names on the score sheet with two excellent goals in either half. Manual Neuer had his moments in the match with some fine saves, but was generally untroubled for major parts of the game. The Ukrainians chose their moments well and tried to stifle the German engine at times, but didn’t have the quality nor the desire to win the game.

Starting Lineups

Germany(4-2-3-1 FN): Neuer; Howedes, Boateng, Mustafi, Hector; Kroos, Khedira; Muller, Ozil, Draxler; Gotze

Ukraine(4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1): Pyatov; Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk; Sydorchuk, Stepenenko; Yarmolenko, Kovalenko, Konoplyanka; Zozulya

As expected, Joachim Loew fielded his best XI out of the available fit players in the squad. Mustafi came in for Mats Hummels who is still nursing an injury picked up in DFB Pokal final. Julian Draxler got the nod ahead of Andre Schurrle on the left wing while Mario Gotze started up front in the false nine role.

Fomenko was a bit reserved with his thoughts about the game in Saturday’s press conference. His idea of a football match was apparently non-adventurous and not conceding a goal has higher priority than scoring one. The gist of the statement didn’t reflect in his starting XI as he named 3 intelligent attacking midfielders Konoplyanka, Yarmolenko and Kovalenko behind Zozulya in attack. The defense looked experienced and able, to fend off a bulldozing German attack.

First Half

Ukraine defend deep, hit Germany on counter

Though the Ukraine starting XI was a bit on the attacking side, the tactics surely were not. Fomenko stayed true to his words and deployed his team in a very low block, defending in two banks of four in a 4-4-1-1 shape, and the two strikers positioned at the edge of their half. Germany took the initiative handed readily to them and rolled into their rhythm, with clean passing and swift running all across the pitch. The deep defense used by Ukraine allowed the Germans to play a very high line, with Manuel Neuer settling into a Sweeper-Keeper role.

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The Ukrainians soaked up the initial pressure for 5 minutes and then gave a taste of their quick counters to the Germans. Yevhen Konoplyanka’s one time shot on target was saved acrobatically by Manuel Neuer. With neither of Boateng or Mustafi known for their pace, Ukraine’s only option of overcoming the Germans was to punt balls into the channels between the German defenders. One of their sporadic counters yielded two of their best chances of the first half. The first one from a corner, when Khacheridi’s shot was saved by Neuer, and the second one when Konoplyanka was one-on-one with Neuer in the box and his cross was cleared off the line in some style by Jerome Boateng. The Germans knew they could not let their guard down when not in possession and stay wary of the Ukrainians’ movements.

Germans play slick, Mustafi scores a header

With no towering presence in the opponent box, the Germans’ only way to create opportunities was by opening up Ukraine’s defense with ground passes and intelligent movement. Lined up as a False Nine in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Mario Gotze dropped deep into a No.10 position as Ozil drifted into either the midfield or to the left flank. Thomas Muller and Julian Draxler then tried to get into the space vacated by Gotze and overload the Ukrainian defense line.This lateral movement from the German attackers allowed their fullbacks to take up very high positions. Both Howedes and Hector didn’t hold back with their runs as they got to the by-line on every available opportunity. Toni Kroos was the deepest midfielder, almost in line with his central defenders Boateng and Mustafi. This deep positioning allowed him pick out passes in all directions and laid the foundation for Germany’s domination in the match.

The composure of Kroos, Mustafi and Boateng at the back allowed the Germans to play some slick passing between the Ukrainians. Muller, Ozil, Gotze and Khedira got into pockets of space between the Ukraine players and always created an open angle for the man having the ball to pass to them. The below passing chart of Germany in the first half shows huge number of passes around Ukraine’s midfield. Fomenko’s tactics worked reasonably well as Germany were forced to play from the wings . Thomas Muller who is adept at snuffing out the most minimal of vacant spaces struggled to make an impact against an organized Ukraine side. The lack of penetration from the middle forced the Germans to resort to long shots from outside the box.

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Germany Passing in First Half

Howedes and Hector bombed forward at every opportunity and linked up with Ozil, Kroos and Khedira. This overloading in wide areas resulted in a free kick on 18 minute mark. Toni Kroos’ perfect ball met the head of Mustafi who was left free by Khacheridi, and the world champions were up and running. The Valencia defender came into the starting XI for the injured Mats Hummels, and the goals will only increase his confidence going forward.

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Shkodran Mustafi scored a thumping header to give the lead to Germans

Second Half

More of the same, Ukraine fall deeper

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Germany Passing in second half

The second half took off with the same template as the first, Germans moving the ball around with accuracy and tiring the Ukrainian defenders. This time around the wingers Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko defended very deep, almost in line with their defense as their fullbacks tucked in narrow to disallow any space to the likes of Ozil and Muller. This meant there was much more space for the Germans to play around ahead of Ukraine defense. Jonas Hector played more as a left midfielder/winger, presenting a passing option and stretching the play with overlaps. also, the lateral drifts of Ozil and Kroos meant that the left flank was heavily overloaded by the Germans, outnumbered their opponents 4 v 3. Even Gotze and Muller joined the overload party, as they interchanged positions occasionally, trying to find that opening in Ukraine’s defense.

germany chancescreated secondhalf

Germany – Shots in Second Half

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The sheer number of shots Germany had in the second half indicate increased intensity and urgency to get that two goal cushion and put the match to bed. In the images above, we can observe the graph of shots on goal, 12 in total. Julian Draxler was the only direct runner in the German side and he took the Ukrainian defense on by overloading and outnumbering them on the left flank. Andre Schurrle came on for Draxler in the last 10 minutes and he too ran into the channels with pace. The image below which shows the take-on’s of Germany validates the above points.

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Germany Take-ons in Second Half. Green=Successful, Red=Unsuccessful

Ukraine counter from the right, mostly with no success and Bastian makes a Cameo

Soaking up wave after wave of German attacks, Ukraine picked the right moment to counter attack and with pace. With Jonas Hector out of position on the left, Yarmolenko took advantage with the vast amount of space and initiated almost every counter move of Ukraine. Their passing chart(below) in second half shows the range from which they tried to launch the counters and also the movement of the Ukraine attackers. However, they could only muster one shot on target which was saved comfortably by Neuer. This sequence of sporadic counters did unsettle the Germans, but they just overcame it with more short and quick passing.

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Tackles attempted by Germany in Second half. Green ones are successful tackles, Blue are ones resulting in fouls and Red are unsuccessful

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The second image above show the tackles by Germany in the second half. They could win only 2 out of 10 tackles attempted, failing in the tackle 5 times and fouling the player thrice. This will be one of the aspect that the Germans will need to work on. Bastian Schweinsteiger came on for Mario Gotze in the 90th minute, and got himself on the scoresheet in just two minutes with a sumptuous finish on the counter. The German captain is one of big figures in the Mannschaft dressing room and such cameos will prove to be a catalyst for him to bounce back to form.

Conclusion

It was an easy victory for Jogi Loew’s side against a lackluster Ukraine team. Toni Kroos dictated the tempo from deep midfield with his excellent passing and Jonas Hector was adventurous on the left wing. Thomas Muller will be disappointed for not getting on the scoresheet, but he contributed in defense and to the team as a whole. Below image displays the passing chart of Kroos in the match. He attempted 112 passes with 93% accuracy.

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Passing chart of Toni Kroos. 112 attempted passes, 104 successful

At times the Germans were troubled with some good trickery by Yarmolenko and swift counters, but Neuer’s temperament and authority on his defense earned him a clean sheet. However, doubts remain whether the world champions can produce good performances against tougher oppositions in later rounds.

About the author

Sai Kumar

A Sports fanatic. I watch almost every sport, even golf. A core Germany and Chelsea fan. Ferrari and Schumacher in F1, Federer and Sampras in Tennis, Lakers in basketball and Yankees in baseball. Zidane, Ronaldo(Phenomeno), Beckham, Drogba, Kaka, Ganguly are my idols.

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