Ross Eaton writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Confederations Cup group game that finished Australia 2-3 Germany.
In a competition which looks set to be undermined by strong-minded coaches clearly setting this trophy as low priority, the champions of the footballing world faced Australia’s Socceroos in the first match of Group B. Fully understanding the need for rest of key personnel, German boss Joachim Low has brought a second string squad to Russia for the competition. Rival gaffer Ange Postecoglou would likely have been more excited for the tournament than Low, with the Australian boss looking to build upon some intriguing ideas in preparation matches.
Starting with a still-strong, though weakened compared to the norm of Die Mannschaft, line-up, Low selected his 11 as he saw fit for this encounter, and future matches. Leno was the goalkeeper. Young Joshua Kimmich was again fielded as a right full-back. Mustafi and Rudiger played as the central defenders with Jonas Hector the left-back. Sebastien Rudy played as the deepest midfielder with Leon Goretzka a supporting centre-midfielder. Brandt and Draxler played as right and left-midfielders. Lars Stindl played behind Hoffenheim man Sandro Wagner.
Australia deployed their currently favoured, extremely flexible shape. Matt Ryan was the team’s goalkeeper. Degenek, Salisbury and Bradley Wright made up a three-man backline. As wing-backs were Leckie and Behich. Milligan played as a defensive midfielder in a role in front of the backline. As a left interior was the talented Aaron Mooy. Massimo Luongo alternated between the lines as a 10 and as the team’s right centre-midfielder. Tom Rogic too had a flexible role, from 10 to right forward, with a few movements into deeper midfield as well. Tomi Juric was the focal point as the number 9.
German Defensive Scheme
Starting from a pretty orthodox 4-4-2, with Stindl pushing up alongside Wagner, Germany would as expected on paper, be overloaded in whatever zone the wingers chose not to position themselves in. If Brandt and Draxler remained wide to mark Behich and Leckie, there would be a significant central overload for Australia in key progressions through central positions. If they tucked inside, this would leave either the wing-backs, or most likely the outer centre-backs free. In order to counter this, Germany used an interesting defensive scheme.
Despite rarely playing as a right-back this time last year, Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich now looks like a seasoned full-back, who does now have almost a full international experience in his newfound position. In this position, Kimmich showed his great footballing IQ to be an integral part of Germany’s prevention of Australian overloads or free men. If Australia begun to build in the centre, usually through Salisbury, Goretzka would often push up to mark the nearest option, Milligan, whilst Kimmich would step diagonally into central-midfield to defend the central space between Germany’s backline and advanced midfield. This allowed Rudy to remain free as an 8 with the positional capability to defend wherever he was required in the central zone. By removing Germany’s unnecessary defensive 4v2/4v1 overload in the backline and putting Kimmich into midfield positions to defend, Germany were far more efficient in their coverage.
When Kimmich stepped inside, this left Brandt to defend the left wing alone. When only Behich was positioned high on the wing, this wasn’t problem, as the Bursaspor man isn’t a huge threat going forward, and for a winger, Brandt is quite adept at defensive movements and most basic actions. However, Australia often used Mooy in a drifting role where would move deep into the left halfspace and sometimes even as wide as the left wing. This caused Kimmich and Brandt some problems as if Kimmich begun to drop back to right-back to allow Brandt to step up and press Mooy, Australia would have enough time in the transition of Germany’s adjustment to either pass into the space Kimmich departed, where Luongo could receive between lines, or more simply, play a high ball down the wing to Behich.
Defensive Reaction to Goal
After sitting in relatively comfortable leading positions for most of the match, Germany appeared slightly shaken following Australia’s second goal, which brought the score to 3-2 to Germany.
Joachim Low substituted on defender Niklas Sule for winger Julian Brandt, who slotted into a double-pivot in front of the defence with Sebastien Rudy. This saw Draxler and Stindl on the wings, with Goretzka behind Timo Werner, in a 4-2-3-1.
In this 4-2-3-1 formation, Germany defended in a far deeper, position-orientated block. This saw the Germans put next to no high pressure on Australia’s backline, which allowed them to circulate the ball in deeper areas, though there was less vulnerability and high risk in the German defence as a result of this.
Very notable of the German block was their focus on horizontal compactness, to both restrict the central spaces Australia desperately wanted to access and to prevent Australia in the centre of halfspaces. This was successful to a degree, as we saw Australia continually circulate towards the flanks in a bid to break the chain of Draxler-Goretzka-Stindl, or play high diagonal passes in order to avoid directly progressing through central spaces. Despite these benefits, there were some weaknesses in other areas of the field as a result of this compactness. There was perhaps too much focus on compactness as we saw Draxler and Stindl leave the wings totally free , positioning themselves in either halfspace to block penetrating passes through the centre. If Australia could pass to the wings quickly enough compared to the German lateral shifts, their receiver out wide would often be receiving on a free wing, which would allow him to make a progressive action.
A similar problem which stemmed from Germany’s intense lateral shifts to have strong horizontal compactness was that the far side was neglected. Shifting over very intensely and over quite a large distance, the ball-far winger and full-back would move almost into the centre. This totally neglected the far side and very often left the full-back with a dangerous 1v1, if he was even able to recover to make it a 1v1 that is.
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