Germany start off their UEFA Nations League campaign with a hard fought draw in Bologna, Italy. In a competition that Germany has never particularly thrived in, they have a good opportunity to play quality European competition in the build-up to the World Cup later this year. Here are our observations for the 1-1 draw against Italy.
Both teams struggled in the final third
Germany bossed the possession throughout the whole match — finishing with 67% of it on the night. However, until going down 1-0, the German attack was very lackluster. They had great moments of build-up followed up by a ball over the crossbar time and time again. This was caused by their inability to get the ball to a forward easily, so rather than making an extra pass, one of the midfielders (Leon Goretzka twice in five minutes) would run onto the loose ball and sky it.
The goal finally came after a blocked shot was pushed out wide followed by a cross that deflected off of Werner’s arm and fell nicely for Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich to calmly put in the back of the net. Utter madness is the only thing that got the job done.
Germany’s back-four were (mostly) great
The chemistry of the backline of the defense is sometimes the hardest to find. Although they have played together before, you had four defenders from four different clubs from three different leagues playing together. This can be disastrous if anything is miscommunicated. However, the back-four held their lines amazingly and kept everything away from Manuel Neuer — whose only save came off of a half-hearted bicycle kick that fell directly into his arms.
The only shaky moment that I noticed unfortunately led to Italy’s goal. The 18-year-old substitute — Wilfried Gnonto — was dangerous most of the night after coming on. In the build up to the goal he was able to run past Thilo Kehrer on the wing and get to the byline. His cross in was inch perfect, but probably should have been dealt with by the Germany center-backs. Another mistake made in this moment was to allow Pellegrini to come in unmarked and slot the ball into the net.
Germany did not wake up until they were losing
Although Germany was the better team throughout the 90 minutes and had moments of brilliance throughout, we didn’t really see a sense of urgency until after going down a goal. Almost directly after conceding, Kimmich scored and jogged directly back to get back for the restart. After a quick VAR-check, Germany stole the ball off the restart and were already in their attacking third, looking to take the lead. The ball then went out and the ref called for a cooling break. Directly after the break, Ilkay Gundogan got the ball in the box and shot it on goal, but it was saved but not properly cleared, which led to a couple more half chances for Germany.
Unfortunately, Germany seemed to let off again in the final moments of the match and only had one more great chance that led to a corner in the last minute of stoppage time.
Germany should have been able to beat this Italy team
Italy made 10 changes to their squad from their mid-week game against Italy. Although there were some notable names on the field, most would consider the team fielded to be a B-squad. Even the substitutions were young players who were making their debut for the Azzurri. This Italian team — who infamously won last summer’s Euros, but were knocked out of World Cup Qualification — is in a very different spot than Germany. They are looking to the next World Cup cycle, whereas Germany are still prepping for this year’s.
Flick’s eleven from Saturday should not be too far off of what his starting lineup will look like at the World Cup. Even though this was the first match in almost three months, Germany’s A-squad should have been able to beat this Italian squad. Luckily, Hansi Flick and his team have five months to work out any of these kinks.