Before I begin criticizing either team (especially the Dutch) or any part of the game, let me remind you that this group stage is far from over. Technically, the Dutch can still qualify for the next round and the Germans can still be knocked out. The Dutch need a 2-0 over Portugal with a German win over Denmark in order to qualify for the next round. The Germans on the other hand can still be knocked out if the Portugese beat the Dutch and if the Danes beat Germany 2-0. Confusing? You bet it is. The Netherlands and the Germany will be rooting for each other during the last game, though the same can’t be said for earlier today.
Germany 2-1 Netherlands
Both teams came out hard during the first fifteen minutes. Counters were utilized left and right as both sides were looking for an early goal. Robin Van Persie had two solid chances early on but couldn’t find the back of the net. The game was even-sided, yet slightly favoring the Dutch as they controlled most of the possession. By the 24th minute, a watershed moment had arrived when Schweinsteiger made a direct pass to Gomez in front of the 18-yard box, Gomez took the ball in and made a highlight-worthy spin and shot to knock the first one of the game in. The Dutch back line went from satisfactory to completely falling apart after this goal. Schweinsteiger and Ozil completely conquered the middle of the field, stopped Dutch movement forward and created impressive counters.
In the 37th minute, Podolski skipped a pass by Willems to Gomez who placed the ball beautifully past Stekelenburg into the Dutch net. Heitinga, Willems and the rest of the defense continued to have trouble covering the German offense for the rest of the game. The only flash of brilliance for the Netherlands was during the 74th minute when Van Persie made a magnificent shot outside of the box and past Neuer. The clock ran down as the Germans slowed the pace of the game down with the Dutch seeming too tired to argue their decision.
Although the Germans had won their first game, they seemed to be in a similar situation as their Dutch peers. Fans and critics from both sides were underwhelmed with their play during their first game and were skeptical with their striker choices (Gomez & Van Persie). While Gomez silenced his critics, Van Persie’s will be even more critical. Van Persie did score a goal, but he did miss two vital shots early on in the game which could have completely changed the outcome. It was similar with his performance against Denmark, too many chances for a starting forward to miss.
It seems almost unfair for the Dutch team when most of them have played decent soccer. They weren’t terrible against Germany or Denmark, they might have been lackluster at times, but they were never terrible. If Van Persie had scored those two chances earlier today, would we be so harsh on the Dutch? Can a team be terrible if they play well and never score or can a team be awesome if they are lousy but do? Either way, the Dutch have put themselves in a tough position against Portugal this Sunday.
The Germans on the other had a chance to silence critics and utilized every opportunity they had. To me, one of the biggest differences between the two teams was the Germans ability to capitalize on their counters. I guess it also helps when Schweinsteiger is at hand and able to completely control the game with the help of Ozil.
Looking towards their next game, the Germans should be able to lay off the reigns, open up a beer and sit back as the other three teams have a panic attack over the 2nd spot for the group. I know I mentioned that the Germans could get knocked out, but I find this highly unlikely. The only thing they need to worry about is the pace of their play during the 2nd half which looked a little lazy during the past two games, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The back line has also not been tested enough but should be in good hands with Neuer who hasn’t made too many mistakes.
Man of the Match
My heart says Mario Gomez, but my head says (and knows) it’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. He set up both goals for Gomez while also dominating the middle. The Dutch helped him look immaculate by giving him too much space and allowing him to link up beautifully with the offense and Ozil for most of the game.
Flop of the Match
Mark Van Bommel. He was too passive during most of the game, almost non-existent as Ozil and Schweinsteiger ran circles around him. Not exactly the kind of play you’re looking for in your team captain.