14 July 2014

Visualized: Germany 1-0 Argentina aet

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except average position locations from ESPN FC.

It's an obvious statement, but a tight, defensive contest will almost always be decided by the better finisher.

Each side took 10 shots. Germany hit the target with half of theirs, which is their average for the tournament. Argentina hit the target with none: nine off-target, one blocked. Five of Germany's shots came in the danger zone. Just two of Argentina's did. Argentina had three big chances to Germany's two, but Argentina put all three off-target: Higuain missed a one-on-one, Messi missed a one-on-one, and Palacio missed a one-on-one. Germany hit the woodwork with their first (yet again, from a set play), scored with the second.

This, from Squawka, sums it up nicely.

That's horrific. There's just one shot remotely close to the goal frame: Messi's header with three minutes to play, which Neuer had completely covered.

Argentina's attack failed to fire in the first half, but they had the better chances: most notably Kroos' gift put wide by Higuain, but also both Higuain unnecessarily offside for Lavezzi's excellent cross and Boateng's last ditch clearance when Messi broke through down the right in the 40th minute. A change seemed unnecessary; they were coping well at back, and while chances were few and far between, they'd had the better of them. Even worse, the change Sabella made actually made Argentina worse: Agüero sent on in place of Lavezzi.

Lavezzi, for all his faults, is made for a counter-attacking match because of his pace, especially cutting in from out wide, exploiting the channels. Agüero, not fully fit to begin with, plays more centrally and at a slower pace, which is drastically slower when he isn't healthy. Argentina now had three central attackers – Agüero not fully fit, Messi seemingly not fully fit, and a misfiring Higuain – as well as no width because both Zabaleta and Rojo were needed in defense while Perez needed to help in midfield. Argentina created next to nothing aside from Biglia throughball to Messi in the 47th, again put wide, until Palacio's entrance in the 78th minute: a player willing to provide the needed running, but yet another erratic finisher. And, of course, Palacio put his one golden chance wide when presented an opening.

Yet again, Germany also pressed well, with 12 of 31 tackles and five of 17 interceptions in the opposition's half, compared to two tackles and two interceptions for Argentina. Germany needed just two tackles in its penalty box to keep Argentina from scoring, even if they were helped by Argentina's finishing; Argentina made two tackles and five interceptions inside its own box.

So yes, Germany could have easily lost yesterday. Argentina were again excellent in defense, holding Germany below its average in shots, clogging the space in the final third through Mascherano's superlative holding play and a deep back four. Germay, who averaged 17 crosses in the tournament, attempted 25 yesterday, leading to just three chances – although yes, one of those chances led to the goal. And to think that the defense was Argentina's biggest question mark prior to the tournament.

As in 2010, the best team won, even if they needed extra time in the final to do so. The team that tried to play more football, better football won. And Germany are deserved winners: the most consistent side and winning the most memorable game, the better side in every single one of their matches despite narrow victories over Algeria and the USA as well as a draw against Ghana.

Most impressive is the squad's depth. Reus, Gündoğan, and both Benders missing the tournament, neither Khedira nor Schweinsteiger fit for every match, and coping well with Kramer's concussion yesterday, which required a change in both shape and tactics. Their strength in depth is terrifying, and only Klose and Lahm are over 30; five usual starters, as well as both Schürrle and Götze, are 25 or younger.

Be afraid, everyone else. Be very, very afraid.

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