Germany should dispense with false No. 9, says Andrew Warshaw
Germany are better off with traditional targetman Gomez than false No. 9 Goetze
REPORTING FROM PARIS
Two years ago, Mario Goetze became an overnight hero when his sublime extra-time winner in Rio de Janeiro delivered the World Cup to Germany and made sure his name would forever hold a unique place in the annals of the sport.
Fast forward to Euro 2016, however, and there are nagging doubts about whether the 24-year-old is the right man to spearhead Germany's famed attack as Die Mannschaft attempt to add the European crown to their world title, just as Spain did not so long ago.
Anyone watching yesterday morning's (Singapore time) frustrating German performance in Paris could not have failed to notice the difficulties Joachim Loew's team encountered trying to break through Poland's resolute defence.
One explanation might be that Germany did not need all three points and were therefore not firing psychologically on all cylinders.
Another is that they always seem to come up short in the second games of major tournaments.
But perhaps the most alarming concern for Germany's fans is that Loew continues to start with Goetze as a so-called false No. 9 when Mario Gomez, Germany's one potent out-and-out striker now that Miroslav Klose has called it a day, is sitting on the bench ready to start.
Loew's team may have bolstered their backline with the return of central defender Mats Hummels but they lacked penetration at the other end against a disciplined Poland rearguard, most of their attacks breaking down on the edge of the penalty box.
The flaws in such a strategy were there for all to see, as the world champions played out the first goalless draw of the tournament.
Goetze was given a second consecutive start despite a below-par performance in the opening game against Ukraine and again failed to deliver yesterday morning, never really settling into the role of a striker and was kept quiet by Michal Pazdan, Lukasz Piszczek and the rest of Poland's hardworking defenders.
By the time Gomez, Besiktas' top scorer in the Turkish league with 26 goals last season, came on as a 72nd-minute substitute, Germany had run out of ideas.
"We could not get chances in the last third of the pitch," Loew admitted after the match.
"We could not combine and play our football. It was not what I expected."
But was that partly his own fault?
With Klose retired, Gomez is the only traditional No. 9 in the squad.
Yet Loew continues to prefer what he might consider a more fluid option but which has inherent risks when it goes wrong.
In a sense, Goetze's biggest strength is also his biggest weakness - the adaptability to either play in a variety of positions without nailing down any of them.
And it almost cost Germany dearly.
Without the classy defensive interceptions of Man-of-the-Match Jerome Boateng, they could easily have lost to the Poles for only the second time in 81 years as their opponents fluffed three golden chances.
Gomez may be used as an impact substitute but putting him on too late reduces that impact. Of the two Marios, he looks a more decisive bet.
Loew will no doubt argue that with the likes of Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, Toni Kroos and Julian Draxler in his team, the most effective way of catering for all of them is to play without a recognised striker.
The ever-industrious Kroos was the best of the bunch against the Poles but Germany always have the ability to dominate in midfield and invariably have more possession than the opposition.
Yet for a country with a proud history of centre forwards, the emphasis on a false No. 9 is beginning to wear thin.
What Germany sorely lacked yesterday morning was wing play and a targetman. Including Gomez may mean better team players have to miss out but his job is to score goals - and Loew might need them badly later in the tournament.
"Normally, we combine well but, today, we simply couldn't impose our game," said Loew whose team next face Northern Ireland.
"We will analyse things and work with videos. Until Tuesday, we have a chance to approach various things."
Was that a hint that things might be about to change tactically?
We will find out when Germany play Northern Ireland in their final group game next Wednesday.
- Andrew Warshaw is one of the UK's most experienced football journalists and has written for a raft of international newspapers and magazines. He has covered the World Cup and European Championship Finals for over 30 years.
Loew defends Goetze choice
Germany coach Joachim Loew lambasted his flat-footed attackers after they were held 0-0 by Poland in their Euro 2016 Group C clash yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Both sides remain on course to reach the last 16 with four points from their opening two games, despite the disappointing result in Paris.
"In the attack today, we could not create too many chances, the whole of our game in the last third wasn't fast enough," said Loew (above).
"There were nine or 10 Polish players behind the ball because we didn't play the ball quickly enough."
Despite the stalemate, Loew defended his decision to start the misfiring Mario Goetze over his only other obvious striking option in Mario Gomez.
"Both sides were very strong defensively," he added.
"High balls in the penalty area that is what the Polish want.
"That is why for me the strategy was clear to put Goetze in from the start to play the ball on the ground but, today, we couldn't impose our game style."
In a game of few chances, Poland's star striker Robert Lewandowski was well-marshalled by Bayern Munich teammates Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng - with Boateng being named the Man of the Match for his outstanding display.
Poland coach Adam Nawalka praised his star man's teamwork, despite Lewandowski not getting on the scoresheet for a second consecutive match.
Nawalka believes Lewandowski's presence is opening up more opportunities for strike partner Arkadiusz Milik.
The Ajax frontman scored Poland's winner in their opening 1-0 win over Northern Ireland and missed the best chance of the match when he skewed wide early in the second half.
"Robert Lewandowski in every single match is incredibly important for our game plan," said Nawalka.
"He is working for the team even though he hasn't scored a goal in the last match and tonight.
"He is working tremendously hard and taking a lot of attention of the defenders so that others have chances."
Boateng was glad to come out on top in the battle of the two Bayern aces.
The defender was critical of Germany's attacking play, claiming they "won't go far" if they don't "improve on their finishing".
"I think like usual it is always hard to play against him (Lewandowski)," he said.
"He occupied us all night, but we defended well as a team, starting with the attack and that made it easier for me."
The final whistle was met with glee on the Polish bench, having only beaten their bitter rivals once in 21 meetings in their history.
And Lewandowski admitted the Poles were the pleased to be a step closer to reaching the knockout stages for the first time.
"We're happy with the point. We showed Germany a bit too much respect in the first half," he said. - Reuters.
N. Ireland set sights on Germany
NORTHERN IRELAND 2
Former Northern Ireland player and manager Sammy McIlroy believes a victory over world champions Germany next week would be the greatest result in the nation's history.
The 2-0 win over Ukraine in Lyon yesterday morning (Singapore time) means Michael O'Neill's side will definitely qualify for the last 16 in their first European Championship if they can beat Joachim Loew's team next Wednesday.
Northern Ireland progressed beyond the group stages in both the 1958 World Cup and again in the 1982 version.
"When you look at the group, with Poland and Germany, they are the top two dogs in the group," said McIlroy. "After beating Ukraine, if we can beat Germany, I think that will be the biggest achievement ever for a Northern Ireland side." - PA Sport.