Germany start their UEFA Nations League with a hard-fought draw in Bologna, Italy. In a competition where Germany have never been particularly successful, they have a good opportunity to take part in a top-class European competition in the run-up to the World Cup later this year. Here are our observations on the 1-1 draw against Italy.
Both teams struggled in the last third
Germany dominated possession throughout the game and ended the evening with 67% of it. However, the German attack remained very lackluster until the 0:1. They had great build-up moments, which were always followed by a ball over the bar. This was caused by their inability to easily get the ball to a striker, so one of the midfielders (Leon Goretzka twice in five minutes) ran onto the loose ball and skydived it instead of making an extra pass.
The goal finally came after a blocked shot went wide, followed by a cross deflected off Werner’s arm and calmly put into the net by Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich. Absolute madness is the only thing that got the job done.
Germany’s back four was (mostly) great
Defense chain chemistry is sometimes the hardest to find. Although they have played together before, you had four defenders from four different clubs from three different leagues playing together. This can be disastrous if miscommunicated. However, the back four held up surprisingly well and kept everything away from Manuel Neuer – whose only save was a half-hearted overhead kick that fell straight into his arms.
Unfortunately, the only shaky moment I caught resulted in Italy’s goal. The 18-year-old substitute Wilfried Gnonto was dangerous for most of the night after being substituted on. In the run-up to the goal, he was able to run past Thilo Kehrer on the wing and get to the touchline. His cross was accurate to the centimetre, but probably should have been processed by the German centre-backs. Another mistake made at that moment was to let Pellegrini come in unmarked and flick the ball into the net.
Germany only woke up when it lost
Although Germany were the better team for the whole 90 minutes and had brilliant moments throughout, it was only after a shot on goal that we really felt any sense of urgency. Almost immediately after conceding, Kimmich scored and jogged right back to come back for the restart. After a quick VAR check, Germany stole the ball on the restart and were already looking for the lead in the attacking third. The ball then went out and the referee called for a cool-down break. Immediately after the break, Ilkay Gündogan got the ball into the penalty area and shot at goal, which was not cleared properly, resulting in a few more half-chances for Germany.
Unfortunately, Germany seemed to pull away again in the final moments of the game and had only one great chance left, which resulted in a corner in the last minute of added time.
Germany should have been able to beat this Italian team
Italy have made 10 changes to their squad compared to the midweek game against Italy. Although there were some notable names on the field, most would consider the fielded team to be B-squad. Even the substitutes were youngsters making their debut for the Azzurri. This Italian team, which won the European Championship last summer but was eliminated from World Cup qualifiers, is in a very different place than Germany. They look to the next World Cup cycle while Germany is still preparing for this year’s.
Flick’s eleven on Saturday shouldn’t be too far from what his starting eleven will look like at the World Cup. Although this was their first game in almost three months, Germany’s senior squad should have been able to beat this Italian side. Fortunately, Hansi Flick and his team have five months to solve these problems.