On paper, there’s absolutely no reason why Germany shouldn’t take 6 points from their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Belarus and then Estonia. They got their qualifying campaign off to a great start with a solid 3-2 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam and can set themselves up nicely in pole position of group C if they take care of business against Belarus and Estonia.
Joachim Löw won’t be on the sidelines for Die Mannschaft during the two matches due to an injury sustained while weight training. With or without him, though, getting these two results is massively important for the team moving forward. After the whirlwind of a year Germany had with the 2018 World Cup disaster, the Mesut Özil saga, a well-below-par UEFA Nations League performance, and the dropping of Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller, and Mats Hummels from the national team, many fans and pundits alike were calling for Löw to be sacked, Still, though, the DFB have showed continued faith in the manager and believe he remains the right man for the job heading into Euro 2020.
The Team Selections — time for Kai Havertz to start?
With the gulf in class between Germany’s two opponents, there’s some room for experimentation in these two qualifiers. In the 3-2 win against the Netherlands, Germany lined up with: Neuer — Rudiger, Süle, Ginter — Schulz, Kroos, Kimmich, Kehrer — Goretzka — Sane, Gnabry. These two matches might be a good time to start Marco Reus, Timo Werner and/or Kai Havertz, especially if Germany utilize a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 instead of a 3-4-1-2.
In either match, the starting XI could look something like this, although it would make more sense to experiment versus Estonia (the easier match on paper):
With players like Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Brandt, and Leon Goretzka available on the bench (assuming the starting XI above), adjustments to the midfield and attack can be made if the match does not go according to plan. It’s likely that both Belarus and Estonia will set up tight defensive blocks against Germany, so Die Mannschaft might require tactical adjustments to break through and properly cover counter-attacks.
So many of Germany’s problems during the 2018 World Cup and the UEFA Nations League were their own doing. If they want to have a successful qualifying campaign and qualify for Euro 2020 comfortably, they have to avoid making complacent mistakes, the type of mistake that was on display last summer and fall.
When Germany play out from the back as they often times like to do, one stray pass can spell disaster. The short passing between the back line and the midfielders needs to be quick and direct; otherwise possession can turn into a defensive panic. Against the Netherlands, there were too many occasions on which Germany was caught being too cute at the back, leading to viable chances for the Dutch. The weaker teams in the group will certainly be looking for any scrap they can find, especially if it means having one or two aggressive chasers while Germany try to play out of the back.
The high defensive line Germany deploys when in possession also needs to be calibrated when necessary. There’s no getting around the fact that Germany will enjoy the lion’s share of possession in these two matches, so they need to be careful with how far up their defensive line pushes up. The first group stage match in last summer’s World Cup against Mexico was a perfect example of how Germany pressed too far forward and paid for it. On Mexico’s winning and only goal, they won possession in their defensive third, played a direct ball forward, and made one pass in Germany’s third before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano put it right past Neuer.
We DO NOT want to be conceding goals like this:
Hirving Lozano is Concacaf's Player of the Year— Goal (@goal) January 15, 2019
Remember when he did this to Germany? pic.twitter.com/TxHAUmHQ51