Germany handicapped by lack of a quality No. 9

Mario Goetze, playing as the false No. 9, failed to make the most of it. Joachim Loew then introduced Mario Gomez, who had a brilliant season with Besiktas in the Turkish Super Lig, in the 71st minute, but he failed to have the desired impact.

Jakub Blaszczykowski of Poland mounts a challenge against Germany's Andre Schurrle in a Group C match of the EURO 2016 at Stade de France, near Paris. The veteran Polish right-winger exemplified the spirit of his team that defended with heart and grit by running close to 10 km, dropping deep to put in the tackles and protect his defence.   -  REUTERS

I am worried for Germany. The lack of a quality No. 9 might hamper the world champion’s progress in the ongoing European Championship.

The narrow shape of its Polish opponents, forced Germany to seek refuge in the wider areas, with its full-backs, Howedes and Hector, particularly peppering the box with crosses — 31 to be precise. The wide positioning of the German centre-backs, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, allowed the duo the licence to bomb forward.

 

Mario Goetze, however, playing as the false No. 9, failed to make the most of it, and I was left clamouring for the introduction of Mario Gomez, who had a brilliant season with Besiktas in the Turkish Super Lig.

Joachim Loew introduced the towering target man in the 71st minute, but he failed to have the desired impact. Gomez’s lack of movement made it clear that he is not the right choice to lead this nimble-footed German side.

The goalless draw might force Loew to rejig his system and push his utility player Thomas Muller, higher up the pitch. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, now playing behind the striker, can move wide to the right, as Goetze falls back to essay the role of No. 10.

Ozil, though, brilliant as the playmaker, can play wide right, cutting inside with his left foot, with the overlapping Howedes occupying the advanced space on the flanks.  

   

Poland rightly played deep and narrow, and there was hardly any space for Germany to exploit between (midfield and defence) and behind the defenders. The Poles defended with heart and grit and Jakub Blaszczykowski, the team’s veteran right-winger, exemplified the spirit best, running close to 10 km, dropping deep to put in the tackles and protect his defence. The Dortmund player did admirably well dealing with the pace of Draxler and Hector.

Skipper Robert Lewandowski and Milik, hardly had any support upfront but did their best to harass the German defence whenever they had the ball. Milik was presented with a gilt-edged chance towards the end of the game, but the left-footed striker failed to make connection.

According to me, players like Lewandowski, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are unjustly criticised when playing for their national teams. These guys play with the best players, for the biggest clubs, who are always trying to dominate games. Just imagine if Lewa, in a German shirt, was there to exploit all the crosses that came in during the match. While playing for Poland, Lewandowski’s movements, obviously, are more defensive in nature, with him operating largely with his back to the opposition goal. 

The Battle of Britain saw England enjoy the bulk of possession. The deep-lying nature of the Wales line-up forced the English to play far too many horizontal passes in the midfield, especially in the first session. Raheem Sterling, apart from missing a tap in from close range from an Adam Lallana pass, again had a quiet game, failing to provide the telling crosses.

The second half introduction of Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge brought more directness to the English attack. Vardy was lucky to get his goal but Kane’s uninspired play in the first two matches might force Roy Hodgson to deploy the Leicester forward from the start in the match against Slovakia.

Sterling, one of the few English players ready to take on defenders and run behind them, should hold his place but will need to show more maturity and calm in the final third.

The competition has already seen some late strikes, which have won or saved games for teams. Smaller teams defending deep have often found it hard to hold on to their intensity towards the final quarter. Playing against the host, Albania stuck to its defensive duties for large parts of the game, but lost its shape to France’s repeated forage during the final period.

The smaller teams, however, have done admirably well and contrary to predictions of the critics, the 24-team championship is yet to have a one-sided game. An expanded event allows smaller teams to live their dream on the biggest stage and I am hoping to see India at the 2019 Asian Cup, which will have 24 teams for the first time.