Aimless Germany need tactical re-think to keep their World Cup alive

Kai Havertz talks during the Germany press conference at DFB Media Centre on November 25, 2022 in Al Ruwais, Qatar.
Kai Havertz talks during the Germany press conference at DFB Media Centre on November 25, 2022 in Al Ruwais, Qatar. /

Germany need a serious reshuffle for the remainder of the World Cup.

When Germany’s starting striker Timo Werner went down with injury only weeks before the 2022 Fifa World Cup was due to kick off, the whole footballing world knew Die Mannschaft had a serious tactical conundrum on their hands. The true scale and seriousness of that issue, however, only came to light in their shock 1-2 opening day defeat to Japan.

For all the creative and defensive talent the 4-time world champions possess, the one area they are sorely lacking in is at striker. Of the three recognised forward options chosen to represent the nation in Qatar, only one (20-year-old Dortmund striker Karim Adeyemi) had debuted before this month.

The others? Dortmund prodigy Youssoufa Moukoko (who only legally became an adult a week ago), and Werder Bremen’s Niclas Fullkrug, a journeyman striker who this time last year was playing in the 2. Bundesliga. Both have started the Bundesliga season on fire, being the highest scoring Germans in the Hinrunde – but the lack of experience in the forward line is telling.

Against Japan, no recognised centre forward was in the German starting line-up – instead, Kai Havertz played in the false-9 role, as he has done many times for both club and country, with Thomas Muller in behind for support.

With neither in particularly good form, nor particularly physically imposing, Die Mannschaft possessed no true out-and-out old-school striker to ask questions of the Japanese defence. When one eventually did come on (Fullkrug), it was late in the game and made little difference, at a point when Japan were defending with virtually all men back.

The net result was a mammoth 26 shots taken by Germany, of which 9 were on target, and the sole goal scored from the penalty spot. Japan, by contrast, had only 4 shots on target, but converted exactly half those chances.

With a do-or-die game against Spain to come for the 2014 World Cup winners, a major tactical rethink is needed if they are to stay alive and avoid a second consecutive group stage exit humiliation.

With Spain coming in off the back of a 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica, defensive intensity is a must; but to exploit the Spaniards’ lack of height in central midfield and in the fullback positions, a target man like Fullkrug could be an interesting tactical choice to start at forward.

Fullkrug at club level is known to peel off centre and target defenders against whom he can impose his hulking 1.88m frame, and such a tactic could pay dividends for the Germans. If nothing else, its a gamble worth taking with little to lose – because if they are to play as aimlessly as they did against Japan, Germany will find themselves on the first flight back to Berlin quite soon.