Germany’s first game of the Nations League was, well, pretty meh. There were some bright spots, and there were some not so bright spots. There were some good players, and there were some bad players. Here’s who stood out from the former.
Jersey Swap: Roberto Mancini
Mancini had a good game plan and he stuck to it. He used the traditional Italian Catenaccio to great effect, to the point that Germany couldn’t break through easily, even with all their possession. Italy’s counters weren’t too sharp, but they were enough to keep Germany on their toes, and considering this was a relatively inexperienced Italy side, it’s pretty impressive how they managed to keep what was close to a German champagne XI at bay. The future looks bright for Italy, even after their World Cup fiasco. Mancini was the man behind it, and he did a good job tonight.
Der Kaiser: Antonio Rüdiger
The newly-minted Real Madrid defender was easily the best of the bunch. He rarely missed a pass playing out from the back, even in the midst of a very high Italian press. He also got to a lot of loose balls before any Italian attackers could, while constantly being an aerial threat as well. Rüdiger was Germany’s best player in the first half, and although his team did concede a goal in the second, it was not his fault, more a cheap cross that should have been blocked. Otherwise, his play was almost impeccable, and he showed why he earned a move to the current European champions.
Der Fußballgott: Jonas Hofmann
While Hofmann was technically subbed on as a replacement right-back for the ineffective Benjamin Henrichs, you wouldn’t have known it with how he played. The Gladbach man was a breath of fresh air down the right flank, and it was he who turned a tough game in Germany’s direction in the latter stages. It was Hofmann’s cross that resulted in Joshua Kimmich’s equalizer, and he was a constant threat for the half hour that he was on the pitch. He also played a bit higher up in the final minutes after Serge Gnabry got subbed off, and while he didn’t create any more goals, he was still impressive.
Der Bomber: Thomas Müller
Bayern Munich’s main man wasn’t his usual brilliant self today, nor has he been for much of the Rückrunde. Nevertheless, he did show his class on multiple occasions today. He tried his best against a very tough defensive block, and he was on the creating end of a number of chances in the first half, chances that might have been converted if his teammates were a bit better at finishing. He got subbed off relatively early, but perhaps that’s a good thing, considering Germany will need him fresh for the remaining three games of the international break. Hopefully he plays even better on Tuesday, but then again, that goes for the whole team, I guess.
Meister of the Match: Joshua Kimmich
Even without his goal, Kimmich had a good game. The now father of three was at the heart of Germany’s midfield, pulling all the strings as necessary and trying his best to instigate attacks, which were sadly mostly wasted due to a couple of rather mediocre wingers. Kimmich’s only downside was that he struggled a tiny bit with tackles today, but that wasn’t just his problem - did you see how slippery the pitch was? Plus, he more than made up for it with his quick equalizer, a very important goal that kept the game from slipping away from Germany. It’s encouraging to see that even after a draining season, Kimmich is still more than willing to give everything he has in every game.
Bonus: Manager Review
Today wasn’t the best game, there is no point in denying it. However, that was less due to tactics and more due to players screwing up. Hansi Flick’s game plan was so-so, but his team did enjoy the lion’s share of the possession, and could have walked away with a victory if it weren’t for some lackluster finishing high up on the pitch. But still, I’m not going to say Flick’s tactics were superb today. What I will praise about him is his substitutions. Subbing on Jonas Hofmann and Jamal Musiala turned the game in Germany’s favor, and although it took a bit for them to grow into the game, the final 20 minutes or so were enjoyable to watch. All that was missing was a goal, so that’s something to work on. But overall, Flick could have done a lot worse with this game.