Nerves of steel? Can Germany prove their mental strength?
Two thoughts dominate my mind regarding die Mannschaft. In the words of American politician Alan Grayson:
When nobody is paying attention, anything is possible.
And those of Gary Lineker
In the end, the Germans always win.
So what if it’s the World Cup? They are Germany. They will walk past group stage as usual. They have a knack for doing it.
But then there's another thought. Don't push your luck.
Losing their opening match against Mexico was an eye-opener. But what’s done is done. What they do now is most important. Mexico exposed vulnerabilities in this German side. Joachim Low won’t take things for granted and he shouldn’t.
Whether Germany will top the group or not is a whole different thing. For now, they must show their mental strength and take one game at a time. Manuel Neuer understands.
From now on, we only have finals. We have to try to put this behind us as quickly as possible.
Germany’s defence was heavily criticized and rightly so. Low’s tactics granted licence to Joshua Kimmich and Marvin Plattenhardt to gallop up the pitch, leaving the two centre-backs exposed. Kimmich isn't Phillip Lahm, but he's Germany's best bet at right back. Left back is a more serious problem. Plattenhardt offered little in the first game. Germany rarely used him in the attacking third. Antonio Rudiger could do the job. The Chelsea man is agile, offers more pace and is a workaholic.
Toni Kroos generally rules the midfield area, but he often found himself isolated against Mexico. His partner Sami Khedira failed to provide the necessary support in attack and defence. Khedira is 31 and maybe his best days are behind him already. Kroos can’t recover balls, and he isn’t pacey either, so playing him alongside another slower player will be a gamble. Kroos is a master in directing the play and releasing crucial balls. Loew might have realised this after the Mexico game. He needs to replace Khedira or maybe add another man in the midfield. Maybe Ilkay Gundogan or Leon Goretzka can come in handy.
Germany looked rather more predictable and out of ideas against Mexico. Their build-up play was too slow, and they were left awestruck by Mexico’s counters. There’s no doubt that Sweden and South Korea will draw a lot of inspiration from Mexico. So, the Germans need to be wary of the pacey customers.
Loew’s tactics hardly failed Germany; they saw tremendous success since he took over in 2006. However, when Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger retired after the 2014 World Cup, Germany haven’t found a proper leader within the squad. It's taken a toll on the team as we saw against Mexico. After Hirving Lozano scored, the senior players failed to calm the nerves. As a result, Germany panicked and attacked without any real threat. So, another task for Loew will be to instil some leadership qualities among the senior players.
Eventually, it can be assumed that Germany had an off day, or they just ran out of luck in their opening match. They did play and play well, particularly in the second and left no stones unturned in search of goal which never came.
But it will be cruel to take the credit away from Mexico. They came with a plan and executed it to perfection. It’s not the end of the world for Germany. It will be foolish to rule them out. All they need is to move on from the defeat. And with some minor tweaks as mentioned above, they can save themselves from the embarrassment. They certainly possess the squad and quality to defend the title and a deft tactician in Loew, whose Hindi pronunciation translates to ‘take risks’.
Now is the time to buckle up and put it into action, time to show the true champions' mentality. Nerves of steel, whether they have them or not.