World Cup 2014: Miroslav Klose equals World Cup record - but German frailties cannot be masked
Draw with Ghana suggested Germany may not be the force many consider them to be
Sunday 22 June 2014
Germany needed Miroslav Klose to secure a late point in a 2-2 draw against Ghana on Saturday and still require a result against the United States on Thursday to book their place in the last 16.
Joachim Löw’s side have been involved in two of the more exciting games of the tournament so far, and have scored six goals against two good teams. And yet there remains a lingering doubt about them when put under pressure, that they can be got at by a strong side.
Portugal never gave themselves a chance to do that in their first game, collapsing after Pepe’s early red card. Cristiano Ronaldo barely looked fit and Germany won 4-0. Against Ghana on Saturday, though, they were up against a far more disciplined, focused and dangerous side. Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan put Ghana 2-1 ahead and they had chances to win the game – Jordan Ayew took on a shot when he should have passed to better-placed team-mates – before Klose’s late equaliser.
There have been times in recent years where Germany have looked vulnerable and this was one of them. The centre-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels is far from impermeable and their midfield three of Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos seems to lack an authoritative presence.
Sami Khedira and Per Mertesacker react after Germany fell behind to Ghana
Bastian Schweinsteiger came on for the last 20 minutes for Khedira and improved Germany slightly, but he has struggled for form and fitness this season and may not be the answer. The 4-3-3 system Löw has used so far has helped them to play some fine attacking football, with important contributions from Mario Götze and Mesut Özil in wide areas. Whether it leaves them too open at the back is open to debate.
Germany’s hand is slightly strengthened, though, by the fact that they can also call on the remarkable Klose from the bench, the 36-year-old who equalled Ronaldo’s 15 World Cup goals with his late equaliser from his very first touch in Fortaleza.
Klose is unlikely to take Thomas Müller’s place in the starting line-up to face the US but he is a fantastic option to have on the bench and Low acknowledged how fortunate he is to be able to call on the striker. “It’s sensational for me to have this kind of player on the bench,” he said, “knowing they can make a decisive move.”
Germany should have enough talent to get past the US in their final game in Recife and top the group, thereby setting up a last-16 game with the second-placed team in Group H – probably Russia, Algeria or South Korea – in Porto Alegre. That should be straight-forward enough, too, but a quarter-final against France in Rio de Janeiro, if it happened, would be a very different prospect. France have proven themselves to be one of the best counter-attacking teams at the tournament and it feels that Germany, to progress as far as everyone expects, might still need to find another gear.
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