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A regular series as part of our World Cup coverage under the Talent Radar banner is aimed at the tons of aspiring football hipsters out there. We will track the progress of young players at the World Cup, focusing on their performances and compiling a detailed analysis. The eligibility criteria for this is simple, the player must have been 21 or below at the start of the season (2013-14).
In what turned out to be a hugely attractive encounter in one of the most open and end-to-end 2014 World Cup games, Germany & Ghana played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with fast paced counter-attacking football at it’s best. The two sides had met at the previous World Cup as well with the Europeans getting the win, but this time it seemed more likely that we’d witness an African triumph until the legendary Miroslav Klose turned up and scored his record equaling 15th World Cup goal.
Though the headlines rightly went to the Lazio striker, there were a couple of youngsters who caught the attention and impressed in the game, some leaving their mark more than others.
Bayern Munich’s young star, Mario Götze put in an impressive and interesting shift for Germany vs Ghana. Unlike the 4-0 win over Portugal where he was positioned more centrall, behind the main striker Thomas Müller, Götze was instead played on the left side of attack taking on a much wider role than expected.
While this may have been a ploy to allow Götze to combine well with Müller in the attacking third, replicating what Özil would be doing on the other side, it resulted in Götze having a more expansive game with an unlikely defensive contribution. Ghana are a side that constantly look to attack, just like the Germans, which meant that we had an extremely open end-to-end game. The attackers were required to help out in defence more than what they would have for both sides.
The above heat-map gives you an idea just how defensively adept Götze had to be in the game, against a side like Ghana. With the pace and quality on Ghana’s wings, it was crucial that the attackers lay in a helping hand as well. It is particularly interesting to note that the youngster did a better job than what Mesut Özil did on the other side (in a defensive capacity). The Arsenal man preferred to stay up top in an attacking zone, rarely dropping into the defensive third. While Götze managed 4 successful tackles, most in deeper areas, Özil managed none (in fact he only attempted 1, unsuccessfully). To put it into perspective, Götze had the most tackles in the entire game, as many as Mats Hummels in the heart of Germany’s defence, and Toni Kroos in that central midfield zone.
His defensive contribution was the noticeable positive performance from the German youngster but he did have a task in attack as well. Götze was impressive in his performance in the attacking third, managing to get in behind the Ghana defence on a number of occasions. His runs past their defensive line were proving to be a nuisance for the opposition to handle and there were a couple of occasions where his team-mates managed to pick him out with clever balls. But it seemed as though Götze lost his composure the moment he got into the box; his decision making was poor his shots/crosses/passes were weak and he seemed to lose his calm and collected self we noticed outside the box.
Nevertheless, it’s important that he didn’t let himself down with that, as he continued to make those runs in and attempted to make his presence felt in attack. He landed up getting on the scoresheet through one such run as Özil played a delightful ball in, the ex-Dortmund man got on the end of it, seemed to hit it off his face with in then bouncing of his knee and into the goal. Yes a scrappy goal but we’ll credit Götze for that run.
All in all it was a decent contribution from Mario Götze. He was unlucky not to score against Portugal, certainly lucky the way he got one against Ghana, but it is his defensive contribution that shows how mature a player he is developing into.
A notable tactic from coach Joachim Löw is the lack of natural full-backs/wing-backs in the side. The German has instead preferred to play central defensive players out wide as make-shift full-backs. There isn’t a lack of full-backs in the squad, with the likes of Kevin Großkreutz & Erik Durm in the side. Löw though, has played the likes of Jerome Boateng & Benedikt Höwedes in that area. A simple explanation would be to contain the opposition’s attack down the wings with more defensive adept players. A fair move, one that Boateng & Höwedes are not strangers to in their careers. But it was Löw’s use of Shkodran Mustafi in that area that is questionable.
Mustafi is as solid a young central defender as you are going to find anywhere, but to throw him in at full-back in a World Cup game, against a side relying on it’s wings, is a peculiar move. We have no doubts that Mustafi is capable of holding his own in central defence, having seen him at Sampdoria, but at right-back the youngster was extremely awkward and was seen as a weakness by the Ghanaians.
The Black Stars were finding it extremely attractive to make their play from the left side of attack with Jordan Ayew notably getting past him with ease at the half-way line before fluffing his chance. Mustafi can be found guilty of Andre Ayew’s goal as well, this in a more central defensive area, with the cross whipped in, Ayew was easily able to get in front of and leap over Mustafi to head in the goal.
The Sampdoria man had 0 successful tackles and 0 interceptions. He didn’t offer anything in attack with both his crosses failing and all his other passes merely lateral ones in towards the midfielders. But that is more of a compliment to Ghana’s set-up. Shkodran Mustafi isn’t suited for a full-back position, one can only hope Löw doesn’t feel the need to play him there again.