Germany and Brazil falter on their first showings in Russia
Day three of the World Cup brought us our first chance to see two of the favorites in action. Germany and Brazil were playing their first group matches and neutrals perked up rather a lot more that they did for Peru v Denmark.
One hundred and eighty minutes of football later and the neutrals could be forgiven for scratching their collective heads. Maybe it was nerves our a failure to click into gear, whatever it was; neither side looked anything like the favorites we’d all hoped to see.
Defending champions Germany made a lousy start to their campaign against Mexico. Their display was far from woeful but their approached lacked a cutting edge.
They dominated possession, allowing Mexico just 33% of the ball. Despite their dominance, they were wounded by a pacey and ambitious Mexican counter. Indeed had their opponents possessed more composure in their break away, it could have been a lot worse than a one nil defeat for the World Champions.
Brazil endured an equally frustrating night against equally plucky opponents. Despite taking the lead in a decent first half display against Switzerland, the favourites labored in the second half and at times looked more likely to concede than their Swiss counterparts. In the end they had to settle for a point.
Mexico and Switzerland were great value for their results. Mexico in particular were brave and menacing on the break, whilst hounding Germany throughout, giving them no room to breathe.
All possession but nothing to show
Germany’s dominance on the ball masked their failure in the final third. The likes of Draxler and Kroos were neat and tidy in the build up but failed to apply any killer balls in the important areas.
Joachim Low’s men were guilty of over playing it and taking far too many touches. Their game plan seemed to be to walk in a perfect goal from the six yard line. Any efforts on goal were often tame and their lack of real pace made it easy for Mexico to stifle then with numbers.
Similarly Brazil looked impressive in the build up but rushed and toothless in the final third. Neymar and Jesus didn’t look at their best and Firmino came on too late. The Liverpool man actually looked the more likely to score after his introduction. However frustration and impatience had set in by then and Switzerland looked relatively comfortable.
Possession football is the basis for all decent attack minded play. However when the final ball is lacking or there is a famine of pace, it’s often tedious to watch. Germany were so enjoyable in 2014 because they did have this final application and used it to devastating effect. It was sorely lacking on Sunday in Moscow. Sweden and South Korea will be enthused.
Early day blues
It’s only early on in the tournament but neither set of fans will be happy. Brazil and Germany have heaped a lot more pressure on themselves now are a now likely to each need two wins from their remaining group games.
Panic needn’t set in at this stage though. Plenty of sides have labored in their opening match as Spain did in 2010.
The opening round of fixtures are often games of attrition with one side trying to stifle the other. England are likely to face this against Tunisia tonight. You do hope though that, if nothing else than for the sake neutrals watching, the big boys start to play and give us something a bit more entertaining.