Germany started this international friendly on top but after going down to ten men just past the 30 minute mark, Argentina were able to slow down the tempo, keep the ball using their man advantage and start to create some goalscoring chances which they happily took…
Just as throughout Euro 2012, Germany set up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, but were missing most of their key players, allowing some of the younger players to get a chance of gaining some international experience.
Ron-Robert Zieler started in goal with Jerome Boateng at right back and Marcel Schmelzer at left back. Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber continued to partner each other at centre back, as they did throughout this summer’s tournament.
Lars Bender partnered Sami Khedira in midfield, with Marco Reus to the left, Thomas Muller down the right and Mesut Ozil tasked with linking up the midfield with lone striker, Miroslav Klose.
Alejando Sabella’s Argentina took to the field in a 4-4-2 formation with Sergio Romero starting in goal. Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay partnered each other in the middle of defence, with Marcos Rojo and Pablo Zabaleta both playing full back.
Fernando Gago started in central midfield alongside Javier Mascherano, with neither player venturing too far forward, leaving that to the two wingers; Angel Di Maria on the right and Jose Ernesto Sosa on the left. Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain operated as the two strikers.
From the start it was very noticeable how advanced the German wingers were on both sides of the pitch, making the German shape a very clear 4-2-3-1. This meant that Argentina’s full backs were pressed back (see diagram) and made it harder for the South Americans to keep the ball early on.
In midfield, Khedira pressed higher up than Bender and this also allowed the Real Madrid player to make some runs from deep into the box, making it equally difficult for Gago or Mascherano to venture too far forward.
Germany’s best movement came down their left hand side however, where they were incredibly strong, especially the relationship that was building up between Reus, who was fantastic off the ball, and Klose.
Reus very rarely stayed wide, instead constantly looking to drift inside and link up with team mates in more central positions, and this allowed Klose to frequently make a simple diagonal run into the left hand channel, and open up space for Reus or Ozil to move into.
Argentina’s most creative side was also it’s left, but overall Argentine attacks lacked any speed and were thwarted by how condensed their play became, with both Di Maria and Sosa looking to cut inside. This was made even more obvious, as already mentioned, by both Argentine full backs being pinned backed by the German wingers.
It’s hard to remember a time when Sosa took on Boateng, instead he constantly looked to cut inside and play a square ball, which allowed the duo of Khedira and Bender to get behind the ball and make the home side hard to break down.
All this changed however after Zieler was sent off for catching Susa running onto a through ball inside the box. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was brought on from the bench, replacing Thomas Muller, and with his first touch saved the penalty taken by Messi.
With Muller off Germany had a new shape, a 4-4-1, with Ozil drifting inside from the right hand side when Germany attacked, effectively being told to play two roles, that of a link man, and that of a wide player (see diagram).
Unsurprisingly the red card change the match as it was now Germany who looked to counter and Argentina who saw the majority of possession, and as a result slowed down the tempo of the game considerably.
In first half added time, Argentina went ahead after Khedira attempted to clear a corner at the near post but swung wildly and saw the ball fly into his own goal.
At half time Argentina made a change with Sergio Aguero replacing Sosa and the match really opened up. Initially Sabella’s side became a 4-3-1-2 with Messi in the hole, but with Germany offering minimal pressure when Argentina had the ball in the middle third of the pitch, Argentina’s shape soon became a 4-2-4.
The front four of Di Maria, Aguero, Messi and Higuain (yellow circles) was constantly moving about making it impossible for the German defence to know who to mark and Argentina reaped the rewards after scoring two more times, first through a clever finish from Messi after 52 minutes, and then a wonder strike from Di Maria on 73.
The Argentine front four was also supported well from left back Rojo (blue circle) and as the half moved on the tempo was slowed further due a number of substitutions from both sides that at times meant the game lacked fluidity.
On 82 minutes Germany did pull a deserved goal back after Benedikt Howedes, who had replaced the injured Hummels after 25 minutes, headed in after the Germans got in behind the Argentine defence for the first time in the second half, and the final score stayed at 3-1.
It’s hard to assess this match as Argentina dominated once the Germans went down to ten men, but for the first half an hour with the match at 11v11, it was Germany on top. Reus in particular impressed tonight, and so it has to be said that had there not been a red card, it is more than likely that we would have seen a German victory.
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