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Germany

Germany vs Spain showcases the best of international friendlies

The two European superpowers went toe-to-toe over the weekend.

Max Cohen

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International friendlies are notorious for their typical drab offering of turgid football played out by two disinterested sides, punctuated with a constant stream of substitutions and formation changes.

One needs to look no further than England’s dull 1-0 win over Netherlands on Friday night for an example. Yet tonight’s other marquee match showcased what international friendlies are all about.

Germany and Spain played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in Düsseldorf, in a match between two of the world’s finest teams in front of a sold-out and boisterous crowd.

Flowing, attacking football was a constant fixture throughout the ninety minutes, and it truly felt like the entertaining spectacle that the match was billed to be.

Yet the sad reality is that friendlies such as these are rarities. Often when two international heavyweights meet with nothing at stake, little ambition is on display.

Nonetheless, both the Germans and the Spaniards threw caution to the wind and set out to attack and play with passion.

With just under 100 days until the World Cup kicks off in June, this international break is the perfect opportunity for fringe players to stake their place for a spot on the plane to Russia.

This contributed to the surprising urgency of the match, with players in both squads determined to prove their worth.

An, of course, by far the biggest treat when these two continental superpowers meet is the star talent.

David de Gea and Marc-Andre ter Stegen revealed why they are the best goalkeepers in their respective domestic leagues, saving a dizzying array of attempts- allowing just two combined goals on 17 shots.

The artistry of both midfields was a joy to watch, with Isco, Iniesta, Koke, Thiago, and David Silva facilitating the famous Spanish possession style.

On the German side, Mesut Ozil offered a plethora of delicate touches, while Timo Werner was constantly threatening with his searing pace and intelligent decision-making in the final third.

The enthralling battle between two footballing giants was a perfect advert for the upcoming World Cup.

With only 83 days until the opening match, Germany and Spain proved there is much to look forward to this summer.

Max is an 18-year-old football journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football, is an avid follower of Fulham, and co-hosts a weekly Fulham podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

England

Three talking points as England earned a credible draw against Germany

Jake Jackman

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England

England ramped up their World Cup preparations with a friendly match against long-time rivals Germany at Wembley Stadium. Despite a number of drop-outs earlier this week, the Three Lions managed to deliver a confident performance and the match finished goalless. It wasn’t a bore 0-0, as both teams had chances to score, but a draw was probably a fair result. Gareth Southgate will have learned a lot about his players on Friday evening, especially those making their debuts. Here are three talking points from the match:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a contender to make the World Cup squad

It was a pleasant surprise last week when Gareth Southgate named his squad for the upcoming friendlies, as he dropped players that hadn’t performed for England and replaced them with young, hungry players with potential. Ruben Loftus-Cheek wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for an England call-up at this stage of his career. He has had a promising start to a loan spell at Crystal Palace, but this was an early call-up.

Southgate knows the midfielder from his time as Under-21 manager and his decision to call up Loftus-Cheek looks a great one. The 21-year-old was positive in possession and played several forward passes that created good openings for the home side. Although none of them led to goals, the midfielder did cause problems for the world champions and looked at home at this level. He will need to show consistency and deliver at club level to remain in the manager’s thoughts, but this was a great start to life as an international player.

Leroy Sane is one of the best young players in the world

The Manchester City winger has been wowing the English public since moving to join Pep Guardiola’s side last summer. There are some that think he is helped by the players he is surrounded by at the Etihad Stadium and that might be true, but he is a great player in his own right and he showed that on Friday. Germany threatened a lot in the first half and their best player was Leroy Sane.

The quick-footed winger hit the bar in the first half with a great strike from distance, while he also saw an effort cleared off the line by Phil Jones. Defenders know what he is going to do when he gets the ball, but it is almost impossible to stop. Sane continues to develop on a weekly basis at Manchester City and this performance showed that he is going to be just as important for his country this summer.

Jordan Pickford staked his claim to be number one

The England goalkeeper’s position has been widely debated since Euro 2016, as Joe Hart has been on a downwards curve. He was initially dropped by Manchester City and has since been sent on two loan spells. The 30-year-old has failed to look as dominant as he once did at either Torino or West Ham United and that has opened up a possibility of England changing their goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup.

Jack Butland is many people’s favourite to take the jersey, but Jordan Pickford was selected on Friday and he gave a very good showing of himself. The Everton goalkeeper made three or four great stops to keep his clean sheet and looked at home on the international stage. He took the step up in his stride and that is an encouraging sign for the future. It may come too soon for him to be the number one in Russia, but this display puts him firmly in contention.

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Arsenal

Why should Arsenal sign this Shkodran Mustafi?

The Boot Room

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Arsenal’s defensive woes deepened further at the weekend after Gabriel was stretchered in a friendly against Manchester City. The Brazilian joins compatriot and fellow centre-back Per Mertesacker in the physiotherapy department for at least a couple of weeks, and with Laurent Koscielny not taking part in full training yet after his exploits at Euro 2016, the Gunners look dangerously short at the back in the near future.

Rob Holding signing from Bolton may prove an incredibly fortunate move, and is set to start the first game of the season against Liverpool following an impressive preseason. Holding is likely to be partnered by Calum Chambers in the centre of defence, and while they’re both very promising players, neither is the finished package quite yet.

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The injuries to his main defenders seem to be pushing Arsene Wenger towards a much-needed signing in the form of Shkodran Mustafi, perhaps a blessing in disguise for the North London club.

The injuries to his main defenders seem to be pushing Arsene Wenger towards a much-needed signing in the form of Shkodran Mustafi, perhaps a blessing in disguise for the North London club.

The German has been a dominant force with Valencia in La Liga for the past two seasons, yet, as with many players outside of Madrid and Barcelona, has largely flown under the radar of the media in the UK.

At 24 years of age, Mustafi has already developed into a vocal leader and a commanding presence for club and country. One of the world’s leading centre-backs and international team-mate Mats Hummels said that he is “an outstanding defender,” a testament to how other plays see the Valencia man.

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Mustafi has been a rock for Valencia since he signed from Sampdoria for around 8 million euros, but last season he really came into his own.

Over 30 league appearances, the centre-half averaged 4.4 interceptions per game. In comparison, leading Arsenal man Laurent Koscielny managed just 3.8, which, while significant, pales in comparison to Mustafi.

The amount of interceptions Mustafi made for Valencia proves that he has a fantastic eye for reading the game and acting accordingly, a renowned strength of Per Mertesacker.

The 24-year-old also managed to make 5.3 clearances per game, a significant defensive contribution that quickly removed the pressure on his team when on the back foot. In comparison, Per Mertesacker cleared 4.5 balls per game on average.

Many have drawn comparisons between Mustafi and Mertesacker. They’re both physical presences who are strong in the air and can read the game exceptionally well.

Mustafi, though, is younger, faster and better in the tackle. While Mertesacker is often given the armband, he isn’t the inspiring presence Arsenal need to push on.

At times Arsenal have looked lost on the pitch and lacking a driving personality to keep them pushing for more success. The German could be that driving personality, that source of inspiration, a provider of some of the mental fortitude Arsenal need to maintain their performance levels throughout the season.

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In addition to the short-term benefits of having a senior centre-half on the field for the first game of the season, signing Shkodran Mustafi would be an inspired decision by Arsene Wenger.

His leadership and defensive capabilities are precisely what the Gunners need to add to their line up to help them push for the title in the most competitive Premier League yet, and Mustafi could be the player to lead the club for years to come.


Featured image: All rights reserved by Ai Kagou.

 

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Bayern Munich

What has been the issue for Bayern Munich hit-man Thomas Müller at Euro 2016?

The Boot Room

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German striker, Thomas Müller, is known for sending balls to the back of the net with unerring accuracy and fabulous frequency in almost every single tournament that he has ever played in. However, when it comes to the European Championships, it is a different story for the 26-year-old.

In the 2012 World Cup, Müller hit 5 goals, and then in the last World Cup two years ago, his total reached 10 goals in 13 games. In his twenties, the striker won that competition’s Golden Boot.

However, for some reason, the wait continues for the Bayern Munich forward’s first goal after eight games over two European Championships.

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It appears that Müller has hit the football equivalent of a writer’s block. He failed to score even once at Euro 2012, and repeated the feat in this summer’s tournament, eventually drawing another blank in front of goal as Löw’s men crashed out at the hands of the hosts. For the usually ruthless Müller, even six on goal shots and many gilt-edged chances have not been enough for him to find the back of the net.

When qualifying for Euro 2016, he scored nine of Germany’s total 24 goals, and out of the 73 international games he has played in, he notched up 32 strikes – not at all bad for a player who does not always play in a classical number nine role. Even his penalties are seeming to falter, after missing his penalty in a marathon shootout win over Italy in the quarter-finals.

When asked about it, Müller has no concerns over his lack of goals at Euros 2016. He told Sky Sports that although he hopes he does score, it is not his main focus. He also went on to say that football is a very complex game.

“Because it looks good in theory or the drawing board, it doesn’t mean that it’ll work out effortlessly in reality. A football game is very complex.”

“You have to stay hungry and keep going where it hurts, to try and get to the ball a step quicker than the opponent. Regardless of whether you’re praised to the heavens or a bit criticised, you shouldn’t pay too much attention to either.”

So, what is the problem when it comes to the Euros? Although the striker claims his dry spell is not an overburdening weight for him, there is still something amiss in front of goal. So, what seems to be the problem?

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When you look at Müller’s role in the Euro 2016, it is not solely about scoring. His input on the games he has played
has been great, both defensively and as a striker, and it is also worth recognising that M
üller has had more successful tackles than any other of his team-mates. Out of the four teams to reach the semi-final, the only player to have made more is Welshman James Chester.

Also, with such a packed tournament, fatigue may be a bit of a problem for him. This is always a common theme
throughout any massive knock-out competition, with many of the biggest players appearing to be worn down by the demands.

When it comes to chance creation, this has not been an issue for the German. Considering his lack of goals, it can be surprising to find that in Euro 2016, his average attempts work out at 3.2 per game. In the 2014 World Cup, he was sitting at only 2.3 per game. Out of the 19 attempts he has made, two have hit the post and only four have been on target.

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However, apart from his lack of goals, Müller was on top form with his unpredictable runs causing defenders many problems. Müller is known to be one that sets the tone, and has proven he is capable in plenty of his other games. Maybe we should cut the guy some slack, and simply admire the huge influence he has on a brilliant; if temporarily unsuccessful, German team.


Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alessio Hoyos Porturas

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