I am not quite sure what to make of Germany's 2-1 win against the Netherlands. It is pleasing for me that Mario Gomez did so well again and of course, it is even more pleasing that Germany now have six points after two very difficult matches. But I cannot wrap my head around what kind of a German style we have here.
Before the match, I had called for Germany to develop their own approach and not try to copy Spain. Many had suggested during qualifying and before the tournament that Germany were on their way to a more possession-oriented game, emulating the defending champions. This certainly did not happen against the Netherlands.
Against the Dutch and Portugal possession was not what decided the outcome. Germany played 463 passes last night and, strangely, just one fewer against Paulo Bento's side; the Dutch made 526, Spain well over 700.
Neither are Joachim Löw's side the exciting, counterattacking team which tore apart England and Argentina two years ago. Both Germany goals came from systematic build-up play and when I was waiting for them to finish the Dutch off on the counter, they failed to deliver. After the Gomez double and Germany looking so comfortable around the hour, I finally thought I had them all figured out.
Despite all the pre-tournament talk about the defence being the weak link, it looked like success was being built around this German back line, at that point the only one at UEFA EURO 2012 yet to concede. Attacks win games, defences win titles. Then came Robin van Persie's goal.
Before this is starting to sound too negative, everyone would have been delighted to have been in this position at this stage. It seems the German style is to find the right answer for the opponents – breaking down the physical Portuguese with a cautious approach and now overcoming the Dutch exactly the way it was planned. "We knew Holland had big problems in the area between the central defenders and the full-backs; that's how the goals were created," said Löw.
And he was right. Analysis shows Germany stretched the pitch and time and again attacked down the wings, while the Dutch approach was more central, in an area where Germany had the upper hand. Bert van Marwijk's team edged the quantity of passes, but Germany had the quality. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger were both quick to help out going forward and, with Wesley Sneijder reluctant to track back, the Dutch were outnumbered.
Schweinsteiger looks to be almost back to his best. It's easy to say after two sublime assists, but he was central to Germany's build-up play throughout. In the end, it was his distribution which proved the difference.
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