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Euro 2012 diary: Özil unable to link Germany

While the so-called excruciatingly named “group of death” looked tantalising on paper with 4 great teams together in one group, there is always the possibility that games between big teams can be a little dull – Germany versus Portugal was a perfect example of this. Germany were some way short of the benchmark set by pre-tournament hype, and Portugal were very deep and unadventurous for the first 70 minutes. The game could have had a different complexion had Mesut Özil been more involved in the link up play from the three-quarters line.

The Germany side that captured previously clichéd imaginations at World Cup 2010 was very dependant on playing on the counter attack, destroying defences with a series of short sweeping passes before the opponent back-lines were able to regroup – a cavalry charge on the flanks, for anyone that enjoys real time strategy games. Portugal were able to frustrate by sitting deep to avoid opening up for the Germans, and this meant that Germany had to play on the front foot for the majority of the game.

Portugal’s midfield three of Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles were very flat rather than holding a position that resembled a triangle, which is the standard set up for a three-man midfield. This meant they were able to cover the defensive line very well, in effect creating a back-seven. Of the three midfielders, Veloso was the one with the most obvious task: man-marking Mesut Özil.

Veloso was very successful in taking Özil out of the game and it gave the Portuguese centre-backs a lot less to worry about – Gomez is very static too and relatively simple to babysit.

Germany's average positions vs Portugal

Germany's average positions vs Portugal. Mesut Özil (8) is shown very central and close to Mario Gomez (23).

The UEFA average positions show that Özil was very central, but the problem with this image is that it is an average – this works very well for observing player movement vertically or when they rarely cross the middle of the pitch (lengthways). Özil was marked out of that central area and forced to forage for space on the flanks. The ESPN Soccernet heat map gives us a more accurate idea of where he spent his playing time:

Mesut Ozil heat map (via ESPN Soccernet)

Mesut Ozil heat map (via ESPN Soccernet)

We can also see this from his passing patterns that despite being the player with the most passes played in the attacking third, the majority of his passes played and received were in wide positions.

Özil passes played and passes received.

Özil passes played and passes received. He played the most passes in the attacking third.

Perhaps he could have been assisted by a striker who was willing to drop 5-10 yards occasionally to disrupt the lines between midfield and defence. In the build up to the goal, Özil was fortunate to have Gomez react quickest to his deflected cross but the infield run of Thomas Müller takes Bruno Alves away from the goal mouth and leaves Pepe and Joao Pereira in a two-v-two situation with Podolski and Gomez.

The next game against the Netherlands will be very interesting to see how they deal with the Real Madrid man given their need to get a win, as well as seeing whether Germany will alter the pattern of play around this central area or continue to cede this space.

Average position from Chalkboards from the StatsZone Euro 2012 iPhone app.

  • elliott

    Portugal looked like a back five at times with Veloso tracking Ozil. I actually quite enjoyed this game – a classic midfield battle, but lovely triangle passing by both teams at times, and some nice flank 1 vs 1s (Boateng and Ronaldo)

  • Gerold

    bla bla bla bla  you can talk all day 
    italy looked very poor so far  in the england game 60% 
    posetion but NO GOALS  that says it all
    go germany go!!!!

  • Jibrankhan51

    Spain’s early departure was surprising in london olympics 2012. They are world champs and Euro champ..

  • Ravibphpmaster900

    Lets see what happens in Premier league 2012-13 season. Im waiting….

  • mdfsport

    Portugal were able to frustrate by sitting deep to avoid opening up for
    the Germans, and this meant that Germany had to play on the front foot
    for the majority of the game.

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