Germany too German for Slovakia – an analysis

Sometimes you stumble upon a game of football where usual rules of minnow having always a chance just doesn’t apply. Die Manschaft was so overpowered and early goal didn’t fool them at all. They kept plugging and took themselves so seriously that Slovakia could do very little on the day. Germany was huge favourite in this match up and prepared as such.
They went for high pressing in offensive zone and despite not being able to win any significant advantage in terms of scoring chances, they did manage to disrupt ball distribution of Slovakia team very well.

Once Germany got possession they relatively slowly went up field controlling possession and taking their passes wisely. After all they are blessed with two center backs, Boateng and Hummels who can distribute ball and once Joachim Low decided to put Gomez in CF slot, they were dangerous from all positions.

The versatility of their attack is impressive. They can go on solo runs via individual quality of Draxler, Muller, Ozil… Creativity of players such as Kroos, Ozil and Muller allows them to use vertical through balls… Off the ball skills of Muller, Ozil, Draxler serves them well to receive those balls… Potent full backs allow them to overlap and overload wide areas as well as cross for tall and strong Gomez that is still a class striker. He might lack technical ability to play wall balls, but there are Ozil, Muller and Draxler to compensate.

germany passin 11tegen11
Everybody participates in German play, a true team effort

They don’t just have those possibilities, they also use them. Germany is extremely versatile on the ball and they can hurt you however they want, or, wherever you are weak. If you take a look at the diagram from @11tegen11 above, you can see ball usually travels via Kroos who is playing sort of deep lying play maker, but you also notice Germany is using all players in roughly equal manner emphasising that versatility. They go left, right and centre. Lone player who seems cut off is Mario Gomez. However, his role of designated finisher is the reason. When Goetze plays false nine role that changes, but that kind of approach puts them in cul de sac position too much as they try and pass the ball in the net with so many creative players upfront. With Gomez their game looks much more clean and efficient.

manschaft off ball.jpg

Above is an example how far two centre backs go with Hummels and Boateng deep in Slovakia half. Slovakia defence is all set up in two banks of four but off ball movement of Kroos, Draxler and Muller is quickly disrupting well positioned defence and Hummels can chose where to pass as defenders are occupied by number of opposition players that exchange positions.

42 11 goes to touchline squares to 23 - defender behind.jpg

A team can defend these movements so long as it is keeping its shape. Above you see what happens once a defensive shape collapses. Slovakia Right winger Kucka failed to block the pass or mark the overlapping Hector and at this point the Slovakia defence collapses. Hector plays it quickly into space for onrushing Draxler coming from inside. In meanwhile, Horovsky has to cover for Pekarik who had to cover for Kucka. Once Draxler is one on one with Horovsky he uses his skills to go past. Collapsing defence chain reaction continues as now Skrtel has to step up and cover for Horovsky, This leaves Gomez in front of his marker Durica and as Skrtel is late to close down Draxler, German CF has little trouble to put Germany two nil in front.

It all happened some 35-40 meters away and quickly escalated to goal after only one mistake that Draxler used really well to go by his marker and pass it for easy finish.

germany passing options.jpg

Above you can see how high RB Kimmich plays widening the field. This allows Muller to come deeper and inside, looking for his forward runs between the defenders breaking through the pentagon created by his team mates. Notice how whole German side shifts as Ozil goes wide in place of Muller while Draxler pushes inside to allow more space for Hector (out of picture) to receive the ball without pressure.

Slovakia could do little against their opponents on the day. Early goal and impeccable movement as well as high pressing constrained them to look how to survive. Once Germany was firmly set on result they came out much more cautious in the second half and Slovakia tried to change their fortunes. Their manager Jan Kozak decided to break German dominance in midfield. Substitution of Weiss by CM Sestak meant that Hamsik is free to go more forward. Although, Slovakia retained retaining 4-3-3 formation, Hamsik didn’t play as wide as Weiss and Kucka came more central as well. This allowed Slovakia to control the central zone better letting the Germany have wide areas.

However, Germany changed their approach in second half. Their Full backs didn’t go so aggressively forward while Boateng and Hummels occupied much deeper position. Additional security was given to Kross who was often sitting between centre backs in possession.

Germany in possession secondd half.jpg

Above is an example of more conservative German play with RB Kimmich and LB Hector playing much deeper while Ozil is making horizontal movement between the lines to search the space for a pass. Although Slovakia looked more lively the third goal and, again, poor marking at corner, allowed Draxler to score the third goal which made the game effectively over. Slovakia didn’t have nor quality nor will to make any significant change to the game.

Only changes that were made were those that saved Khedira and Howedes from receiving the yellow card that would make them unavailable for quarter final.

While in theory minnows can upset favourites, that needs quite a few additional factors. Poor day of opposition, luck, an extraordinary defensive performance, an inspired player… Slovakia didn’t have anything and confronted highly professional German teams that knew what to do and how to do it.

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