Germany's first-ever loss in Euro group opener exposes flaws in system

Germany's solitary attempt on target was their lowest-such figure in a Euro encounter, since their 1-0 defeat against Spain in the final of the 2008 edition.

Germany need to improve if they wish to mount a serious challenge for the trophy. (Image Credit: Twitter/@EURO2020)

Germany recorded their maiden defeat in a group opener in the Euros, after being defeated 1-0 by France in the first Group F matches of the respective nations in Euro 2020. Defender Mats Hummels scored an own goal in the first half, which proved to be the difference between the sides in Munich. The margin could have been greater considering the defensive commitment of France’s star-studded forward line, with each member of the team playing with intelligence and discipline. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot hit the post with two goals ruled as offsides. Karim Benzema linked with Kylian Mbappe in a beautiful manner, showing great promise which will ensure a high morale for the French squad going into the second match against Hungary.

Paul Pogba delivered a fantastic performance with some top-notch passing. His vision and creativity played a key role in France’s dominance.

“We all put the effort in. We’re all focused on our jobs on the pitch. We know we need to live up to our tag as world champions and come out on to the pitch with humility. When we need to suffer, we do it together and when we attack, we do it together,” he said as quoted by UEFA.

France captain Hugo Lloris further hailed his team’s performance, stating that the main thing was taking the three points.

“The main thing was taking the three points. We really played as a team. We suffered at times, especially in the second half when they held onto the ball and got it wide. We did the most important thing and we must savour that,” he stated.

Coach Didier Deschamps highlighted the high chances of his players scoring a second goal, terming the encounter as a strong clash with quality and talent.

“We played a great game against very good opponents. I knew my players would be ready and we were up for the fight. We weren’t far away from scoring the second goal that would have made us safe, but we didn’t suffer that much in the second half. It was a strong match with quality and talent.”

While France certainly delivered a brilliant performance in a crucial encounter maintaining their unbeaten streak in their last 17 competitive fixtures, they further exposed the flaws in the German system ruthlessly.

Back to the drawing board for Joachim Low

The first faux pas was observed with regard to the midfield experiment. Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan were deployed in a pivot together. While the two players are great midfielders, their presence together backfired spectacularly, rather than letting Germany control the midfield. They were unable to link offense and defense, despite enjoying a lot of time on the ball and tons of possession. The French players wrestled the ball back whenever the players entered their third, preventing any passes to the attack. Pogba and N’Golo Kante were absolutely ruthless, dispossessing the German midfielders astutely. Joshua Kimmich can be pushed back centrally with Niklas Sule deployed at right-back, in case Leon Goretzka remains injured.

The second area of concern is the formation of a 3-4-3 which takes away an extra midfielder with quality wingers lacking, resulting in an inability to overlap in the final third. The German wingbacks failed to deliver according to the requirements of the tactical system, which makes the formation not worth the while. France were barely aggressive in the final third, but Kylian Mbappe still exposed the backline ruthlessly. A weak defense further makes sticking to a back-three a poorly formulated idea.

Another factor that will haunt Germany manager Joechim Loew is the lack of the bite in attack. Kai Havertz had a poor game with Thomas Mueller not able to deliver as per expectations. Serge Gnabry failed to shine as well. A prime concern is the lack of chemistry among the players with the attackers outnumbered in the box. There is a sense of disjointed gameplay with the crossing enjoying a lot of room for improvement.

Loew attempted to back his players, hailing them for giving everything they had.

“It was a really intense match and we fought until the very end. I cannot blame my team for not trying – they gave everything they had. There were spells of the match when we were able to increase the pressure on them, but we didn’t create any clear-cut chances,” he said while speaking to ZDF.

Joshua Kimmich expressed a similar viewpoint, expressing a desire to improve in the coming matches.

“We were not the worst team today. We dominated the match and conceded a stupid goal to fall behind. I think a draw would have been deserved. We have the level to keep up with the top teams. France are a big favourite in this tournament, but in the next match we need to show that we are also among the contenders,” he said.

Germany lack an identity currently and it is tough to be confident whether Loew can salvage it.




WRITTEN BY
Arnab Mukherji

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