Preview USA – Germany

The ultimate heavyweight clash – if you are allowed to say so in women sports – sees world ranked teams number 1 and 2 meeting for the big showdown of the world championships. Both had their ups and downs not only during the last year or so but also during this tournament. The US have even changed their manager after a insufficient showing in the Alga-Cup 2014 and a lot of rumors have been going around on how this decision was made. However after not coming to grips for the whole of 2014 and a defeat against France in early 2015 suddenly things started to go the right way with a much welcomed win of the Alga-Cup 2015. Albeit seemingly having found a well balanced formation there things got worse again when further improvements were targeted and the formation changed.
Germany have had a lot of easy-peasy qualification games, and a few friendlies with a loss to France like the US and a third place in the Alga-Cup 2015 after a win in 2014.
In this tournament we also saw the US going rather up and down from a hard fought win against Australia to a quiet draw with Sweden and an uninspired win against Nigeria. And after that yet another lame showing against Colombia really let the alarm bells ring. However there was a good reaction to keep China down. Not a fluid game but a very inspired style of play showed the teams eagerness to make a change to the better. They really played from the very first minute like if it were their last 10.
Germany like expected had the much easier group games but the more difficult way in the ko-stage with a convincing victory over Sweden but a more or less lucky outcome on penalty shoot out when they met France in the quarterfinals and showed much room for improvements as well.

What to expect
A very tough battle. Unless one side gets lucky as England and score on their first opportunities it can be expected that this will be a long lasting physical battle if not even more but at least on the same level like the France – Germany game. As already stated in the match report of the last quarterfinal here, there have been no goals at all in all 4 quarterfinal games which resulted from a combination play. All goals have been more or less somehow “battled” or “fought” in the opposite net – if not big errors converted. It would be nice if that would change to the better but if you look at the goals of these teams so far against decent opponents (so forget about Germanys 10 against Ivory Coast) they are the masters of goals that made their physical advantage count either on set pieces or in duels or by using some faults or simply have enough players in the box to profit from loose balls.
You can see it from the opposite direction as well. Both teams know exactly that they will very likely lose that game when they give away easy goals what should make their defensive resistance even more intense.
Dont expect anything regarding the US lineup except that Solo will be goalie because they seem to like changes even if they had found a well balanced formation as the games after the Alga-Cup showed. And of course the more they mix it up the more unlikely they will be able to get a fluid game going. And we have already often seen all six players in midfield and attack kind of playing their very own six different styles beside each other. Either way – there will be changes again for sure because Rapinoe and Holiday are available again.

Keys to success
1. There is another post here (tactical cookbook to play Germany) where some key areas are listed which might be targeted by the US team. The more of it they get right – the better their chances

2. US defense: Quite in contrary to Germany where strong holding midfielders protect the vulnerable center back the US have strong center backs which are not very well protected by the holding midfielders. So it remains to be seen if the US midfield gets their defensive balance right. Another detail might be to help the back when crosses are coming in. Both German wing players (should they again play Popp and Laudehr) are very good in heading the ball so the full backs might be asked to stand strong if crosses are flying long over the center towards the other side. Apart from that you can really see the US holding on to a clean sheet given how rarely Germany got scoring opportunities against France.

3. Germany: balance in midfield play: Germanys strange midfield organization which consists of only two real midfielders Goessling and Leupolz who have been good enough against weaker opponents to manage that by a massive work rate but not enough to keep the quality french midfield under the cosh. The quite unorthodox and sometimes not very well organized support from the three offensive midfielders and the very deep standing center backs leave a lot of space for the pair to cover which can be exploited by a decent quality opponent. Against France it proofed costly not only when the french goal was scored.

4. Take your chances. There should not be too many. Whoever needs less to score first will win. Sorry, should win. Because both offenses have proofed to have difficulties to break down decent opposition properly. And decent oppositions means the likes of China, Nigeria or Norway, let alone like the kind of Germany or the US. Expect both sides to be defending good enough to hold on to a 1:0 lead for a long time. The best chance for either side then is adding more pressure on an probably retracting opponent and bring the ball and bodies into the box as often as possible. Maybe there is some lucky poor defending header or a deflection like Frances goal, a handball like Germanys goal, or the ball simply falls luckily to be netted like Japans goal. The chances of such a typ of goal have been much higher during this tournament than any other play. Very rarely we have seen goal scoring opportunities after counter attacks.

5. And maybe: Who is able to adapt to the proceedings and makes the right tactical switches and player changes. Both coaches could not yet proof their abilities to make changes to the better when the game was not going the way they would have wanted. Neither Germany in the game against France or Norway could be helped from the bench nor the US team in their performances against Sweden, Nigeria or Colombia.
Can that be changed this time? It will be interesting to see if either side does either:
– Improve the weak points of their own teams by recognizing them and take the right steps to change them as many feel for example Germany could have done to defend Thomis or the US could have done to improve their offense in the games mentioned above.
– Recognize weaknesses of the opponent and try to exploit that.
Should the game be as close as the Germany – France game you can ride your luck as Germany did and still proceed. But it might well be a if not THE decisive factor if any side gets it right this time.

Things to watch out for:
Crunch time for the players to put in big performances.
There has not yet been a very big outstanding favorite for being player of the tournament so far. You might favor Germanys Goessling at the moment who has been the heart of the German team and consistently so during all matches. But still that is more of a “who else?” and far from decided. We certainly have not seen outstanding performances in the US offense so far but the center backs both might still be in the mix as well and probably taking over as favorites should they help the US team keeping a clean sheet and proceed against Germany as well.
But the two most influential games are yet to come and any other player could still step in with decisive performances for their team to get to the title.
A lot has been going to the script so far in these world championships. Not only the FIFA ko-match fixes. (If only France had written their own …) Most of the games have gone pretty much according to the expectations as you surely have noticed if you have read the previews here. Seems like the women are more capable of preventing such upsets as the 7:1 last year. So we have to ask: Is there still a match to come where all predections are thrown overboard and everything goes in a totally different direction.
For this game you might rather wish for something unexpected to happen …

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