Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 analysis: Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos the brilliant twin pistons firing Germany’s engine
2009 was the turning point and five or six players from that team are doing well here
Wednesday 09 July 2014
Germany’s historic victory over Brazil on Tuesday night was unprecedented but it was also an old football story: the triumph of a team over a set of individuals.
Joachim Löw’s side – unlike Brazil’s gaggle of strangers – were a coherent unit, 11 players with one plan but different roles. And while they were all excellent and indispensable, it was Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, the twin pistons of their dominant midfield, who stood out the most.
Kroos and Khedira were brilliant throughout, winning the ball quickly, keeping it and surging forward into the Brazil area, meeting with remarkably little resistance. Their opponents, Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo, looked desperately and miserably lost, and were helplessly overrun throughout.
While Thomas Müller ran relentlessly in behind Marcelo, Miroslav Klose occupied the centre-backs, and Philipp Lahm overlapped, Kroos and Khedira waited outside the box, sizing up the gaping spaces in which they hurt Brazil.
The second goal came from Kroos’s sharp through ball to Müller, which was then worked to Klose. The third was scored by Kroos, bizarrely unmarked on the edge of the box. The fourth was Kroos again, robbing Fernandinho, playing a one-two with Khedira and finishing. Khedira scored the fifth, after breaking through yet again and exchanging passes with Mesut Özil.
It was an astonishing contribution from the two midfielders who can now aim, very realistically, to be world champions on Sunday night. Löw has found a system to bring the best out of them and it should triumph one final time.
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In Germany’s first four games, Löw played a 4-3-3 with Lahm at the base of midfield. He is an excellent player but it did not always allow for enough protection and a ropy back four was nearly cut apart, first by Ghana and then by Algeria.
For France in the quarter-finals, though, in the heat of the Maracana, Löw moved Lahm back to right-back, sitting Bastian Schweinsteiger in front of the back four and pairing Kroos and Khedira just ahead of him. It worked perfectly. Germany were too strong and too sharp, moving play forward incisively. The much-vaunted France midfield could barely get the ball from them. The only goal came when Mats Hummels headed in Kroos’s free-kick.
A similar plan worked even better in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday night, in what must have been the high-point in each of the two players’ careers so far. They have both won titles and the Champions League before but nothing that will compare to this week, and Sunday’s World Cup final in the Maracana, an evening that has been long in the preparation.
Khedira is 27 and Kroos just 24 but they have been working and developing together for some time. Khedira was captain of the German team that won the 2009 Under-21 Championship, famously along with Hummels, Özil, Manuel Neuer and the rest. Kroos, then a teenager starting to impress on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, was surprisingly left out.
“It started off in 2009 when we won the Under-21 tournament and beat England 4-0 in the final,” Per Mertesacker said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s famous win. “That was a real turning point and five or six players from that team are doing well here.”
Both Kroos and Khedira went to the World Cup in South Africa four years ago. Khedira started every game while Kroos came on as a 20-year-old substitute in the quarter-final and semi-final against Argentina and Spain, as Germany’s youngsters developed the tournament nous that has proved so valuable in Brazil. It is hard to think of a better “pathway”, to use English football’s new favourite word.
That was the summer that Khedira moved from Stuttgart to Real Madrid, while Kroos started to impose himself on Bayern Munich’s first team. They continued to grow and to win trophies but Kroos has not been able to agree a new deal at Bayern, who are ready to sell him rather than see him leave on a free. Manchester United are no longer interested, leaving Khedira’s Real as his likeliest destination. It might be difficult for Carlo Ancelotti to play the two together, but there can be no doubt what a devastating combination they are.
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