When Costa Rica's Juan Pablo Vargas bundled the ball through Germany’s keeper Manuel Neuer and into the back of the net in the 70th minute, it looked like Hansi Flick’s side were in the midst of a full-on meltdown. To stand even a chance of progressing, they’d need two goals — and had looked to be in a misfiring mood since their 10th minute opener.
As it was, the Germans fought back furiously and scored three — with chances to add even more — in the closing twenty-odd minutes. But with Japan’s win secured against Spain, it was another strong closing phase that proved fruitless.
Here’s how Bild scored the proceedings:
- Flick: 4. That’s harsh but it’s fair. Germany got the win they needed but it sure looked like Chelsea FC’s Kai Havertz should have started from the off. With over 6 xG in the game, there was the chance — however unlikely — that they could have poured it in. But the pieces on the board through the first half were more likely to fumble intricate one-twos in the box than score two, three early goals with conviction. Whither Niclas Füllkrug?
- İlkay Gündoğan: 4. Perhaps this is a difference in footballing philosophy, but the English commenters on TIFO IRL expressed bewilderment that he was substituted yet again — agreeing that the Manchester City star has been Germany's best midfielder throughout the tournament.
- Manuel Neuer: 5. This one might be a bit tough, but the keeper didn’t have the best moments in front of goal. Still, let’s not forget his excellent 1-on-1 save in the first half, when both Leipzig’s David Raum and Real Madrid’s Antonio Rüdiger fluffed a simple clearance. The defense in front of Neuer has asked a lot of him time and time again.
- Jamal Musiala: 2. Many bravos for a blossoming worldwide superstar in the making. A little over a year ago, he was a sparing super-sub in the EURO. Now he’s indispensable. Germany will need to watch out and avoid the trap of adopting “let Jamal handle it” tactics, which is more or less what they seemed to enter this game with. That’s too much to put on one player, even a genius one.
- Luis Fernando Suárez: 3. At a minimum. The Costa Rica manager set up his team bravely and they showed their credentials by weathering the German storm up til late and even snatching a lead, however brief. If only they’d managed something akin to this against Spain.
- Finally, a mea culpa. I tempted fate by predicting a 4-0 Germany win with a Japan win on top of it. IN MY DEFENSE, I knocked on wood. But I accept full responsibility for this debacle.
And in case you haven’t listened to it yet, here’s a special edition postgame + weekend warm up podcast to get you ready for the weekend! We look at Germany’s shortcomings, Hansi Flick’s approach, Japan’s wonderful run...and close out with some classical music talk! Listen below or on Spotify.
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