If one would have looked at the scoreboard at the end of 90 minutes, they could be forgiven for thinking it was malfunctioning. Surely, it must be the other way around? But anyone who saw the game would say the score only comes close to describe the events of the night. Sure, a 4-0 win paints a picture of complete domination. What it doesn't describe is the utter submission of the German team against Iran.
It was a contrasting story of two teams who played differently than they did the first time out. One team learnt from their mistakes, the other didn't. Iran knew they were lucky to win 3-1 against a spirited Guinea. The African nation had controlled the game and created many chances for the better part of 90 minutes. Iran, however, kept it tight at the back and defended like their lives depended on it. They went ahead on account of a wondrous goal and then took advantage when a Guinea defender was sent off. They had won, but they had sat back and invited pressure. They had been too cautious in their approach. Against Germany, they rectified that.
Iran assaulted Germany from the first minute, taking them by surprise just like Costa Rica did. Iranian forwards swarmed into the German half and pressured German defenders into committing mistakes. One could say that they were playing like Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund: gegenpressing Germany out of the game. Iran must have took note of Costa Rica's performance against the Germans. They knew that the German defence was shaky and vulnerable. They knew they could exploit it. And they did. And once they sensed the dread, they kept going in for the kill.
Germany, who made changes to their starting line-up, not only didn't learn from their mistakes at the back from the first game, but also compounded their faults. They were stunned at how Iran came at them and never recovered, unlike how they did against Costa Rica. In the last game, the Germans had composed themselves after an unsure start and taken control of the midfield. Elias Abouchabaka, Yannik Keitel, Nicolas Kuhn and John Yeboah were involved in some beautiful and fluid moves and they exchanged quick passes at will. But that high-tempo passing game was nowhere to be seen against Iran.
Germany's top scoring forward Jann-Fiete Arp was completely marked out of the game by the Iraninan defence. The Iran back four did not have to deal with much, but their organisation at the back belied their age. They didn't give an inch for Germany to pounce onto. The only chances Germany had in the game weren't meticulously constructed, but were mostly hopeful longballs and shots. Iran, on the other hand, came breathing down their neck. The German custodian Luca Plogmann had a particularly difficult night.
But it would be unfair to lay all the blame on his shoulders. The German coach Christian Wuck failed at tinkering the plan and adapting to how the Iranians played on the night. It seemed the Germans had no plan B. Once their natural game was disrupted, they did not know how to play. Most of the time, it seemed they were passing the ball randomly, without any intent to move forward or without any shape. Wuck also left out Kuhn on the bench, who was arguably Germany's best player in the game against Costa Rica.
Germans also inexplicably continued with their high line of defence despite the fact that they were highly vulnerable at the back. It makes sense to play top heavy when you are two goals down, but not if your centre-halves have been vulnerable all night. Not when the opposition is chasing down the ball like attack dogs. The Germans paid the price for their faulty tactics.
The first Iran goal came in the fifth minute itself. The German defence, which looked shaky to begin with, lost all semblance during a set piece and Iran got a goal out of the chaos in the box. The freekick from the right was headed away by Jan Boller but only till Amirhossein Hosseinzadeh, who put it back in the box. Ali Satavi wrestled the ball away from the crowd and shot across the goal. Plogmann pulled a really good save but the rebound came to Younes Delfi's. His shot squeezed in through the German defence an in between Plogmann's legs to put Iran up.
From that moment on, Germany were never in the game. Iran kept missing golden opportunities to double their lead, most of which were handed to them on plate by the German defenders, who passed casually and were slow to react to dangerous situations. Plogmann did make good saves to deny Allahyar Sayyad on a couple of occasions. Just when one thought that Germany could recover in the second half and punish Iranians for their profligacy up front, the second goal came from another set piece. Minutes before the half-time, Mohamad Sharifi's curling freekick from the right was met by a Delfi. He had doubled his tally on the night and put Iran in a comfortable position.
Germany made two changes at halftime, bringing in Jessic Ngankam and Abouchabaka to press higher up. One would expect Iran to sit back and protect the lead at this stage, but they didn't. The third goal came within three minutes of the second half and by then Germany were out of the game. Delfi bagged an assist as his cross was headed in by a diving Sayyad. This time Sayyad didn't miss. The fourth was just a nutshell of how Germany's night had been. With 15 minutes to go, Germany had pressed high up and every German player was in the Iranian half.
However, a high pressure game doesn't work if you can't pass precisely. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are able to play high line because they have incredible passers of the ball like Luca Modric and Thiago Alcantara in the middle. Germany's passing on the night had been nothing short of dreadful. Centre-half Lucas Mai, standing beyond the halfway line, passed straight to Mohammad Ghobeishavi and the counter attack was on. Sayyad was released quickly as the German defence, caught high up, tracked back. He exchanged quick passes with substitutes Saeid Karimi and Vahid Namdari. Namdari, in acres of open space, received the final ball and coolly sidefooted the ball it into the net past Plogmann. When the final whistle came, the Germans had been waiting for it. It wasn't just an embarrassing defeat, but the nature of their drubbing felt like it was psychologically damaging. Germany had surrendered their tools. They were no signs of a fight back.
Germany have a considerable task at hand now. Guinea is well equipped to exploit their defence just like Iran did. And the African nation would have taken notes from last night's game as well. In Fandje Toure they have an exceptional forward who can trouble any defence in this competition. The German defence looks especially vulnerable against pace. They must rethink their tactics and strategy going into their final group game as one win and a big loss has put them in a precarious position in Group C. Iran, on the other hand, not only booked a berth for the Round of 16, but also sent out a statement to the other teams watching. The tournament has some exciting teams in it. Spain, Brazil, England and France play beautiful football. But Iran stood up and made themselves count against a formidable opposition and a European football powerhouse.
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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2017 16:13:22 IST