France Italy Spain Croatia Germany are definitely the favourites to win Euro 2016!” – it’s remarkable how the expectation always falls at the feet of the usual suspects every international tournament. After putting England to shame by demolishing Slovakia, Germany are now everyone’s tip to go on and win the tournament… what a surprise.
Where every other heavyweight nation at Euro 2016 appears to have obvious flaws in their playing styles, Germany are perhaps the only side that are actually improving with each passing round of the tournament – ironing out any of their group stage creases into yet another crisp outfit.
A dominant performance and an authoritative 3-0 scoreline, all be it against significantly inferior opposition, sent out a warning to the rest of the teams left at Euro 2016: Germany are getting stronger by the game and will be tremendously difficult to get past. Something for England/France/Spain/Italy to look forward to… oh sorry, and Iceland.
The German footballing metaphor which compares the national side to a well-oiled machine is a getting a little stale and doesn’t really fit the manner in which Joachim Loew’s squad have adapted and developed over the course of the tournament. The intelligence behind Germany is far more sophisticated than just a series of co-ordinated moving parts.
Germany’s group stage was a particularly stale affair, but which potential winner didn’t suffer through a dismal opening round of fixtures other than perhaps Italy. Where the Germans differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack is the lessons they learnt where others have languished.
The opening fixture with Ukraine highlighted some defensive chinks in the armour. Sure enough, these faults were hammered out before the next match with Poland, Loew’s side defended well but couldn’t produce an attacking threat.
In their third game, Germany peppered the Northern Irish defence, forging chance after chance but no cutting edge to put the white and green army to the sword. And so the final piece of the puzzle was to improve on their finishing. Unlike any other side in the tournament, Germany’s progression through the tournament has actually showed progression in their football.
The results of all that tinkering and self-improvement: Sixty per cent possession, 21 shots, eight corners and three excellent goals against Slovakia – the finished item.
Where sides like England have faced defensive-minded sides in every fixture so far, they still appear clueless as to how to break it down. Similarly Belgium look excellent against teams that provide them with any team and space, but lack a plan B when their opponents backs are to the wall from the start.
The World Cup 2014 winners look like they’re just getting started now that they’ve found their winning formula. Germany didn’t battle their way to the quarter-finals, they observed, they learned and they adapted.