Article

Germany survive in Sochi but questions remain

23 juin 2018 22:38

Immature and naive. That's the best way to describe Germany's performance.

Germany may have avoided World Cup elimination at the hands of Sweden in Sochi on Saturday – a last-gasp 2-1 victory via Toni Kroos' stunning set-piece blowing Group F wide open – but the champions made life difficult for themselves.

In the build up to the vital fixture, Joachim Low insisted Germany had learnt from their mistakes which saw them stunned by Mexico, triggering claims of squad disharmony.

Low preached it would be different this time around. He almost guaranteed it.

It was different when it came to the starting XI. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were dropped and the man everyone wanted – Marco Reus – came into the line-up.

However, it was more of the same at Fisht Stadium.

Germany came out all guns blazing, often playing in a 2-2-6 formation, and while they were fluid in the attacking third and unfortunate not to strike inside 10 minutes, they played straight into Sweden's hands.

Germany and Sweden knew how this would pan out. The Swedes would play on the counter-attack, while the Germans would control possession.

Yet Germany were far too eager, leaving Jerome Boateng and Antonio Rudiger – the replacement for injured centre-back Mats Hummels – exposed, just like the 2014 champions were against Mexico.

Germany's incredibly vulnerable defence, not helped by the staggering number of players pushed forward, including Boateng, who went on forays forward to leave Rudiger alone at the back, were stunned by Sweden just past the hour-mark – Ola Toivonen making something out of nothing as the prospect of an early exit became real.

It could have been more by the break. An ignored penalty appeal, a wasted effort from Viktor Claesson and Manuel Neuer keeping Germany alive.

Low's men wiped out the deficit thanks to Reus within minutes of the restart, triggering a wave of attacks.

Boateng's overexuberance resulted in a second yellow card but Germany still poured men forward and got the goal they craved at the death - Kroos' boot sparking pandemonium.

Germany may have lived to fight another day, but more questions were raised over Low, his tactics and his side.

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