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Three observations from Germany’s disappointing 2-2 draw with the Netherlands

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Another strong first half performance from Germany was completely ruined by a wretched performance in the end.


GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 19: Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Germany reacts after Quincy Promes of the Netherlands scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Nations League A group one match between Germany and Netherlands at Veltins-Arena on November 19, 2018 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Germany were set up to outnumber the Netherlands, and it (almost) worked

Here’s an interesting lesson in tactics: by setting up in a 3-4-3 with two mobile fullbacks, Joachim Löw managed to create a situation where the Dutch were outnumbered no matter which area of the pitch they were in.

In order to do this, the German wingbacks alternated between defense and midfield. This made it so that the Netherlands’ midfield three was always facing down four players or more, making it impossible for Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong to stamp their authority on the game.

When defending, the fullbacks dropped back, causing the Dutch offense to be outnumbered five to three. In attack, the fullbacks pushed up high so that the Dutch were faced with five attackers bearing down on them.

Sometimes, the Germans chose to play asymmetrically, keeping one fullback back while pushing another up high, creating a kind of 4-4-2 that was always biased towards the flank that had possession. Because the Netherlands were unable to adapt, the Germans got the best of both words — safety from counterattacks as well as a strong midfield presence.

Over the course of the first half, the Germans alternated between a 5-3-2, a 4-4-2, a 3-4-3, and 3-3-5, all with the sole purpose of overloading Ronald Koeman’s static 4-3-3. It worked. Despite the possession statistics showing showing that the Netherlands had the lion’s share, almost none of it was particularly threatening.

It’s just too bad that the Germans couldn’t keep it up. They will be very disappointed to get the draw.

Matthijs de Ligt shows us that he’s still human

Being one of the hottest young defenders in Europe at the moment, Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt is at the top of many clubs’ wish-lists, among them Bayern Munich. However, the young Dutchman looked completely out of sorts against the German offense, displaying none of that commanding presence we’ve gotten used to seeing from him.

On Leroy Sane’s goal, de Ligt and Netherlands fullback Kenny Tete were completely caught out by Toni Kroos’s over-the-top ball and unable to recover. De Light should have been covering Sane, but he pulled to far to his left, leaving a space between the fullback and the defender for Sane to exploit.

However, it’s not as if de Ligt was the only player not on his game. While the German offense was pretty good, the Netherlands defense made it too easy for them at times.

Another bad second half from the Germans

What is it with German teams and slowing down in the second half? Is it the weather? Is there something in the food? Both Bayern Munich and Germany have been guilty of squandering good starts this season, and the problem isn’t going away.

Germany’s structure and discipline broke down in the second half, leading to a number of missed chances and close calls, and eventually a goal by Quincy Promes that never should have happened. That catalyzed a last minute revival from the Dutch, almost inevitably leading to an equalizer.

Whatever it is that’s causing these second half collapses, Jogi Löw (and Niko Kovac) have to get to the bottom of it. This is beyond ridiculous and it cannot go on.