Three Thoughts: Germany holds off Portugal 1-0, but could be better
This possession-oriented Germany team looks different than the 2010 version
Improved Portugal had several solid chances to level the score late in the match
Mats Hummels, still just 23, already looks like a big-time defender for Germany
Three thoughts after Germany's 1-0 Group B victory over Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine.
1. Germany has room to grow, but adjustments may be needed.
His 2010 World Cup side was devastating on the counterattack, but this time around Germany manager Joachim Loew has opted for a far more possession-oriented approach.
The thing is, he's been working on tweaking the philosophy without changing the personnel. But here's the reality: Against a team that defends well and denies the space behind, Germany is going to struggle with a trio of Thomas Mueller, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski. Not that they are bad players -- quite the contrary -- just that they are not the most blessed in terms of technique or creativity. Give them space (Podolski), service (Gomez) or skillful teammates to dialogue with (Mueller) and they can be devastating. But all three together, with only Mesut Özil to provide the spark, can be a problem if you're trying to win games with finesse.
That means Loew might consider doing one of two things: either bring in Marco Reus or Mario Goetze to provide some creativity, or go back to the counterattacking oomph of 2010.
2. Portugal has come a long, long way
It's easy to forget how much Portugal has had to overcome -- from a horrendous start in qualifying to the disputes between coach Paulo Bento and veterans such as Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho (both of whom were dumped from the national team). What it needs now is a bit more self-belief.
It looked as if Bento's men were happy to settle for a draw, only to come alive after Gomez's goal. Yet even then, Pepe hit the crossbar, Bruno Alves came close and both Sebastian Varela and Fabio Coentrao missed some pretty clear-cut chances.
The message is clear: a bit more pro-activity and this team can advance to the quarterfinals.
3. Mats Hummels is a big-game player
Forget the shellacking Germany took in its May 26 friendly -- an ugly 5-3 loss to Switzerland) or how awful Hummels has looked at times when playing for his country. Against Portugal, he showed just why he's one of the top central defenders in the world. And, it's likely, he will only get better.
Hummels marshaled the back four like a veteran, urged on his teammates and made a number of decisive stops. If Per Mertesacker is to get back into the side (unlikely, but, you never know) it won't be at Hummels' expense.
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