We already talked about the much more advanced meaning these sort of games has for womens football in comparison to mens football because of the relatively much higher interest. Both met at the World Cup in Canada playing for the bronze medal. And the first ever win there for England against Germany summed it all up. England on the rise ranking-wise now number 5 in the world are wanting to confirm their standing. Germany wanted to stop the decline at the end of a year that saw them dropping from the leading ranking spot mainly because of a very disappointing World Cup campaign. Germany additionally preparing for the Olympics next year where the strange "GB situation" prevents an English or British team.
Headline : Interesting in other ways?
Interesting to follow the development. To start with the positives.
But as the development is actually in an very interesting state it is sometimes not so much interesting to watch the games from a footballers point of view. Because the ladies are simply trying to copy the recipes of the men. (What is the first big question mark on a side note)
You never expect a firework of fine nouveau football "art" whenever Germany and England are playing each other. Whether men nor women. And that game was another top example. Now the copies – the ladies – are reflecting that maybe even better than the originals – the men. Which is an achievement in itself.
But only interesting in other ways than football-wise. England is now a side that is permamnently looking to adapt and improve its tactics. With Germany you know that not too much has and will be changed. So it was England again who set up the special style of play for the match and Germany as always relied on not much else than that their players are the stronger individuals whatever style of match is going on.
England were still the "outsiders" who could be quite happy holding Germany off. So that was their match plan and it worked out sufficiently with the help of some good luck. You could even see slight hints that they wanted to set up pacy straight forward attacks whenever possible after stealing the ball in midfield. But the opportunities to see that have been rather small.
Tthey blocked Germany quite often and got into possession but they have been not once in 90 minutes able to threaten the German goal in this way. They threatened mainly twice – but never from a pacy attacking play. Well – the one fine chance in the first half was at least something in that direction. They didnt set up an attack by themselves but at least after sloppy positioning in the German defense they quickly had three players in an advanced position with not much Germans back. And they had two quality actions. First Kirby in the right moment with the right speed passing to Nobbs (who interestingly was in this advaced position). Nobbs with the right move and a top pass with the right speed and the right direction into Stokes. Both perfectly exposed the weakness of the German defenders. Unfortunately the final action was not quite as good as Kirby's and Nobbs's.
Their only other chance came in the closing minutes after they attacked the German keeper (what they did quite often) and then had a chance to lift the ball into an empty goal from distance after the goalies clearance was too short. But you could see how tired Jill Scott was who fell down when taking the shot which missed the direction and the required height. She already looked very tired a few minutes earlier on the left flank after a fast break where she needed to set up her team mate in the middle with not a difficult pass but her steps running towards the ball got shorter and shorter and so she missed the easy pass.
Certainly the fact that the English season is over already since six weeks also played a major role why the game after half time was played much more in the English half. But the English defense had not too much problems keeping the German attacks under the cosh. Obviously these group of German players in this setup have been quite some distance away from being strong enough to produce any dangerous situations. From open play that is. But England again got lucky on set pieces when Germanys Maroszan was left totally unmarked for a header from a few yards out and Peter could have a shot just inches wide after a short clearance after corner kicks.
And England also needed some good luck in the opening minutes where they didnt defend well against Laudehr who was all alone on goal – the biggest chance of the whole game – but flagged offside incorrectly. Again vulnerable on the right back Germany came through to the goal line only five minutes later but the cross didnt find a German player in the middle and could be cleared by Greenwood. And again sloppy defending on the right back when Felicitas Rauch on her debut could run towards Bardsley until she had only a few meters – but with a bit of an angle was denied by a fine safe from the English goalie.
And that were the few highlights of a match that was a battle in midfield mainly in the first half and a battle in the English half after hald time. So if you want to say there was some "good" football on display it was regarding how the ladies played "against the ball". Whoever expects fine football to be played rather with the ball than against the ball probably took the right decision not to watch it – Not even 7000 in the stadium and a minus record TV audience in germany tells the story.
So let us call the match interesting in the way it was played against the ball and hope for better performances with the ball in the future development.
England again left the question open whether they wanted to play as they did or if that was just accidental. Either way. It was kind of a skew symmetric. Probably intended a back line of four: Greenwood – Flaherty – Houghton – Bronze. And a mid field with Williams the deepest and Jill Scott and Nobbs slightly in front of her. A very mixed up support from a front "line" mainly Taylor in the first half and Kirby in the second on the right flank and Stokes on the left. These three kind of building the attack. That meant that there was not a lot to see of attacking play on the left wing. Left back Greenwood far more defending than Bronze on the other side and additionally Stokes as the left midfielder supporting the back far more than whoever on the other side. Sometimes it looked nearly like the right back was more offensive than the left wing forward. But that meant the left wing was defense only and the right wing … let us say to no avail up front but very vulnerable in defense. Hard to believe that was intended this way. And it got better in the second half where interestingly Kirby was used to support Bronze – buz that was not to the good for the attacking play.
Germany started with a back line of 4: Rauch on the left, Peter and Krahn in the middle, and Maier right. Difficult to describe the midfield and attack. Goessling in the center and Mittag up front was clear as was Blässe right more on a midfield role and Laudehr left also pushing not too much forward. Magull somewhere lost between midfield and attack. Behringer somewhere lost between defense and midfield.
Germany are also like a little bit experimenting around with things which actually are considered to be "modern" in mens football. So was the role of Behringer between midfield and defense what didnt help much in defense but even less in offense and you would like to ask someone for what good reason. After half time Germany pushed forward. Leupolz increased their presence in the center significantly so they got dominant where England could gain ground in the first half. Other substitutions helped towards that too and England got tired so they had to focus more towards securing their own box instead of battling for the midfield.
Normally we focus on goals and whether they are reflecting some typical tactical patterns for the good or the bad. No goals here. So we go for the chances which have been 90% plus (if not 100) in using clear cut faults of the opponents. Not by forcing them by strong attacking play but always lurking and waiting for them to happen. We mentioned set pieces or individual positioning faults.
Resume and Prospect
We can only repeat ourselves about England. But that means time is counting. We wish Mark Sampson well to be able to show that the success was not a fluke. And that is getting not any easier at the moment. There was way too much creativity missed in four and a half hours against China and Australia and Germany. Chances have been rare and more coming the way kind of accidental. There where hints of trying to build up fast attacks against Germany. There was one (one!) chance after some fine passing where finally Nobbs played Stokes free in the box. But sooner or later to be able to beat teams ranked in the 10-20 area like China on a constant basis it will be needed to establish any attacking style of play that would allow them to do more than defend and hope and wait to be able to use the faults of the others as long as you are not forcing them strong enough.
Another interesting aspect is the comparison to the clubs. Especially the "big 4" attack of Chelsea London for example. Take other club teams in different areas if you want. Just because we could just see the big 4 playing against VfL Wolfsburg. Considerably a much better defense than the German national team. And despite having not much support but being the four only in offense they have produced more dangerous situations there. Interesting to see when England realise they would have to replace only Ji with an English player for a much advanced offense.
For Germany on the other side things are getting even more difficult. Neid was highly critizised for not being able to make the best out of a world class player studded squad. Not too much of a wonder when you end up the World Championships on place four starting as FIFA ranked number one team. Now that she is missing some of the players the quality of the team she has choosen has deteriorated significantly. Germany cannot longer afford to play whoever from their studded squad. They either have to build a team that is better than the eleven parts or they have to carefully and exactly choose the individually superior players. Neither of them seems to be working fine so far.
Player of the match: Karen Bardsley
With a typical 0:0 and most field players not very convincing – or only convincing whoever played in defense – you might think it is good to award a goalie. But with that kind of slow 0:0 where not even the keepers got a lot to do. Bardsley made at least one fine save. That was enough already. It was like it is in this interesting phase of the development in the womens game. The team as a whole always looking to manage to be back in numbers as the one thing with overwhelming importance leaves no space for a good performance of any player. Destruction was the player of the match. Jordan Nobbs started quite well but faded away may be because the long break or may be because Melanie Leupolz came in and managed to give Germany the upper hand in the midfield in the second half in regards of presence. Lena Goessling looked to be physically the strongest in the first half and able to run around several opponents – always a sign that this is not a game on absolute top level – but to no avail. Felicitas Rauch made a promising debut – as long as she played – in defense of course.
More asked to work as a player than a goalie
Did her job ok. At least tried up front also
Did her job
Amongst the better players
More initiative required
Her usual running around with no goal
What effect on the game?
No offside but not too much else from then on
Tried without success.
Most active scene she is remembered for is slide tackling the goalie
Some good reactions needed
Solid but not always in the right position.
Ok in defense. Nothing else
Injured? Not the same player after the WC.
Usual strong midfield battler.
Strange mix of black and white
First half best player on the pitch but then.
Completely lost in the position to be kind.
Not much but at least a little bit initiative here
How many contacts?
Every comment is very much appreciated !