If the World Cup was played on paper, the Germans would have to be the favourites to beat everyone. Even with players like Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Lars and Sven Bender on the injury list, the Germans have so much strength in depth that they should be striking fear into every team in the tournament. So why haven’t they quite hit the heights they should have so far?
The easiest thing to point to is the injury to Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus just before the tournament that has seen Joachim Low change the way the Germans play in an attacking sense. Reus, a very direct forward that would have played out on the left, has been replaced by Mario Gotze, much more of a traditional number 10 rather than going for a like-for-like change.
It worked excellently against Portugal, not so well against Ghana so it was changed with Podolski starting against USA but it wasn’t as effective as before. It was a conundrum for Low, who reverted back the original line-up against Algeria and again, they struggled until they switched it back again by bringing Andre Schurrle on who eventually turned the game for them.
This leaves Low with a decision to make again, which would be the best to work against France? Neither system has worked particularly well against team who have defended deep, although they did create a lot more with Schurrle in the Algeria game, but that isn’t the game they are expecting. Sticking with Andre Schurrle in Reus’ role might be the best way forward in the Quarter Finals, create more chances and test relatively untested French back line.
That’s not to say that’s their only problem heading into the game, their defence has been nothing short of shaky against teams willing to attack them. The system of playing four centre backs across the line has not worked, the idea seems to be to deal with more agile players who will struggle in front of them but they keep getting caught out in behind.
Fullbacks are a big part of the modern game and for Germany not to utilise them seems very odd. Not only does it mean promising left-back Eric Durm is left out but it means Low carries on the obsession of turning the best right-back in the world into a very good midfielder. Playing Lahm in his best position offers a spot to have Khedira and Schweinsteiger in the same middle three, which shouldn’t be seen as a last resort.
It’s not going to be easy against the French, far from it they have been the most consistent side in the tournament and with some of the squad coming down with flu, the Germans have a lot to contend with. But they also have the quality in their squad to perform and many will be expecting them to improve.
Should they find a system that works right, find some consistency and manage to beat a strong French team, they could still go all the way. The team is more than good enough, it’s more about them getting everything else right so that they can perform like they should be performing. If they can’t adjust they may be flying home soon rather than later.