The US tactical cookbook to play Germany

One aspect of football is to look at what home work and tactical preparations the teams have done to target or reveal their opponents problem areas. And in this particular case there is a lot of room to maneuver for both sides because both have shown enough areas to be targeted by their opponents. Lots of things to work with. And even more to cancel out the own weaknesses.
Who has got the majority of this right?
There are not many matches where this might be more important than here.

Defense
expected formation: Maier – Krahn – Bartusiak – Kemme
A basic problem: Germany have had only a few days preparation time after the end of the season with very exhausted players who were in need of regeneration rather than asking them for taking on new tasks. These 4 are playing in 4 different teams in 4 different set ups. Bartusiak only 3-4 games in the whole last year because of injury. Krahn is used to be center back in a chain of 4. Maier is used to be defensive wing midfielder slightly up the field in front of a chain of 3. Kemme is mixing her roles sometimes more (wo)man oriented defender or lately more midfielder.
Surely some weaknesses in the German defense have been made so evident by France that the German side probably will target them and change. However some things are difficult to change thoroughly enough. Because some things are simply the players basic patterns of play.

1. Move them vertically. They have had very individual (and different) interpretations in case a forward eg leaves the wing position for the center or vice versa when the wing back leaves the attention to the center back or vice versa. These handovers always causes them lots of problems. That was not only at display when Jakobsson had a chance to bring Sweden back in the game where no central defender was at hand directly in the middle of the field. It was as well interesting to see no center back at all protecting the goal after France should have scored against them in the first minute where Necib was left totally alone.

2. Urge them to stay deep. None of them is fast. So they tend to stay extremely deep to avoid overrunning. That takes a lot of running for the holding midfielders in defense and thus prevents the two from going forward when in possession. Additionally it opens spaces in front of the back line to give you room to play with.

3. Prevent Maier from opening the game from the back. She is very good at it. Able to go for herself, play longline, turn into the middle and on her left foot, play a short pass for a one-two. All other 3 are very weak. They will give you lots of inaccurate long balls if put only under a little pressure, especially Krahn and Bartusiak.

4. If the holding midfielders go deep to open the game prevent them too as far as possible. Focus on attacking Goessling especially. She is expecting the ball in a deep midfield position and hardly going forward from there without having the ball. So she is not difficult to pick up and prevent from getting the ball. Maybe even a forward can be used to have an eye on her when Germany builds up from the center back..

5. Always open your right side to force Germany on their left wing. (When Kemme-Popp are playing there) Attacks from the left wing are usually much less dangerous – but be aware of Kemmes long range shots.

6. A main strength of the German full backs is defending dribbling players. They dont like speedy players how are using their speed to pass them with mainly their speed advantage.

Midfield (expected formation: Goessling, Leupolz)
which is difficult to determine in the German team. From paper you would say Popp – Mittag – Laudehr are also midfield players but they are either playing far up front when the opponent allows them to do so or they are pushed back and then taking some very different but indifferent fantasy positions. Mittag is not used to work defensively at all. Laudehr will go deep back but stay very much at the sideline only. Popp is the only to really do midfield play but also seeks to stay up front as far as possible. On the other hand Kemme and Maier used to be very far up front acting like midfielders also most of the time.
This leaves their only two real midfield players to do lots and lots of running in between a very unorthodox organisation around them. Unfortunately for their opponents these two still show hardly any sign of fatigue and have been able to hold everything together by their immense working rate.
For that reason it would be advisable to stretch the game horizontally and vertically urging Leupolz and Goessling to cover yet more ground and thus exploiting more gaps in their midfield areas.

Offense (expected formation: Popp – Mittag – Laudehr — Sasic)
1. Be aware of Mittag. She seems to be the biggest threat at the moment. She plays the tournament of her life because she is on a self confidence high and a very sensitive player who needs that massively as her whole career tells. She took difficult shots and executed them well as you have never seen her before. Be happy when she is subbed out. Maybe that substitution against France has got to her already.

2. Be aware of Maroszan. You know that already from the last friendlies. Especially her long range shots. Germany is also more dangerous individually than by team play. And Maroszan is their most skillful in regards to producing something or scoring on her own not only on shots. Dont be fooled by the fact that she might be quite ineffective for most of the time however because she seems rarely to be positioned at the right place which they are still seeking and have not yet found in the “Mannschaft”.  Not only for this reason it would have been nice to have used a warm up game to check a better protection for your center backs by a holding midfielder like Johnston (using an alternative center back) or Brian.

3. Be aware of Germanys right side. Have a midfielder to protect Klingenberg who is taking her defensive duties very seriously. If Klingenberg can not match the speed of Laudehr – who is not extraordinary quick – think about some kind of change. Laudehr is all but a winger. She has only a few minor dummies at her disposal to get by you in a 1on1 situation. But she will punish you if you are slower than her by simply running past you. And she can run without a break. If you can contain Germanys right side your chances are rising significantly.

4. Corner kicks and set pieces. Put the most attention on Popp. But be also aware of Krahn, Leupolz, Laudehr, Sasic who are all good.

 

gerfra-deepgoal4

The second before Necib netted for the lead against Germany. Again a huge gap between center backs and holding midfielder. This isnt the worst example though. And a poor header from Peter to add to the misery. So it got the most costly one.

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Preview USA – Germany

Background
The ultimate heavyweight clash – if you are allowed to say so in women sports – sees world ranked teams number 1 and 2 meeting for the big showdown of the world championships. Both had their ups and downs not only during the last year or so but also during this tournament. The US have even changed their manager after a insufficient showing in the Alga-Cup 2014 and a lot of rumors have been going around on how this decision was made. However after not coming to grips for the whole of 2014 and a defeat against France in early 2015 suddenly things started to go the right way with a much welcomed win of the Alga-Cup 2015. Albeit seemingly having found a well balanced formation there things got worse again when further improvements were targeted and the formation changed.
Germany have had a lot of easy-peasy qualification games, and a few friendlies with a loss to France like the US and a third place in the Alga-Cup 2015 after a win in 2014.
In this tournament we also saw the US going rather up and down from a hard fought win against Australia to a quiet draw with Sweden and an uninspired win against Nigeria. And after that yet another lame showing against Colombia really let the alarm bells ring. However there was a good reaction to keep China down. Not a fluid game but a very inspired style of play showed the teams eagerness to make a change to the better. They really played from the very first minute like if it were their last 10.
Germany like expected had the much easier group games but the more difficult way in the ko-stage with a convincing victory over Sweden but a more or less lucky outcome on penalty shoot out when they met France in the quarterfinals and showed much room for improvements as well.

What to expect
A very tough battle. Unless one side gets lucky as England and score on their first opportunities it can be expected that this will be a long lasting physical battle if not even more but at least on the same level like the France – Germany game. As already stated in the match report of the last quarterfinal here, there have been no goals at all in all 4 quarterfinal games which resulted from a combination play. All goals have been more or less somehow “battled” or “fought” in the opposite net – if not big errors converted. It would be nice if that would change to the better but if you look at the goals of these teams so far against decent opponents (so forget about Germanys 10 against Ivory Coast) they are the masters of goals that made their physical advantage count either on set pieces or in duels or by using some faults or simply have enough players in the box to profit from loose balls.
You can see it from the opposite direction as well. Both teams know exactly that they will very likely lose that game when they give away easy goals what should make their defensive resistance even more intense.
Dont expect anything regarding the US lineup except that Solo will be goalie because they seem to like changes even if they had found a well balanced formation as the games after the Alga-Cup showed. And of course the more they mix it up the more unlikely they will be able to get a fluid game going. And we have already often seen all six players in midfield and attack kind of playing their very own six different styles beside each other. Either way – there will be changes again for sure because Rapinoe and Holiday are available again.

Keys to success
1. There is another post here (tactical cookbook to play Germany) where some key areas are listed which might be targeted by the US team. The more of it they get right – the better their chances

2. US defense: Quite in contrary to Germany where strong holding midfielders protect the vulnerable center back the US have strong center backs which are not very well protected by the holding midfielders. So it remains to be seen if the US midfield gets their defensive balance right. Another detail might be to help the back when crosses are coming in. Both German wing players (should they again play Popp and Laudehr) are very good in heading the ball so the full backs might be asked to stand strong if crosses are flying long over the center towards the other side. Apart from that you can really see the US holding on to a clean sheet given how rarely Germany got scoring opportunities against France.

3. Germany: balance in midfield play: Germanys strange midfield organization which consists of only two real midfielders Goessling and Leupolz who have been good enough against weaker opponents to manage that by a massive work rate but not enough to keep the quality french midfield under the cosh. The quite unorthodox and sometimes not very well organized support from the three offensive midfielders and the very deep standing center backs leave a lot of space for the pair to cover which can be exploited by a decent quality opponent. Against France it proofed costly not only when the french goal was scored.

4. Take your chances. There should not be too many. Whoever needs less to score first will win. Sorry, should win. Because both offenses have proofed to have difficulties to break down decent opposition properly. And decent oppositions means the likes of China, Nigeria or Norway, let alone like the kind of Germany or the US. Expect both sides to be defending good enough to hold on to a 1:0 lead for a long time. The best chance for either side then is adding more pressure on an probably retracting opponent and bring the ball and bodies into the box as often as possible. Maybe there is some lucky poor defending header or a deflection like Frances goal, a handball like Germanys goal, or the ball simply falls luckily to be netted like Japans goal. The chances of such a typ of goal have been much higher during this tournament than any other play. Very rarely we have seen goal scoring opportunities after counter attacks.

5. And maybe: Who is able to adapt to the proceedings and makes the right tactical switches and player changes. Both coaches could not yet proof their abilities to make changes to the better when the game was not going the way they would have wanted. Neither Germany in the game against France or Norway could be helped from the bench nor the US team in their performances against Sweden, Nigeria or Colombia.
Can that be changed this time? It will be interesting to see if either side does either:
– Improve the weak points of their own teams by recognizing them and take the right steps to change them as many feel for example Germany could have done to defend Thomis or the US could have done to improve their offense in the games mentioned above.
– Recognize weaknesses of the opponent and try to exploit that.
Should the game be as close as the Germany – France game you can ride your luck as Germany did and still proceed. But it might well be a if not THE decisive factor if any side gets it right this time.

Things to watch out for:
Crunch time for the players to put in big performances.
There has not yet been a very big outstanding favorite for being player of the tournament so far. You might favor Germanys Goessling at the moment who has been the heart of the German team and consistently so during all matches. But still that is more of a “who else?” and far from decided. We certainly have not seen outstanding performances in the US offense so far but the center backs both might still be in the mix as well and probably taking over as favorites should they help the US team keeping a clean sheet and proceed against Germany as well.
But the two most influential games are yet to come and any other player could still step in with decisive performances for their team to get to the title.
A lot has been going to the script so far in these world championships. Not only the FIFA ko-match fixes. (If only France had written their own …) Most of the games have gone pretty much according to the expectations as you surely have noticed if you have read the previews here. Seems like the women are more capable of preventing such upsets as the 7:1 last year. So we have to ask: Is there still a match to come where all predections are thrown overboard and everything goes in a totally different direction.
For this game you might rather wish for something unexpected to happen …

Preview France – Germany

Background
FIFA world ranking teams number 1 and 3 meeting in the quarterfinals of the world championships. And you do not really wonder that it does remember you of the bigger FIFA picture how the groups and the group winners way have been fixed to the title. So this is undoubtedly the quarterfinal that could have been the final as well given the class of the two teams. However there have been hick-ups at display from both of them so far during the tournament. Germanys out-of-nowhere 1:1 draw with Norway when they suddenly looked quite pedestrian in the second half after being utterly dominant in the first. And even more Frances loss to Colombia which was the biggest “surprise” of the tournament so far. However both got back on track with quite impressive wins in the round of 16, Germany 4:1 against 11 wide-eyed Swedish spectators, and France 3:0 against South Korea who looked equally stunned as the Swedes did. Albeit Sweden was expected to be the much more dangerous opponent of the two.

What to expect
It is football, womens football. So we are looking forward to the game with some excitement but we wouldnt be too surprised if the ladies deliver another surprising performance as the Germans against Norway or the French against Columbia. Apart from that because the players are knowing each other well from European competitions and even some playing together their might be a deadlock in sight where they are able to cancel each other out for most of the game. Small margins might decide who gets the edge. And it might well be that the winner will be decided by the fact who gets the majority of these small edges under his belt. And as we go on in the tournament of course there are more and more games decided by the short moment of magic or the fault rather than too overwhelming dominance. Messi had his chance last year but it was Goetze who did it for the German men.

Keys to success

1. For the French: Show up with your “A” team Having won their last encounter 2:0 in last autumn in Germany really lifted their self confidence at that time and gave them believe in their strengths. And it showed how good they can be. Could be? Already struggling to find their rhythm in the warm up games going into these world championships you could not believe how bad they have played against Colombia. Too many details have gotten wrong there as underestimating their opponents, missing personal skills, missing personal willingness. But worst: A lack of team spirit. The wins against Mexico and South Korea have not been enough – far from that – to make believe they have left their problems behind now. Maybe they have been in internal team talks to get those problems sorted, maybe a lucky course of the game helps them into something – but if they do not find a way back to the brilliant performances of months ago Germany might proof to be too much for them at the moment.

2. For the Germans: Sorting the back problems. It has been strange. The German back line. Never looked overly comfortable in the group games. But when Schelin and Jakobsson came it was an impeccable performance of the center backs. However there have been strange moments in their positioning where both seemed to follow their opponents far away from their usual position. The scene were Jakobsson was on goal for 2:3 was not the only one of this kind and if a team shows more support for their front players than the Swedes did for the lonesome two it remains to be seen what happens with the huge open spaces there. A strong midfield performance still is very much key for Germany to protect their back line and the Norway game weakness was not accidental at all.

3. A clinical finish and free from errors: In front of goal is where it counts the most Interesting contrast in the back of both teams. Renard and Georges are considered two of the best center backs in the world and there are not much who would prefer the German duo over these to keep a clean sheet. You might see the opposite in goal where Bouhaddi might be seen to be not as reliable as Angerer who seems able to manage to be spot on when it comes to the events on the big stage (despite not against Ivory Coast). Apart from that there are many tight duels too close to call. Will in the form of her life Mittag make the difference or the class of LeSommer?

4. And maybe: Who has a plan B After we have seen lately Sweden unable to adapt to the game and make any efficient changes against Germany and we have seen the Netherlands unable to adapt to the game and make any efficient changes it will be interesting to see if one of the sides here is able to change tactics when they see something is not going the right way. So far 7 of 8 ko-matches have been decided by the 1:0 lead already. Only England have managed to come from behind. And probably that was less of a “Plan B” than simply the fact they had to put more efforts in their offense and driving away the bus from their own goal.

Things to watch out for:

Is Germany playing enough “German” again? Then they should find a way through. Somehow at the end. Are the German players simply on average on the more successful mindset again?
The french on the other side might need something very special and they would achieve something very special given their lack in recent years to deliver on the big occasions. It doesnt need any further explanation and nearly everybody knows it. Actually the french side since the warm up matches look more like seeking something but not really knowing for what exactly. Especially their choices of formations and changes make it difficult to see any light in the darkness. Time for a change. One day it surely will happen.
Necib and Thomis. Of course there are other players maybe more influential or better. But these are two players who are very floating in regards of their performance. France could play safe and leave both out. Maybe that would be not the worst decision at the moment. Who knows. But both are players you have to organize your team around to make them click and go. Then they can be decisive. If you try to play to bring them into good positions and they are not able to deliver you will most likely have not much fun.