Germany destroyed Norway 6-0 at the Mercedes-Benz-Arena in Stuttgart to make it eight World Cup qualifying wins in a row. Goals from Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler and a Timo Werner brace made it 4-0 at the break, substitutes Leon Goretzka and Mario Gómez completed the rout in what was essentially a training ground exercise.
Norway completely justified their FIFA World Ranking of 85, completely out of their depth against the reigning World Champions who appeared bored during the second half with victory secured. Die Mannschaft played some scintillating football and appear certain to qualify automatically for Russia 2018, but considering the lack of competition offered by the Norwegians, what did we learn from the contest?
Löw’s back to basics approach pays dividends
Joachim Löw experimented with the formation and line-up in the 2-1 victory in the Czech Republic, Die Mannschaft appeared disjointed unconvincing at times which allowed the Czechs back in the game before Mats Hummels’ late winner. Löw got back to basics in Stuttgart, a standard 4-2-3-1 formation allowing his players to play in positions and a formation they are familiar and comfortable with.
Full-backs Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich were allowed to play in Norway’s half, Toni Kroos and Sebastian Rudy providing protection they rarely required such was the level of dominance. With Werner’s tireless efforts up front aided by the supporting cast of Özil, Draxler and Müller, Germany frequently forced turnovers in Norway’s half and were able to launch immediate attacks.
Timo Werner undisputed starter
Before the Confederations Cup in Russia, I suggested that Timo Werner was full of confidence, should be first choice and is poised to become Germany’s long term striker. His competition for the striker role in Russia was Sandro Wagner and Lars Stindl, but in reality there was and is no competition. Werner’s form for Leipzig last season was sensational and the 21-year-old shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Werner scored the opening goal in the Czech Republic with his right foot, against Norway he scored his first goal with his left foot, his second a textbook header from Thomas Müller’s cross. Werner scores goals in a variety of ways, his clever positioning and runs behind the defence constantly confusing the opposition and opening space for his teammates.
Mesut Özil played a precision pass to Werner for the opening goal in the Czech Republic, opening the scoring himself against Norway with a sweet first time finish. Özil was exceptional in Stuttgart, determined and full of energy, demanding the ball and causing havoc in front of the Norwegian defence as he routinely swapped positions with Müller and Draxler.
With Arsenal routinely lambasted and scrutinised, particularly after the recent 4-0 thrashing at Anfield, Özil is often the scapegoat due to a perception that he is lazy and lacks fight in big games. He responded to the criticism in a lengthy message on his facebook page, but his performances for Die Mannschaft this week will do little to diminish the perception among many Gunners supporters that he lacks fight when it’s required, while many will find it difficult to reconcile the player seen tonight with the one they regularly see for Arsenal.
Germany strength in depth
Germany’s tremendous strength in depth was on full display in the Confederations Cup which they won without many of their World Cup winning stars. If that wasn’t enough, Germany also won the U21 European Championship in June to prove just how strong they are likely to be in the coming years.
Löw’s starting XI and formation against Norway was close to what we might see in Russia next summer as Die Mannschaft attempt to defend their World Cup title. Manuel Neuer will replace Marc-André Stegen, Jérôme Boateng will replace Antonio Rüdiger and Sami Khedira could be ahead of Sebastian Rudy, but what we saw in Stuttgart is likely to be the blueprint moving forward.
It should be more than enough to strike fear into the opposition and justifies Germany’s favouritism to retain the World Cup next summer. By that time Werner will have another season and Champions League experience under his belt, Rudy will have played a campaign for Bayern Munich, not to mention the possibility of Mario Götze and Marco Reus returning from injury. Be afraid, be very afraid.
By Matthew Marshall.