Euro 2016: Germany 0-2 France - Tactical Analysis: Defensive Lapses Cost Germany Despite Controlling the Game
Germany took on France in the second semi-final of the UEFA Euro 2016 in the most high-profile match of the tournament so far. Joachim Loew had to make three changes as he started Emre Can, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Julian Draxler to replace the suspended Mats Hummels and injured Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez.
Didier Deschamps stuck with the same starting XI that saw off Iceland in the quarterfinals. With N’Golo returning from suspension, the key question before the match was if he would be reinstated in the line-up adding steel to the midfield, though that would have meant playing Antoine Griezmann away from the number ten position where he thrives.
Ultimately, France went on to win the match 2-0, courtesy of two goals from Griezmann.
Germany’s attacking shape
France started off the game at an electric pace fuelled by the home support and taking advantage of turnovers in midfield. Emre Can had a difficult opening few minutes but he pushed higher up the field in the right halfspace, with Ozil dropping deeper. This helped Germany keep possession well and they continued to control the game for large parts.
Schweinsteiger dropped in between the centre backs to help bring out the ball with Kroos stationed in the left halfspace. Their structure hence became a 2-3-5 with fullbacks high up the pitch. Their offensive structure and spacing in the final third was excellent and there was a lot of movement between the advanced players which left the French midfielders wanting.
Germany's positional structure, when possession is secured pic.twitter.com/enCMoAluLL— DPY (@DPY_PRODUCTIONS) July 7, 2016
France had 16 attacking thirds touches in the first five minutes compared to Germany’s three but after they got a foothold in the game, Germany had 149 compared to just 33 for hosts in the rest of the half.
Kroos controls the midfield as Germany dominate the first hour
Deschamps’ decision to go with two central midfielders ceded the midfield to Germany. They were completely swamped in the area and sorely missed Kante’s bite to break up the play. Kroos, devoid of any marking was able to dictate play along with Boateng until about the hour mark when the defender went off injured.
The duo was instrumental in stretching the play with long diagonal switches to either fullback. Testament to their domination was the fact that Pogba and Matuidi were made to work hard without the ball and rarely got into the game. The Juventus midfielder had completed just 8 passes after a little over half an hour.
By halftime, Griezmann had the most passes for his side (23) while eight German players had more. Some of Germany’s best chances in the final quarter of the game came from Kroos’ set piece deliveries although the forwards weren’t able to convert them.
Ozil shows his class
The Arsenal playmaker had his best game of the tournament, unfortunately in a losing cause. His movement from the right coming inside coupled with Kimmich advancing very high up on the right, troubled the French defence as there were no designated markers.
Can’s positioning higher up created space for Ozil in between the lines and helped in connecting the midfield with the attack, with his quick turns and shifts on the ball. Although he wasn’t able to offer penetration and break down the defence, he was commanding on the ball, pinning back France and causing them real problems.
He ended up completing only two fewer final 3rd passes than the entire France team on the night.
France get away with poor structure
France haven’t looked as world beaters so far in the tournament yet they are the favourites to win the tournament now. They looked clueless in the first half and were lucky to take the lead right until the end. They lacked the staggered positioning of their opponents and were not able to keep possession well.
Also seemingly lacking a game plan, they were forced to sit back and look to play on the break without pressurizing Germany. With Germany counter pressing high up the pitch, France found it difficult to get forward and get Payet into the game, who had to drop deep along with Sissoko to help out the full-backs leaving the strikers isolated upfront.
As their defence holds firm, they survive the Late Onslaught
But with all of Germany’s control in midfield, they struggled once again without a proper number 9, and Muller who has been a shadow of himself in this tournament was well contained by Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti.
The 22-year-old making only his second international appearance didn’t put a foot wrong and looked like a seasoned pro, dealing effectively with numerous crosses, denying Muller space and time on the ball. Also stepping out of the ball on a couple of occasions, the youngster slid in Evra to create dangerous openings.
Germany attack predominantly down the right
In such cases where the defence is deep, and teams are difficult to break down, isolating the fullback or getting in behind him is usually an effective way to pick the lock. With Draxler unable to replicate his trickery because of Sissoko doing a good job helping out Sagna, a lot of Germany’s attack came from the right wing where Ozil, Can and Kimmich would try to isolate Evra who was the perceived weak link.
A notable combination play would see Kimmich hug the touching and one of his two aforementioned teammates or Muller run in the area behind the left back to cross into the danger zone. Their best chances even later on in the game came from this area.
Griezmann’s stock continues to rise
Having had his family endure trauma the last time these two sides met, the Atletico Madrid man is now firmly placed to be named the Player of the Tournament along with the top scorer. On the back of a 31 goal season under Diego Simeone’s tutelage, he has added six more in this competition and his contributions are not just limited to his goals.
Playing behind Giroud, he drops deep to help the midfield and has an amazing control of the ball. The game’s very first chance fell to him as he linked with Matuidi for a double one-two to ghost past the entire German defence although his slightly weak effort was saved by Neuer.
His effervescent-self was at the heart of France’s best moments and capped the night off with a wonderful finish from the underside of his shoe, nutmegging Neuer for his mistake. He ended up having 7 of his side’s 15 shots on goal of which four were on target.
Shkodran Mustafi was the enforced substitute with half an hour to go but without Boateng’s ball playing abilities, France were able to come back into the game. Mario Gotze was brought on for Emre can with a quarter of the game remaining but he wasn’t able to get involved in the game and had just six touches in his 23 minutes on the pitch upfront.
Leroy Sane was brought on for the final 20 minutes but with France sitting deep, wasn’t able to trouble them much with his pace.
France’s first change was Kante for Payet and it immediately freed up Pogba. Their midfield were able to apply pressure further up the pitch which resulted in the second goal although the German defence was culpable for making three mistakes in quick succession leading to the goal.
Gignac came on for his customary final ten minutes or so while Cabaye’s introduction was merely a chance for Griezmann to get a standing ovation.
For all their domination, the best Germany were able to carve out were half chances and even then, they didn’t trouble Lloris much. Gomez was sorely missed upfront while Hummels was always going to be a big loss with his playmaking abilities.
Having gone down a goal undeservingly, they weren’t able to dictate play in the second period especially after the loss of Boateng. Gotze’s introduction didn’t help much as he is wasted when attempting to bombard the defence. They went further behind through a series of defensive mistakes and only then got their best chances.
On a better night, they could have scored though, as a string of half chances came and went in the dying minutes. But Germany had no shots on target between the 25th and 92nd minute and Lloris only had one save to make in the second half, albeit it being an exceptional one to deny Kimmich.
France defended well and were somewhat lucky to get their goals through defensive mistakes, but at times it pays better to be lucky than good. They were able to sit back and counter in the second half and kept a clean sheet despite conceding a few late opportunities.