Most of the public focus immediately after the Algeria game was the post-game interview with Per Mertesacker. In a very tense 100 seconds or so, he greeted every question with a dismissive roll of the eyes and the question ‘What do you want from me?’, before giving a frustrated answer. Naturally, after a bad 120 minutes (for all of the Germans at the back, except for the keeper) in the heat, you can understand why he was frustrated by questions about why Germany looked so bad.
There are no bad teams at this stage of the tournament (although, there are surely a few surprising teams there), but German performance – especially in the first half – was pretty terrible. It looked like they thought they could just turn up and win, and the Algerians caught them by surprise. The German media pressed this point, but were met by a unified response from the management and the players: We’re in the last eight, and that’s all that matters. Germans are certainly pragmatists, but you can tell they were all a bit shocked that they looked so vulnerable last time out.
Later, came news that up to seven of the team were suffering from the same flu that had laid Mats Hummels low for the game against Algeria, but Jögi Löw brushed aside these concerns and all but guaranteed that Germany would make the semi finals. Which, speaking to a lot of Germans the last few days, seemed to be the general opinion. They expect to be there. In fact, as far as they are concerned, that is when the tournament starts for them. It must be nice to be so confident of your team…
Surprisingly, and against all predictions, the Löw-Doktor made several changes to the side that beat Algeria. To be honest, most people would have expected changes, but all of the noises from the German camp were that there wouldn’t be any. Germans are nothing if not stubborn. But, Philipp Lahm remained where he finished the last game, and in his usual position (prior to this season) at right-back. Per Mertesacker was dropped for the returning Mats Hummels, who is a faster player and more comfortable with the ball at his feet. So, only three centre-backs (Höwedes, Boateng and Hummels) were playing today! Crazy.
With Lahm moving out of the centre of the park (which no lesser a judge than Pep Guardiola says is his best position), that freed up space to resolve the Khedira-Schweinsteiger conundrum by playing them both behind a roaming Toni Kroos. Mario Götze was also dropped from his place on the wing wing after a few quiet games, with the German player of the tournament so far – Thomas Müller – moving there, freeing up space for Miroslav Klose up front.
To be honest, especially after the Algeria game, this game was a bit… well, scheiße. Both teams were pretty well organised, and Germany scored a good header, but apart from that, there was very little to get excited about. On another day Debuchy could have given away at least one penalty, though.
In fact, as the second half went on, I began to look around the Berlin bunker for the list of tasks the missus left me to do while she was away. he game bored the berlin bunker so much I was trying to work out what my household tasks are (missus is away) so I could do them. Thankfully, it didn’t (quite) get to that stage as Germany started to tire and France tried to make their increased energy reserves count to make a slightly more suspenseful ending.
At the end of the game, I do like to listen to Mehmet Scholl’s thoughts. He was a hell of a player, and as a pundit, he’s like Alan Shearer. But insightful. And interesting. And sometimes controversial. Germany deserved to win as they pulled together despite being knackered, he said, and he was right.
Not exactly a classic game like.
Still, Germany are through again. All is well in Berlin.
Except for the heat and the shitty metro system, at least.
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