Are Germany better with a back three or a back four? Do they suffer from the lack of a proper striker? Why can’t they defend set-pieces? And why did they seem so short on offensive ideas in the final third?
There was no shortage of tactical talking points in the wake of Germany’s defeat to France in their Euro 2020 opener, as a panicking nation discussed what Joachim Löw needed to change for Portugal game.
The answer from the Bundestrainer? Nichts – nothing. The same 11 players took to the field, in the same 3-4-3 formation, with the same intention of attacking down the wings. And when, after 94 exhilarating minutes in Munich, the score line read Portugal 2-4 Germany, no-one could argue that it hadn’t worked.
So, what had changed? Ahead of kickoff, Löw had demanded more “dynamism,” more “intensity,” more “risk.” What he got was organized chaos.
What Löw desired are inquantifiable qualities but, if the opportunities around the opposition box continued to seem as scarce as they had against France, he didn’t want his players to retreat from those areas, admitting defeat and going in search of another opening, but to continue to attack them with even more purpose than before.
DW’s Matt Ford
The best example came in the buildup to Germany’s second goal. Thomas Müller’s initial attempt at a cross bounced back off Pepe but Müller immediately lofted it in again. Kai Havertz initially failed to make contact and the danger may have passed, but Joshua Kimmich wouldn’t let the attack die out and immediately turned the ball back into the danger zone, where Raphael Guerreiro put the ball into his own net.
In the space of four minutes, Germany had turned a 0-1 deficit into a 2-1 lead. It was just reward for their electric start to the game, and vindication of Löw’s decision to stick to his plan A and pursue it with even greater intensity.
“Fantastic mentality and great morale in a difficult situation,” praised Löw at full-time. “We had a lot more pace in our attacks right from the start.”
The approach was personified by Robin Gosens, who scored Germany’s fourth.
Neither the frustration of seeing his spectacular volley ruled out by VAR after just five minutes, nor the shock of Cristiano Ronaldo’s breakaway goal to give Portugal a shock lead, affected his confidence in his ability to carry out Löw’s instructions.
Robin Gosens’ persistence epitomized Germany’s approach
The next time he received the ball in behind, picked out by Kimmich with a crossfield ball, he fired it into the box where Ruben Dias also put the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Two Portuguese own goals in the space of four minutes, both brought about by Germany’s sheer persistence in attacking those areas around the edge of the box, the defense eventually succumbing in the face of the Germans’ organized chaos.
Often in international tournaments, coaches simply don’t have the time to lay out highly detailed tactical plans. Some of the best, like Didier Deschamps of France, keep it simple and conservative despite the talent at their disposal. Others, like Gareth Southgate’s England, over-complicate matters.
On Saturday, Löw and Germany opted for organized chaos. It paid off spectacularly, and it bodes well for the rest of the tournament.