C’mon Hansi, you’ve got this.
A strong display against Spain was nice, but we’re barely any time removed from Germany’s lackluster chance conversion that cost them against Japan — which were themselves a reprise of the team’s scoring troubles against Oman in their pre-World Cup friendly.
Hansi Flick’s side probably just need a win to get through, but they’d be better served scoring loads of goals, just to be safe. And while it’s clear that Germany are one of the tournament’s elite teams on their day, able to go toe-to-toe with the best, it’s not at all certain that they can solve a low block when they need to.
Thankfully, Flick is an elite coach who doesn’t need to listen to internet yahoos to tell him what to do.
Next up: an internet yahoo will tell Flick what to do. Here’s how the German coach should set his team up against Costa Rica on Thursday:
SC Freiburg’s Christian Günter has impressed, but RB Leipzig’s David Raum’s dynamism will be needed to provide real left-sided width and intent in attack. His aggressive tendencies will help cover for Germany’s lack of a natural left winger and stretch the defense horizontally.
At right-back, West Ham’s Thilo Kehrer should probably sit in reserve. Lukas Klostermann looks like Flick’s clear first choice, but will he be ready for a full game? Let’s save that for the Knockouts for now. Süle, now a Borussia Dortmund man, has pace and power — and maybe a little bit of long-range distribution in him as well.
Gladbach’s Matthias Ginter is gritty and no-nonsense, exactly what’s required in central defense. When needed, he can exchange with Süle as well. Flick can’t have brought all these center-backs only to never use them.
Not every game calls for a Kimmetzka pivot, and fatigue has to be a concern. But it’s Manchester City’s İlkay Gündoğan who should get the rest.
For one, this game really does call for Goretzka’s powerful runs and goal-scoring threat out of midfield. Gündoğan is also Germany’s next best thing at the six. Both Goretzka and Kimmich are now on yellow cards. Either of them could easily pick up a suspension, and it might well be Kimmich on a desperate tackle.
Germany might find themselves needing a replacement DM. It’s best if he stays fresh.
Tom Raumdeuter and Wings
It’s a simple matter here of getting Germany’s best players on the pitch. Right now, that’s Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sané. They are each deadly on their own and more than twice as much in concert. Rabbits on the run — no one can handle them.
Thomas Müller? Müller always plays. Yes, he’s probably crying out for a rest and his recent injury spell has to be a concern. So was his less-than-stellar showing against Spain. But his on-field leadership cannot be discounted. It’s not merely his organization of the 4-4-2 press and his knack for creating goals. Müller is a grizzled veteran who will (loudly) set the standard in a way that no other Germany player can. And as a shadow striker? Don’t count him out in front of goal, either.
Football is more than what an individual brings to the highlight reel — it’s about how much everyone enables the team to play the way they want to play. For no player is that truer, at club and country, than Bayern Munich’s space-interpreter extraordinaire.
This is do or die time for Germany. It’d be incomprehensible to go from the off without him.
It’s Niclas Füllkrug time. Look, the Bayern players know what to do here. With Müller, Musiala, and Sané, there are three floating number tens who will provide plenty of intricacy in the attacking third — enough to play some nice balls in behind the defense. Somebody has to get on the receiving end of that supply and the Werder Bremen man is in some kind of scoring mood lately.
Füllkrug’s job will be simple: power Germany’s ruthless, high-intensity start to an early lead. If that’s achieved by half-time, he could — maybe should — give way to any number of more dynamic options.
Kai Havertz (Chelsea FC), Mario Götze (Eintracht Frankfurt), Serge Gnabry, Jonas Hofmann (Gladbach), Julian Brandt and Youssofa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund) — any combination of these talented players should come on to shut down any Costa Rica attempts to chase the game.
But that starts with Füllkrug starting.
Germany 4 - Costa Rica 0: three emphatic goals by the break, followed by a quiet second half. Müller scores for the first time since Brazil in 2014, while Gnabry finishes off a late counter to cap it off.
Then Japan beat Spain and Germany are still out. Knock on wood!