For Bayern Munich fans, the German National Team’s performance was reminiscent of the most frustrating of games under Pep Guardiola: Germany completely dominated possession to the tune of 76 to 24 percent, and outshot Northern Ireland 28 to 2 – but it was one of those games, as again and again the ball simply refused to go in.
How many more chances does Mario Götze deserve?
The Bayern player with the biggest question mark looming over his head, Mario Götze started today on the left wing in favor of Julian Draxler. On the one hand, this start was typical of national team coach Jogi Löw’s continuing effort to show his confidence in the embattled forward and to provide Götze with the opportunity to excel on the field. On the other, starting Götze in what was anticipated to be a low-leverage game against an inferior side may be indicative of the greater importance already claimed by Julian Draxler, who has been a dynamic and creative presence on the left wing for the national team. Unfortunately for Götze, today would bring only further frustration, as he struggled to make an impact. Götze indeed delivered several key passes to teammates, but he failed to pose a serious threat to Northern Ireland’s shaky defense and squandered the clear chances he received. Götze managed just a single shot in the first half, and only three total. By far the two best came early in the second half (one off a beautiful ball from Kimmich), but Götze simply failed to find the goal. Minutes after Götze shot his second opportunity just wide of the net, Löw had seen enough: Götze came out for André Schürrle. Will Götze receive yet another chance to prove himself, or have we seen the last of Götze’s starts, as the Euros now moves ahead into the round of sixteen? It is hard to argue that Götze has earned another chance when the stakes are higher.
Joshua Kimmich does an amazing Philipp Lahm impression
The other notable change made by Jogi Löw today also concerned a Bayern player: Joshua Kimmich started at right-back, taking the place of Benedikt Höwedes. Again, one might argue that the lower-leverage situation presented by Northern Ireland diminished the risk of starting Kimmich. In contrast to Götze, however, Kimmich proved himself to be one of the best players on the pitch for the full 90 minutes of the game. Kimmich roamed up and down the right side of the pitch, working well with Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil and constantly threatening Northern Ireland’s defense. Kimmich seemed to dribble around Northern Ireland’s defenders at will, finding the space to deliver crosses and key passes to Germany’s frustrated forwards. Perhaps the prettiest pass was a beautiful would-be assist to Götze early in the second half that Götze just could not put away. And when nothing else worked, Kimmich proved he could create opportunities all by himself, taking two excellent shots – the second one virtually an impression of Arjen Robben: Kimmich beat the defenders, cut inside, and curled a dangerous strike at the far corner, but just over the cross bar. Kimmich was the best right-back we’ve seen on the national team since Philipp Lahm, and Löw should seriously consider starting the young Bayern star at right-back going forward.
Thomas Müller’s Euro goal will come
Thomas Müller, for all his many international laurels, has yet to score a goal in a Euro competition. While pundits have speculated about this strange discrepancy in the record of one of the most prolific World Cup goal-scorers, today’s match illustrated the real reason: dumb luck. Müller took a team-leading 6 shots today and hit the crossbar twice. The Raumdeuter was on the prowl again today, but his admirable efforts would result only in frustration. On the positive balance, Müller logged an assist, as he deftly kept possession of the ball in Northern Ireland's penalty area and tapped it over to Mario Gomez for Germany’s sole goal. Be that as it may, I am certain that Müller will score in this tournament. It is only a matter of time.
Müller moreover was not the only player frustrated today. Theoretically, Germany should have won this match by far more convincing margin of about 3 or 4 goals to none. Northern Ireland had all of 2 shots against Germany’s 28, and of those 28, many were outstanding chances that might have gone in any other day. Sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces. Statistics cannot change the final score, but they sometimes tell an eloquent story all their own:
Northern Ireland were lucky to walk away from this match with their goal difference still at 0.