27 June 2014

Visualized: USA 0-1 Germany

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

That was an emphatic 0-1 ass-kicking. And it was also the best 0-1 loss in American history.

If I were a German fan, I'd be at least a little worried by that result. Yes, they won. Yes, they did everything they needed to, ensuring qualification as the group winner. But to out-pass and out-possess your opponent by those insane margins, yet only take 13 shots, only put six shots on goal, only create eight chances, and only win 1-0 is a bit disconcerting.

That shot total is right in line with Germany's last two matches: with 13 against Portugal and 12 against Ghana. But against Portugal, Germany averaged 37 passes per shot. Against Ghana, 44 completed passes per shot. But against the USA, it was 53 passes per shot. Yesterday, Germany took one shot for every 17.7 passes in the attacking third. That's a lot of effort for little reward, no matter needing just a point to qualify as group winners.

In my two seasons of doing these match infographics, albeit almost totally for Liverpool, I've never seen such a large passing disparity, a passing total as high as Germany's, or passing accuracy as high as Gerrmany's. Germany had three players with more than 100 passes: Lahm, Kroos, and Mertesacker. Germany completed more passes than any other side has attempted in this World Cup. The only side I can remember bettering those passing totals were Spain in the two previous tournaments and Barcelona at its peak.

But almost all those passes came in midfield. Germany attempted 230 final third passes, completing 192, but few went into the US penalty area, forced to pass sideways 20 or more yards from goal and tentatively probe down the flanks.

Some credit where due. The USA defended quite well. Germany scored just once, a fortunate if incredibly well-placed rebound after the initial set play shot was blocked, after scoring four and two in the last two matches. The Americans sat deep by design, and Omar Gonzalez, starting for the first time, was especially impressive. The LA Galaxy defender made 10 clearances, both inside and outside the US penalty area, six more than the next closest player; won both of his aerial duels; and was successful with all three of his attempted tackles.

But once again, the USA attack looked insipid without Altidore. Sure, partly by design; as against Ghana, the USA dropped deep, willing to concede two-thirds of the pitch in order to protect the last third, and invited pressure. They were content to let Germany do whatever it wanted with the ball in midfield, which makes a certain amount of sense given that the US just needed the draw. But unlike against Ghana, they weren't ahead at any point yesterday, and there was also absolutely no sign of a counter-attack even after Müller gave Germany the lead. The USA took all of four shots in total, none on target. The two American shots from inside the penalty box weren't taken until the 90th minute, with both result and qualification already sealed for both sides.

It's difficult to discern just how much of Germany's inability to convert possession into attack and the USA's utter unwillingness to attack was down to the situation. Neither side needed any more than a draw, and the result in the other match – still in both the USA and Germany's favor, if very tentatively, even when Ghana drew level just three minutes after Müller scored – meant that the result in this match was meaningless in the end.

There was never going to be any 1982-style biscotto. German fans won't allow it after the embarrassment with Austria, and it's just not in the USA make-up. If they didn't play out a simple draw to eliminate Mexico in qualifying, they wouldn't do so here. Still, maybe I'm naive, but I still expected a little more going forward from the Americans, no matter how good Germany is.

The USA was pragmatic, and pragmatism worked, if only just. Just like in the previous two matches, changing the style to suit the opponents, to get just enough of out each contest. But pragmatism probably won't be enough to advance much further, with Belgium – and then possibly Argentina – to come.


Anonymous said...

How much do you factor in the USA having played the previous match in Manaus? Only 1 team won their match following the Amazon heat and humidity: Portugal. 5 teams lost in that next match (Cameroon, Croatia, Italy, England, USA). Honduras and Switzerland finished their group in Manaus so they are not in the totals.

Anonymous said...

That was an epic ass kicking. Hard to watch, to be honest. Completely incapable of holding onto possession for any period of time. Created diddly squat going forward. It was nothing more than a 90 minute higher paced training match practice for the Germans. They did not have any urgency to push forward and score goals, knowing that a big score line would likely send Klinsmann home. Pass and move, keep possession and score a goal at some point. A stroll in the park. Comically, if Bedoya places that extra time shot to the near post, we would have tied.

What is Howard doing pushing that shot out front of his goal. Punch it out of bounds. It wasn't that hard a shot. Instead it goes to Muller for a fairly easy finish to the far post. He did the same thing in 2004 at United. Second leg in a knockout match against Porto at OT. Dropped an easy catch from an injury time free kick that allowed Costinha to score and tie the game at 1 - 1. United crashed out on a 3-2 combined score. He catches that ball, they would have advanced 2-2, on away goals. Mourinho ran down the touchline and went on to win the CL that year. Howard is the guy that Mou should worship for making his career. Full stop.