It was an absolute disaster for Germany.
Arriving in Russia, 2014 World Cup trophy in tow, the reigning champions were not expecting to be put into such a desperate position. They were susceptible at the back, overrun in midfield and lacked the composure and class typically associated with German tournament sides.
This was the first time a German side had lost their opening game of the World Cup since the West Germans lost to Algeria in 1982.
Read five things we learned from Germany’s shock defeat to Mexico HERE.
The result wasn’t the only point of concern for coach Joachim Low, however, as the Germans looked uncharacteristically vulnerable on the break. In truth, Mexico could easily have won by a larger scoreline had their final ball been better.
Hirving Lozano’s first half goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as Die Mannschaft struggled to break down Mexico’s low block, with the likes of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Timo Werner noticeably absent.
Leroy Sane, consequently, was the focus of post-match discussion, with many arguing that the Manchester City winger would have been vital in avoiding this defeat, due to his speed and directness on the ball.
This is why he wouldn’t.
Would Leroy Sane have helped?
In terms of breaking down a low block such as Mexico’s, Sane theoretically would have been useful. Germany were crying out for a direct style winger to make runs in behind the Mexican defence in create space for himself to carve out opportunities.
Die Mannschaft were extremely one-dimensional in the second half, trying to play through their advanced fullbacks and using an abject Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos’ passing range to break down an incredibly compact defence.
To be able to call on Sane, therefore, certainly would have been useful as it would allow Low to change both shape and style of play, adding another aspect to an attack that clearly wasn’t functioning as hoped.
However, Julian Brandt came off the bench to do exactly that and he looked handy in his short cameo, making one dribble and firing off a shot that forced a save from Guillermo Ochoa.
The problems run deeper
Whilst Sane may have helped in breaking down Mexico’s defence as they sat deeper and deeper as the game wore on, Germany’s issues in that game ran far deeper than just one player. That is the full extent of how Sane would have been able to help.
The key issue was a lack of coherency in midfield, resulting in Mexico overrunning them and playing straight through a double pivot of Kroos and Sami Khedira.
The latter hasn’t had the bests of ends to his season since Mousa Dembele outshone him in the Champions League last-16 tie with Tottenham, and Khedira looked every bit his age in a slow and weak performance.
Kroos is, by no means, a defensive midfielder, whilst Khedira is now slightly over the hill, hence their vulnerability on the counter.
KEY STAT: Khedira and Kroos were only successful in one of their nine combined attempted tackles.
With these two supporting what was, essentially, a two-man defence in Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, it forced the duo to make a number of risky challenges in advanced areas of the pitch, resulting in a soft German core.
Sane isn’t the solution
When Pep Guardiola had a similar problem at Bayern Munich, this led him to the concept of using inverted fullbacks.
Essentially, he used David Alaba and Phillip Lahm as auxiliary midfielders, tucking them inside when on the attack to reinforce the centre of the pitch and create the numerical overload he desired, compensating for this with direct wingers.
Low, by contrast, instructed Joshua Kimmich and Marvin Plattenhardt to push high and wide. This provided no additional support for the German midfield and created space in behind ripe for exploitation, resulting in multiple three-on-two situations arising from the flanks.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that 52% of Mexico’s attacks came down their left flank – Germany’s right. They identified a clear weakness in Germany’s system and duly exploited it, with Lozano benefitting the most through his goal.
Low, however, can’t employ the same solution Guardiola used with inverted fullbacks – even though it’s a role Kimmich and Jonas Hector could play – as he chose not to take direct wingers like Sane.
The solution, therefore, comes in the form of Sebastian Rudy, the most defensively minded midfielder in Germany’s World Cup squad. His inclusion would provide more defensive cover for the back four and he can drop in between Boateng and Hummels when Kimmich and Plattenhardt – or Hector – advance.
It’s clear, therefore, that Germany’s problems lie in midfield, with Sane unable to solve that issue. It’s unjustified to blame that defeat solely on his exclusion.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Germany and the rest of the action from Day 5 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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