World Champions Far From Top Shotters

Poland enjoyed their first ever victory over World Cup-winning neighbours Germany this week, recording a 2-0 victory in UEFA European Championships qualifying. If this were boxing, the Poles would be considered the new world champions.

It was the clinical nature of Germany’s passing and finishing in their 7-1 destruction of hosts Brazil, and the rest of the tournament, which characterised their successful 2014 campaign. Have those traits disappeared within the space 3 months?

Arkadiuz Milik and Sebastian Mila got the goals that sent the National Stadium into raptures, but most of the 56,934 would surely admit that their team had not dominated the game. In fact it was the Germans that produced the overwhelmingly favourable data.

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Joachim Low’s men proved again that they can control a game with relative ease – capturing 57 per cent overall possession and 64 per cent of live ball possession. They also launched 94 attacking moves compared to the Poles’ 67. So where did it all go wrong for the team that notched a total of 19 goals in Brazil?

The ‘shot index’ – an exclusive rating based on a qualitative analysis of every shot in the match – was calculated as 1.13, an outstandingly low score for any team, let alone the reigning world champions.

Germany had a total of 30 shots on goal, none of which they managed to convert. Credit must go to Wojciech Szczesny, who won the Man of the Match award with a heroic performance. He saved 9 shots of 20 Germany had on target, with the remaining 11 being blocked by defenders, showing that the clean sheet also owed a lot to the resolute Polish defence.

That still leaves 10 shots which didn’t even trouble the goalmouth, with World Cup hero Thomas Muller one of the main culprits.

Aside from their two goals, Poland only had two other attempts on goal in the entire match. Their mode of attack is clear – the home team launched 25 counter-attacking moves to Germany’s 6, 40% of which were classed ‘high quality’.

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The Germans, featuring 4 players from the Bayern Munich side that has made possession play the hallmark of their success in recent years, preferred to build-up their attacks with passing-style moves, registering 67 to Poland’s 29. A good percentage of these were classed as ‘high quality’ – 49% – pointing again to the Germans’ disappointing conversion rate after creating dangerous situations in the final third.

Maybe part of the problem was the employment of Muller in a central role against Poland, rather than the wide role with license to drift in, which he occupied in the World Cup Final. Germany swung in 28 crosses against Poland (6), with 11 resulting in a loss of possession.

With Miroslav Klose having retired, perhaps Low will turn to another recognised targetman such as Max Kruse of Borussia Monchengladbach, leaving Muller to occupy the channels.

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