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Things we learned from Germany’s triumph over Sweden

Toni Kroos the hero

Toni Kroos didn’t have a great opening 180 minutes to start the World Cup. Against Sweden, his turnover in the midfield led to the opening goal from Ola Toivonen. Watching Kroos lose some of his composure due to frustration with misplaced passes was not something that people are used to seeing.

Yours truly even made a joke (to be clear, it’s 100% a joke) during the second half: “Imagine if Germany had someone that played with heart in midfield like Bastian Schweinsteiger instead of Toni Kroos.”

Look, Germany’s World Cup was not over if they only got a draw out of this match. They would’ve needed some help on the final matchday, but it wasn’t over by any means. Still, who didn’t have confidence when Kroos stepped over that ball late in the match? He would at least give the Germans a chance at a winner in the final seconds.

We all know what happened next.

Boateng and Rüdiger were a disaster

For the second straight match, Germany’s defense struggled to defend the counter. Against Mexico’s high flying attack, it made some sense. With Sweden’s not-as-fast attack, it was a little more surprising to see. Boateng and Rüdiger were repeatedly caught forward in the attack, leaving huge gaps in the backline that Sweden managed to exploit on several different occasions.

With Germany likely set to have 60% and more of possession in every game they play at this World Cup, they’re going to have to adjust to teams playing on the counter. If they can’t solve this problem, it doesn’t matter if they manage to get out of this group. They won’t lift the trophy at the end of the tournament.

Bayern fans know that Boateng has probably lost “half a step”, so he needs a partner that’s going to be an anchor point next to him in the back. As for Rüdiger, I’ve never found him more than a serviceable rotation player for a big club, so I can’t figure out for the life of me why Niklas Süle wasn’t out there.

The midfield lost stability when Rudy went out

Jogi Löw had to make an unplanned substitution in the first half after Sebastian Rudy was kicked in the face and had his nose broken. Ilkay Gündogan is obviously a more dynamic midfielder than Rudy in attack, but that’s not why Rudy was in the match.

Löw gave the Bayern midfielder a relatively unexpected start with the hopes that he would settle the midfield and provide a little more protection for his centerbacks. The goal: break up some of those counter attacks before they really got going.

While it would appear that South Korea is the weakest team of this group, Germany don’t truly hold their fate in their own hands. Yes, while three points in the next match gives them their best shot at advancing, they could still find themselves on the outside looking in if the tiebreakers go against them.

So, what will Löw do in the midfield against South Korea? At this point, your guess is as good as mine. With Rudy probably ruled out, perhaps this is where we see a player like Leon Goretzka partner with Toni Kroos in the midfield, or does Löw throw all caution to the wind and go for it like…

Löw’s solution to every problem so far has been “MORE ATTACKERS!”

While Germany have fallen behind at almost the exact same moment in their first two matches, Jogi Löw’s solution to their overwhelming possession is to throw more attackers onto the field and hope that something happens. Let’s look at his subs:

Against Mexico

60’ – Marco Reus for Sami Khedira
79’ – Mario Gomez for Marvin Plattenhardt
86’ – Julian Brandt for Timo Werner

Against Sweden

31’ – Ilkay Gündogan for Sebastian Rudy
46’ – Mario Gomez for Julian Draxler
87’ – Julian Brandt for Jonas Hector

Three points out of six isn’t the end of the world, but when things aren’t going right for Germany on the field, Löw needs to think about tweaking things that would help the team more than “insert Gomez or Brandt and hope they save the day”.

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