Germany edges the battle in wide areas to sink Argentina

Posted Jul 13, 2014 by Tyrrell Meertins
Germany defeated Argentina to claim their fourth World Cup, in what was expected to be a tight affair between two sides that adopt contrasting styles of football.
Germany's forward Mario Goetze celebrates after scoring during extra time of the 2014 FIFA Worl...
Germany's forward Mario Goetze celebrates after scoring during extra time of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014
Odd Andersen, AFP
Alejandro Sabella named an unchanged starting XI, while Joachim Low handed Christoph Kramer his international debut — as Sami Khedira suffered an injury in warm ups — and the pattern of the match was straightforward. Argentina sat deep in two banks of four, while the Germans dominated possession. Equally, there was lack of dynamism in central areas due to the absence of Khedira and Angel Di Maria, and the main battle took place in wide areas.
Argentina’s decision to attack down the right was logical with Low deploying Benedikt Howedes as a makeshift left-back. In the opening 10 minutes, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lionel Messi drifted into space behind the advanced Howedes, but neither attacker provided the final ball. Lavezzi also combined with Pablo Zabaleta and Gonzalo Higuain during that period, but the latter’s ball into the box rolled behind Enzo Perez.
Lavezzi’s powerful running also posed a threat in the first half, as he broke past the German midfield on two separate occasions. First, Bastian Schweinsteiger cynically fouled him, then Messi received his pass and drove towards the box, but the aforesaid midfielder desperately cleared his incisive pass.
Messi and Lavezzi continued to pose a threat on the right flank with Higuain sliding the latter’s cross past Manuel Neuer, but the Argentine striker was rightly ruled offside. Subsequently, Ezequiel Garay played a simple lofted ball into space behind Howedes and Messi glided past Mats Hummels but failed to slide the ball past Neuer. Messi and Lavezzi were Argentina's main attacking outlet in the first half, but Sabella's side were wasteful in the final third.
Germany, however, struggled to bypass Argentina’s narrow shape and also created their best opportunities down the flanks. There was no press on Schweinsteiger, and the German midfielder dictated the tempo of the match, while Mesut Ozil drifted into pockets of space to receive passes and facilitate the ball forward. Likewise, Perez encountered difficulties containing Philipp Lahm, and the right-back and Muller played exceptional balls into the box that often evaded their teammates.
Andre Schurrle’s first half introduction — due to Kramer’s departure — decreased Lavezzi’s threat down the right, but it also provided a threat on the opposite flank.
Towards the latter stages of the half, Schurrle fed Thomas Muller down the left flank, and he cleverly turned Zabaleta before returning the ball to the German winger, but Sergio Romero pushed his effort aside. The German continued to mount pressure in the final minutes as Toni Kroos forced Romero to make a save following Muller’s transitional attack down the right, and Howedes also directed a corner kick off the post.
Sabella’s decision to introduce Sergio Aguero for Lavezzi at half-time saw Argentina transition into a 4-3-1-2 with Messi playing behind the two strikers. Argentina enjoyed a positive start to the second half, with Messi receiving a great ball from Lucas Biglia, but he fired his shot inches wide of the net. Argentina continued to pose a threat down the right with Neuer bulldozing Higuain to the ground, and Messi cutting inside from the right before firing an effort wide of the net.
Nonetheless, Low’s side continued to storm forward, but Argentina’s tactical alteration negated Schweinsteiger and Kroos’ threat in midfield due to Perez and Biglia’s pressing. Germany continued to attack down the right with Lahm and Ozil providing decent service to Miroslav Klose and Kroos, but Romero comfortably held their tame efforts.
Coincidentally, both managers made late attacking substitutions with Mario Gotze replacing Klose, while Rodrigo Palacio moved alongside Aguero. The pattern of the match remained the same in extra-time, but the substitutes were involved in the best chances. Germany pegged Sabella’s outfield players into their half, as Schurrle and Gotze combined seconds into extra-time with the former firing a shot directly at Romero.
Germany’s approach, however, was risky, as Argentina received acres of space to exploit on the break.
First, Mascherano played in Aguero at the halfway line but the impressive Jerome Boateng completed one of many outstanding tackles to halt the attack. Then, Palacio played a clever ball into half-space for Aguero but he flashed his shot wide of the net. Argentina’s best chance saw Hummels misjudge Marcos Rojo’s cross and Palacio chested down the delivery but lobbed the ball wide of the net.
"Taking into account who the opponent was and that we had one less rest day, this was our best performance,” Sabella said.
"We played a day later and extra time and the only thing I can do is congratulate my players and also congratulate Germany."
Gotze, though, displayed the composure, clinical finishing, and confidence that Palacio lacked. Schurrle picked up the ball from deep and surged down the left flank, and Gotze also chested down his cross, but directed his shot past Romero.
"I said to Gotze: ‘OK, show the world you are better than Messi and you can decide the World Cup,’” Low said.
“I told him that. I always had a good feeling about Gotze. Argentina was becoming more and more tired, but we had players who could make a difference.”
Argentina was the better side over 90 minutes, as they created the better chances, and negated Schweinsteiger and Kroos' threat in midfield following Sabella’s tactical change. Still, with an extra day’s rest, along with a convincing victory over Brazil, the contrast in energy levels was evident.
The main storyline of the match involved the threat from both sides in wide areas, and it was fitting to see Gotze’s winning goal created down the left flank.