The last meeting between Germany and Saudi Arabia was an 8-0 win at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Tonight’s match unfolded in a less dominating manner.
Die Mannschaft worked out a few tactical kinks while scoring two goals and allowing one, claiming victory against Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen. Germany did their damage in the first half thanks to RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner and Bayern boy Thomas Müller (although officials declared his left-footed back heel an own goal due to an Omar Hawsawi deflection).
Germany’s high-pressure tactics allowed them to control the pace of the match with occasional counter attacks from KSA. Germany’s biggest plus in this friendly was their ability to play passes over the top of KSA’s back line, which led to the two goals and continuous chances involving the standouts in tonight’s showing: Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Müller and Werner.
The RB Leipzig star was the first to get on the score sheet Friday night and did so after Bayern Munich right-back Joshua Kimmich played a lob pass from approximately the halfway line, linking with Marco Reus, who tapped the ball with his left foot to Werner for the goal—something you would see in a FIFA video game. Werner was subbed off in the 62nd minute for ex-Bayern striker, Mario Gomez.
The 22-year-old hadn’t seen much playing time with Die Mannschaft since March 2015 but has a strong chance of being the starting no. 9 for Germany at the World Cup.
Müller roamed around the attacking third, floating out to the flanks at times to play two-touch with wingers, but was quiet for the first 35 to 38 minutes. It wasn’t until the 42nd minute when Müller made a run behind Hawsawi, sealing off the Saudi Arabian to receive Timo Werner’s low cross. Müller made a left-footed back-heel that ricocheted off Hawsawi’s leg for the second goal for Germany. The Bayern midfielder continued to take chances in the second half. In the 55th minute, Müller found a soft spot within the KSA defense. An incoming cross from the left flank found Müller not far from the penalty kick spot. He controlled the pass, made a left turn and struck a laser with his right foot— only to be saved by goalkeeper, Abdullah Almauaiouf. Thomas had another chance but was denied again by Almauaiouf in the 72nd minute. Müller was subbed off for Julian Brandt just seconds after.
Thomas Müller’s performance hints at him continuing his World Cup form after what he did for the World Champions in 2014.
It’s not always easy to fill in for a starter. Draxler did the job, replacing Mesut Özil, who sat on the bench with a bruised left knee.
The Paris Saint-Germain winger sped up and down the left-hand side, often tracking back to win the ball in the midfield and defensive third. One thing Draxler offers Germany (at least in this match) is a high work rate and physicality, which was superior to Özil’s. The 6-foot-1 Draxler often made runs behind the Saudi defense. However, Julian was caught offside a few times. If he wants a chance to play in Russia, the timing of his runs has got to improve.
Draxler had a chance in the 70th minute with a free kick closer to the left side of the 18-yard box. With Toni Kroos standing over the ball, it was a bit of a surprise that Draxler took the shot. He favored placement over power and Almauaiouf made the comfortable save.
Although Draxler can’t offer the perfect free kick or chemistry with Germany’s starting eleven right now, he made a good enough impact Germany in attack against the Saudis.
Is that a bird? Is that a plane? No, it’s Marco Reus and he’s back from injury for good, hopefully.
After playing 23 minutes in Germany’s 2-1 loss against Austria last weekend, Joachim Löw increased his playing time to a solid 57 minutes before making way for İlkay Gündoğan. Yet in those 57 minutes, he managed to claim the assist to Timo Werner’s goal with a flick of the foot in the 8th minute. Reus then found the ball at his feet after a deflected cross, sending a screamer from 20 yards out four minutes later, slapping the post before going out. Reus would continuously create chances until he was subbed off. His return to Die Mannschaft is surely a crescendo.
It’s time to board the plane to Russia. Germany will face Mexico in their first match in Group F, Sunday June 17 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.