Germany book their Euros ticket in second gear
It took Germany 41 minutes to break the Belarussian wall down. Just before Germany’s first goal of the night, Belarus was denied a surprising lead by a cinematic Manuel Neuer save. Matthias Ginter must have felt extra comfortable playing at the Borussia Park, as his goal was one of the slickest of the night. A beautiful finish from the Freiburg native calmed the nerves of the few German supporters in the stadium.
Two quick goals after the half-time break and Germany had won the game. Germany’s ticket to next summer’s Euros depended on the Netherlands getting points in Belfast, which they managed to do.
Die Mannschaft played in second gear throughout the game and, frankly, that was all that was required. The team did its job, but not much else. Neuer was called to action more often than the German defense wanted, and the Belarussian strikers might have scored one or two goals if they were more clinical. But Germany controlled the game in terms of possession and chance creation, although considering the quality gap, they did not raise any eyebrows.
A team that is learning
Considering that Germany crashed out of the 2018 World Cup only a year and a half ago, it is remarkable how much the German squad has changed in terms of personnel. Only four players started today and against Mexico in the 2018 World Cup: Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, and Timo Werner. While players such as Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretzka, and Ilkay Gundogan were part of the 2018 World Cup squad, the core of the German national team’s starting XI has changed dramatically after a tough year and a half.
Although the German UEFA European Championship qualification campaign hasn’t been particularly impressing, it is hard to argue that it hasn’t been beneficial for many of these players. For players such as Robin Koch, Lukas Klostermann, and Serge Gnabry, games like these mean the world, as they have less than a year and a half of experience playing for the national team.
Leon Goretzka’s recent comments on how he believes the atmosphere has improved in the German locker room are positive news. The team is younger and perhaps more ambitious than the team in 2018, most of whom were present on the 2014 World Cup-winning squad. The fact that this qualification campaign hasn’t been too impressive does not, in my opinion, mean very much either. It is hard to judge the German team when they are playing against teams like Belarus or Estonia, since the quality gap is so wide. Germany finished its 2018 World Cup qualification with a 100% record — and we all know what happened in Russia.
So far Jogi Löw’s rebuild is moving in the right direction. It is exciting to see what will happen next summer.
Why Nils Petersen should go to the Euros
Throughout this game and Germany’s last game against Estonia a month ago, I kept on thinking that Germany lacks a clear number 9 striker. A target-striker or a fox-in-the-box type of player that can capitalize on the plentiful crosses in the opposition box. While Gnabry and Werner unsuccessfully tried to capitalize on the constant deliveries into the Belarussian box today, I was thinking that Jogi Löw should bring a number 9 type of striker to the upcoming UEFA European Championship campaign.
Germany won’t play as they did against Belarus, Estonia, or Northern Ireland when they play European heavyweights like the Netherlands. Against Europe’s best team, a dynamic front three would work best. But the fact is that it will be very likely that Germany will face a team in the 2020 Euros that severely lacks the quality of players compared to Die Mannschaft. Being a 24-team tournament instead of a 16, Germany may very well face the likes of Finland, Hungary or Kosovo. In games like these, the game plan will be much like today. That is why I think that Nils Petersen should be included in the 23-man squad next summer.
Having a number 9 type of striker is never a bad thing, as it can always be beneficial to put him on when chasing a goal. Petersen scores goals, and he has been doing so ever since he left Bayern Munich in 2012. 83 Bundesliga goals in 7 Bundesliga seasons is very impressive, especially considering he has played for mid-table sides such as Werder Bremen and Freiburg. This season, he has added another 6 goals. While he may be 30-years-old, he is Germany’s best classic number 9 striker at the moment.