The 2014 World Cup champions have some serious soul searching to do after a 1-0 defeat against Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The margin should have been greater had El Tri converted the numerous overloads they created on the counter attack.
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff summed it up perfectly, saying: “We didn’t do enough. We tried to turn things around after the break, but we weren’t incisive enough. It’s frustrating and wasn’t good enough for a World Cup opener.”
Here are some talking points after a shocking performance from Die Mannschaft.
Löw schooled by Osorio
The German manager has been in charge since 2006 and has a contract until 2022, but at this rate he could be unemployed in August. Joachim Löw capitulated against Mexico and was completely outcoached by Juan Carlos Osorio.
It wasn’t revolutionary tactics from the Mexican manager, simply wait for Germany to attack, regain possession and hit them on the counter. Löw’s men repeatedly fell into the trap without adjusting, continuing into the second half which was negligent and borderline criminal.
Similarly, Osorio instructing Carlos Vela to stick to Toni Kroos and nullify his impact wasn’t particularly complex. The fact that Löw was outsmarted and unable to turn the tide in these key deficiencies is a worrying sign, particularly for a manager who in the eyes of many can do no wrong.
Considering Löw presided over a convincing 4-1 win against Mexico with a second string squad one year ago, this performance was simply inexcusable and he has to turn it around to regain his credibility.
Lack of leadership
It’s one thing to see such an obvious problem so early in a match, another to find solutions on the fly or at the half-time break. With the natural leaders at Löw’s disposal, Germany should have been able to sort this one out on the pitch with a little guidance from their manager.
Mats Hummels was as guilty as anyone, making bad decisions in defence particularly in the build up to Mexico’s goal. He and Jérôme Boateng were offered little to no protection, but could have done more to organise the team from a defensive standpoint.
They left it until after the match, Boateng saying: “We left so many spaces for counterattacks. They came at us four or five times. People were just running through and nobody said anything.”
Hummels had some curious comments to offer, saying: “If 7 or 8 players attack, then it’s clear the offensive force is greater than the defensive stability. That’s what I often talk about internally, to no affect. Our cover wasn’t good, too often it was just Jerome and I at the back.”
Who exactly is he criticising here, his teammates, Löw or both? Either way, it all points to a lack of leadership from the very top, with Germany’s World Cup campaign on the verge of implosion.
Mexico waste countless opportunities
I lost count of the overloads Mexico created on the counter attack where they could and should have scored. If El Tri produced more incisive final balls with an outnumbered German defence at their mercy, the score could have easily been a blowout.
It was simply unfathomable how many times Mexico hit Germany on the counter with superior numbers. Watching the match is going to be painful but necessary viewing as Löw and his team try and turn things around before taking on Sweden in Sochi.
It’s too easy and convenient to assign part of the blame on Leroy Sané’s omission and the political fallout from Ilkay Gündogan and Mesut Özil’s ill-advised meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Despite the unwanted drama from that bizarre distraction, Löw has to bite the bullet and bring in Gündogan sooner rather than later. Leon Goretzka could also come into contention with Sami Khedira having a shocker against Mexico which may have been his last start for Germany.
Whether Löw switches the formation to add more bite in midfield, allowing more defensive cover and Toni Kroos the time and space he needs to operate, things have to change fast. As Löw said after the match: “We need to start playing to our strengths again. I’m convinced that we will show a reaction.”
Marco Reus and Julian Brandt could come into contention after coming off the bench against Mexico. Mesut Özil has been ever present under Löw, but maybe dropping him would send an important message, namely that nobody is untouchable.
It’s not over
This was one of the worst performances from Germany in recent memory but not all is lost. Mexico were always going to be their toughest opponents in Group F with Sweden and South Korea still to come.
Guillermo Ochoa was arguably man-of-the-match after making nine saves and Germany had good chances to equalise late in the game.The overall statistics for nations that lose their opening World Cup are not promising, but records are made to be broken.
Germany lost their opening game against Algeria at the 1982 World Cup, going on to defeat England, Spain and France before a 3-1 loss against Italy in the final. Spain lost their opening match at the 2010 World Cup before winning six straight on their way to lifting the title.
There is more than enough talent in Germany’s squad to defeat Sweden and South Korea, but second place in Group F could mean a blockbuster rematch against Brazil in the Round of 16. Watch this space.
By Matthew Marshall.