1. Özil Rules
The tabloid headlines tomorrow will be full of Oz puns, but they won’t be referring to Australia. Mesut Özil delivered upon the hype that has surrounded him in South Africa following a stellar season for Werder Bremen. Özil plundered his way to a man of the match performance on the right hand side in tandem with Phillip Lahm and Thomas Müller. Indeed, all four German goals were as a result of the good work from those three players – Özil in particular. He drifted into a more central role before his substitution in the second half, not before setting up Cacau prior to his exit. Australia’s answer in a sensational first half for the 21 year old was to have Vince Grella man mark him, which in theory, seemed the right way to go about it. But consider that Grella has only made 25 appearances for Blackburn in 2 years due to injury, and you get the idea on why it proved to be ineffective. Brett Holman was introduced in the second half but there was little the more attacking minded Alkmaar midfielder could do against the current star of the World Cup.
2. Tactical Masterclass
If you were watching either RTE or ITV’s coverage tonight, you might have picked up on the fact that Germany fielded a much younger side than their Australian counterparts. For those that have ignored any build up to this game, Australia surrendered an average of 6 years per player to the exuberant Germans, with an average age of 30.7 vs 24.7 respectively. And boy did it show. Germany were very fluid in attack, their passing was precise and very slick. Their three pronged assault on the right hand side saw Lahm, Müller and Özil in particular run riot in a relentless first half where the Australians were lucky to be down by only 2 goals. By allowing Özil to take his pick of either drifting in between a very advanced duo of Müller and Lahm on the right hand side, or nestling in between Klose and Müller up front, the German’s drew the Australian midfield and defence towards them. With Chipperfield triple-teamed, Grella was forced to lend a hand but it proved fairly futile. Podolski was allowed loads of room to power home his opener with all the Aussie attention on the other side of the pitch.
Left: Germany’s formation changed to a 4-1-4-1 when in possession. Schweinsteiger was the link between defence and attack, a role he has taken upon himself as he has progressed as a footballer. Khedira often fell into the hole behind Klose, while Ozil dovetailed with Muller on the right hand side with Lahm in support. Podolski found himself with lots of space on the left as a result.
3. Tactical Dunce
Just what was Pim Verbeek thinking with his selection? If you insist on not playing any strikers in your starting 11, then at least persist with a backs to the wall approach. How the Aussies expected to catch Germany on the break without a proven goalscorer up top is beyond me, as is their decision to stick their most influential midfielder in Tim Cahill as a lone forward. Culina offered support on the few occasions Australia threatened, but it was an incredibly flat and uninspiring performance from the Socceroos. Equally as baffling was the decision to stick with an offside trap that clearly wasn’t working, much due to a weary back four with an average age of 32 between them. The scoreline could have been even more embarrassing had it not been for some wasteful finishing from Miroslav Klose, and a couple of questionable offside calls from the referee’s assistant.
4. Cut it out
It was great to see referee Marco Rodriguez not allow any leniency on a couple of shameful dives from Özil and Cacau. With this being the stand out performance from a team in South Africa so far this summer, the majority of players will hopefully have seen that there is no room for simulation this month. Yellow cards have a habit of racking themselves up in these finals, and should Özil or Cacau miss a particularly important game for the Germans later on in the tournament, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. Tim Cahill may not be so complimentary about the Mexican official however. His straight red card was quite harsh, albeit resulting from a clumsy tackle that summed up a frustrating night for the Everton man. He will now miss Australia’s remaining 2 games, and with that disappears and minuscule hope they had of progressing.
5. Goals! Glorious, glorious goals!
What a relief to finally see a team trounce their opponents this summer. Argentina should have, England could have, but wouldn’t you know it, it was those boring Germans who scored more goals than Groups A, B and C’s respective four teams. This is not a “typical German” team (are you reading Sir Alex Ferguson?), and having been criminally overlooked in the build up to South Africa, Joachim Loew will relish taking his side from unusual underdogs to one of the favourites. It’s Germany. What did you expect, seriously?