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Netherlands 2-3 Germany: 3 talking points and Tactical Analysis

ANALYST
Feature
705   //    26 Mar 2019, 02:02 IST

Germany has made a huge statement by reigning supreme against the Netherlands at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Germany has made a huge statement by reigning supreme against the Netherlands at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

It was yet another classic battle between the fiercest rivals of Europe as Germany left it late to edge past the Netherlands in a five-goal thriller. A huge sigh of relief for Joachim Low who has been under the scanner ever since the 2018 World Cup disaster.

It looks like he has finally found the final piece of the jigsaw as he was at his tactical best that he needed to be in order to reign supreme against the in-form Netherlands. After going 0-2 up within the first half, thanks to Leroy Sane & Serge Gnabry, the Germans failed to hold onto the advantage as Memphis Depay’s heroics once again came to the Netherlands’ rescue in the form of a goal and an assist to make it 2-2.

However, German left-back Nico Schulz had other plans on how to end the game as his gamble to run into the box paid off with a neat finish to grab the winner.

It was an eventful evening with multiple players making a name and announcing themselves into the big stage, however, the tactical battle between the two coaches cannot be ignored. When the world thought that the back-three experiments of Low are finally over, the gaffer surprised Koeman with yet another back-three setup.

On the other hand, Koeman had a surprise of his own by benching the most in-form Dutch youngster Steven Bergwijn to start both Ryan Babel & Quincy Promes. Both teams kept swapping with each other for the driver's seat and in the end, the Die Mannschaft emerged supreme.

There were a number of essential factors that a budding coach could grab his notepad and make note of from the nerve-wracking Euro Qualifier. Let’s take a look at where the game was won or lost from a tactical perspective:


#3 Low’s experiment with the 3-4-1-2 reaped rewards

Joachim Low proved that he is still among the best tactical brains in world football today.
Joachim Low proved that he is still among the best tactical brains in world football today.

It was clear that Joachim Low had done his homework before setting his side up against the in-form Dutch. Due credit needs to be given to the under-fire manager for having gone ahead with his experimental 3-4-1-2 and being tactically spot-on when it mattered the most.

Opting for a back-three constituted by Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule & Antonio Rudiger allowed the full-backs, Thilo Kehrer & Nico Schulz, to push higher up much more freely. Another advantage was that the three centre-backs spread wide during build-up and made it difficult for the Dutch attackers to press as there was a lot of areas to cover.

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The back-three of Germany spread wide in order to make it difficult for the Dutch attackers to press.
The back-three of Germany spread wide in order to make it difficult for the Dutch attackers to press.

The 3-4-1-2 setup also allowed Germany to have numerous players unmarked and they used this to the maximum advantage to outnumber the Oranje. A major reason they were able to create such a numerical superiority was because of the movement of the players.

German forwards Leroy Sane & Leo Goretzka didn’t remain central and rather occupied wider half-spaces to keep the Netherlands full-backs pinned. This meant that the Dutch wingers had to track-back in order to not let the German full-backs completely free.

With all of Netherlands’ wide men occupied, there was no one to close down when one of the German centre-backs (either Ginter or Rudiger) pushed higher up to make themselves available as a passing option.

Matthias Ginter (circled black) pushed higher up with Goretzka (circled red) & Kehrer (circled yellow) occupied the full back & winger of the Netherlands.
Matthias Ginter (circled black) pushed higher up with Goretzka (circled red) & Kehrer (circled yellow) occupied the full back & winger of the Netherlands.

Adding fuel to the fire was Serge Gnabry’s dynamic movement from the number 10 position. The Bayern Munich attacker didn’t give a moment’s rest to Koeman’s men as he was the liveliest attacker on the pitch during the first half.

At times, he dropped deeper into the midfield alongside Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich to help build-up play but he also made threatening runs behind the Dutch back-four to receive defence-splitting through balls.

Owing to this free role, there was confusion among the Netherlands midfielders and defenders as no one was ever sure about whose responsibility was it to handle him. During the first half, Gnabry was the player with second most number of touches on the ball for Germany with 41, with only Kimmich having more touches with 42.

Serge Gnabry was everywhere on the pitch helping the Germans in both build-up play and final third.
Serge Gnabry was everywhere on the pitch helping the Germans in both build-up play and final third.
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