Style over substance: can England down the Germans?

An hour into their Group D fixture against Germany, the Ghanaians were holding their own. They even could have had the lead, with Kwadwo Asamoah ruining an excellent chance for the African side. A goalless score line would have seen Ghana top the group, with the Germans having to settle for a runners up spot. But then again, the Germans never seem to settle for second best.

The young Thomas Muller drifted in from his right hand flank and picked out Mesut Ozil on the edge of the penalty area. The wily Ozil took one touch to set himself, before firing a wicked left footed volley into the back of the net. It was cruel for Ghana, but Asamoah and his team mates should have took their chances. After all, with the likes of Ozil around, Joachim Loew’s team were always likely to score.


Germany fans celebrate their win against Ghana on Wednesday night. Next up is a mouthwatering tie against the English. Photo: SpreePIX media

In many ways that match summed up Germany’s class of 2010. Like years gone by the Germany side was, both on paper and in practice, more talented than their opponents. But the German sides of previous eras were built from the back—players like Berti Vogts, Jurgen Kohler, and of course the great Franz Beckenbauer, acted as firm foundations and ensured that the team was defensively solid. But these sides often lacked imagination and creativity in attack. They were functional but not flamboyant.

In contrast, it is in the backline where Germany have problems. Phillip Lahm is undoubtedly one of the world’s best full backs, but his fellow defenders are not as convincing. Bayern defender Holger Badstuber is inexperienced and his naivety has been targeted by clubs in the Champions League this season. Also, centre backs Arne Freidrich and Per Mertesacker lack pace and agility which leaves them exposed at international level. Neither have the leadership qualities of either a Beckenbauer, Matthaus, or a Kohler.

However this Joachim Loew-led team possesses strength in the final third. Forwards Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have had torrid seasons for their respective clubs, but really seem to rise to the occasion when playing for their national team. Klose is just one goal away from 50 for his country, while Podolski has impressed in the early stages of the tournament. When you add the nippy and tricky Mesut Ozil into the mix, Germany seem to have the firepower to match most teams at the World Cup.

If England are to beat the odds and down the Germans on Friday, they will need to win two key battles. The first is to breach the relatively weak German defence. That will most probably be done through pace, meaning another start for Jermain Defoe is all but guaranteed.

But their second task will be much more difficult, and one the aforementioned Ghanaians could not achieve. Mesut Ozil is a man in form and will look to pull the strings just behind the German frontline. If England can stop Ozil they can seriously lessen the Germans’ attacking threat.

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