2017 SheBelieves Cup: USA – Germany 1:0

As mentioned in the preview it is always a question in all of these friendly tournaments of who takes what how serious and what are the teams aiming for. France seemed to have played a 1b team against England for example. Here the bigger impact than the jet lag for Germany who seemed to be quite fresh from the start seemed to be that the USA were rather rusty and in search of some fine tuning at the beginning. Mostly they lacked top competitive matches since the NWSL season was over months ago.

Headline: Intense; Interesting; but also convincing?

And it wasnt super fun to watch. Because it missed some more fluency for that. But it was intense and even balanced enough to be tight and gripping until the final whistle. It wasnt a beauty. But you felt enough energy to expect something might happen every second all the more towards the end of entertaining 90 minutes. The game started with a high level of intensity from the very first minute. But after the first 15 minute saw at least some shots from distance that made the goalies job more interesting the chances had been very few from then on throughout the first half. Even dangerous areas were hardly reached. Germany quite successfully prevented the USA from building up play and made it very difficult to find a clear way even through the midfield areas to reach at least the space at the front of the box.
They did that by always keeping their lines tight and keep the midfield very crowded around the ball. So the US players couldnt use their speed advantage because of the narrow spaces behind the German midfield. And the few long through passes behind the defense missed the necessary accuracy and coordination with the movement up front. Schult could easily gather some of these. The flexibility in the German midfield was good as was the dedication to help each other. And the USA widely lacked the ability to switch sides fast enough to isolate the German wings in 1-on-1 situations to use their speed advantage.

That made this match a fairly even contest because Germany on the other side could also not get into the box of the US. The USA also tried to regain possession as early as possible and didnt retract. But their positional organisation was a little bit blurred as expected after the long break. And you saw they havent played that system against on-level opponents so far. Sometimes there were some problems especially from the back three when to play save and make sure there is no space between or behind them and when to step up and keep the distances close to support their midfield players further up front in close distance to the opponent. Which in turn made the deep midfielders sometimes a little bit hesitant to attack the Germans in possession because they were not sure how their back line would follow up. These were very minor problems though it sometimes allowed Germany a little bit too much freedom in midfield to combine at times.

At halftime the USA had a 6:4 lead in shots but Germany a 3:1 lead in shots on goal so there wasnt too much in between the two teams at that point regarding coming close to scoring.

The picture changed only very slightly at the beginning of the second half. Though the USA had realised their problems and tried to improve giving Germany less time to settle their midfield when they had possession of the ball. And they slowly shrugged off their rust and slowly started to have more possession. But the goal was still rather coming as a surprise at that time. Though a few minutes earlier Lynn Williams already had a golden opportunity only to make a poor first touch and thus to miss the chance to go all alone towards Schult.

But Williams then scored minutes later. Press had stolen the ball from the German defense and cut inside the German box only to see her shot coming off the cross bar. Luckily it fell to the feet of Heath who had the next attempt. But that was blocked again and the third time lucky saw it bounce back exactly where Williams was standing who finally managed to put it luckily into the net. After the 0:1 Germany opened up a little bit more or got tired a little bit more. However the USA now found more gaps in the German half and had some runs passing the German defenders with astonishing ease. But they should have doubled their lead. That wasnt to be on several occasions so a draw was never out of reach for Germany who upped their efforts in the final minutes. But without a final success and so it ended deservedly with a 1:0 scoreline that left at least as much questions open for both sides as it delivered new lessons learned.

Tactical View

womens football international shebelievesCup USA-Germany
tactical line up

The US played some 3-2-2-1-2. Some called it (2+2=4) 3-4-1-2 to make things easier. There was a back line of 3: Short – Long – Sauerbrunn. Then there were the 2 deep sitting holding midfielders Brian and Mewis. Then there were 2 wing players Heath and Dunn. If you want to do so put them together in a midfield of 4. But the 2 wing players were far more offensive as the holding mids. More like Lloyd who played kind of “behind” the front line with less duties in the own half. And Press and Williams were the two in the front line. So then you might call it also 3-5-2 according to the original defender – midfielder – forward classification.
Germany played a “classic” 4-4-2. Back line Blaesse – Peter – Henning – Kerschowski. Midfield Maier – Maroszan – Daebritz – Popp. And Petermann and Mittag very flexible interchanging with and supporting the midfield as well. Both teams tried whenever possible to repossess lost balls already in midfield or often even in the opposite half. That was also how the game was decided: USA won the ball deep in the German half. Then took it forward into the box where several blocked attempts finally could be converted.


Resume and Prospect

To categorize this match we should put the German team into a perspective:
This is fairly much a weakened backline of VfL Wolfsburg of the last 1.5 years. Goalie and 3 of the 4 back line are playing there with Swede Nilla Fischer as anchor point. The three here have been all left out and in of the starting line up over this period because Wolfsburg was looking for better alternatives especially regarding build up play. And this also isnt even the best available club defense in the Bundesliga (Turbine Potsdam is). Worse: Instead of Fischer Germany played with Josephine Henning(also Ex-Wolfsburg, but years ago). She joined Olympique Lyon at the beginning of the year. And got not a single minute so far to play there. All(!) of the back line could not manage to be regular starters for the national team in recent years. And none because they have been upcoming talents. Henning gets 28. The youngest of the four. Thus is the decline in individual class in the German N11 that they now only have to start players who were second choice at best in their best years.
Anja Mittag is also playing at Wolfsburg. She started there only 4 of 13 matches this season despite they are heavily plagued with injuries. The N11 starter might make not even the bench if all players are fit in her club. Even worse it actually looks for Sara Däbritz. She however started for champions Bayern all season long. But that is part of the reason why they are disappointingly only just 3rd. Däbritz started always and as a forward most of the time despite she managed to produce how many goals? 0(!) – you guess it. In 13 games. And 1(!) assist as forward. In a top team with top team mates around her. Statistics sometimes are not everything. But that is too devastating. Maier isnt her regular self at the moment and isnt a regular starter in her club team as well lately. Petermann also started and you nearly wont remember her in any situation at all. She plays with good mid table team SC Freiburg they have arguably 4 better forwards there alone (Kayikci, Starke, Gwinn, Buehl for insiders). Granted – that all might be accidental and not telling if it would be 1 or 2 cases – but not more.
Have you seen NWSL defenders who got passed by Press and Williams with such ease? Hardly all season long?
But given that, how then comes that team USA couldnt get a better result?
As always there are two main components:

1. There US offensive play was poor. Very poor in the first half. It looked only better after the 1:0. Why? In fact it wasnt much better. Germany opened up. That was the reason mainly Williams got into some running duels to shine which made it look better together with some interesting runs from Pugh. But that is not the way to go. A compact team defense were all defenders act as one block helping each other is not tackled best if you wait for situations where you accidentally find single opponents exposed and take them on 1 vs 1. It just doesnt happen often enough. And each single top player trying it all alone will need a huge amount of good fortune to come through.
Nearly never during the 90 minutes the USA offense connected with each other properly. How many passes have been completed between the US players inside the final third – let alone the box of Germany? Even the goal was such a lucky product. 3 US players were involved by sheer good luck. Not one got on the ball by a pass from the teammate but all from lucky bounces.

2. The German defense was good. Germany didnt kind of park the bus. But focussed quite as much on defense. They did it quite well. And it might be the better alternative to park the bus not only inside the own box but all over the field as long as you are strong enough to get those bodies back again who have been passed before. But Germany didnt score. And they looked further away from it than Sweden, than like Switzerland, and even further than Romania. They kind of turned their forwards into front line defenders. So the forwards didnt manage to do anything useful in 90 minutes as long as Germany was in possession of the ball. But they did a great job whenever USA had the ball.

The next matches will be interesting. England plays a similar style to Germany heavily focussed on keeping the opponent from playing and looking at offensive play more of a by-product of won duels. But they have the better individuals. If the US will again be unable to connect in possession and try to win the game based on 1 vs 1 superiority they will need probably even more good luck.

Germany however face old rivals France who seem to be so afraid of playing Germany they now lose on purpose before having to meet them again. Or why else lost France out to Canada at the Olympics? 😉 Last year France dominated the game here at the shebel Cup but lost again 0:1. The best thing for them would be to do that again and focus on the European Championships for revenge. If they would exploit the weaknesses in Germans defense they would however do their old buddies a big favour.

Player of the match: Press

Not only because she single handedly prepared the only goal of the match. There she first won the ball for her team. Then drove the attack forward on her own into the opposite box. The only fault: She was unlucky not to put the ball into the net herself. Instead nicely supported her teammate with a boost who hadnt had her best game before this goal and would have left the game rather disappointed.



Naeher: 7
One shot saved nicely. Not too much to do otherwise.

Short: 6.5
Ok defensively. Build up play not free of errors though.

Sauerbrunn: 7
Usual great solidity and awareness in the back line

Long: 7
Also solid but no real big questions asked

Brian: 6.5
Solid work in defence but no chance to do much in offense.

Mewis: 6.5
Solid work in defence but no chance to do much in offense.

Heath: 7
Seemed to try a little bit more. But also to no effect

Dunn: 6
Simply not her game when there is nothing to run for

Lloyd: 6.5
Activity in offense ok.

Williams: 6
5 before the goal. 7 thereafter. first touch training.

Press: 7.5
Good game. Creator of the goal.


Schult: 7
Not much to do.

Blässe: 6.5
Ok in defense. But can improve in possession of the ball.

Henning: 6.5
German defense quite ok. Few exceptions.

Peter: 6.5
Also quite ok. Ans also few exceptions.

Kerschowski: 6.5
Defense ok. Even some support for the offense. but the goal

Däbritz: 6.5
Useful part of the defense. Not much to see otherwise

Maroszan: 7
First half was taylor made for her. Second less so

Maier: 6.5
Useful part of the team defense. Not much more

Popp: 6.5
Battled well in midfield areas. Nothing more

Petermann: 6
Hardly any activities of note.

Mittag: 6
Not much to see from the forward qualities

Every comment is very much appreciated !


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