Germany 2-1 Sweden: 3 things we learned

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23 : Mario Gomez of Germany celebrates after winning the match at the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group F match between Germany and Sweden at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23 : Mario Gomez of Germany celebrates after winning the match at the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group F match between Germany and Sweden at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

Here are three things we learned in Germany’s come from behind 2-1 win against Sweden.

After watching Mexico defeated South Korea earlier in the day, both Germany and Sweden knew what they needed to do. Sweden would advance to the round of 16 with a win. While Germany needed a win to essentially keep their World Cup dreams alive.

1. Joachim Low was forced to change his starting XI but hasn’t solved his team’s problems.

Joachim Low went into the second game knowing Jonas Hector would play after missing the first game with an illness. However, a neck injury ruled Mats Hummels out. While the German media suggested that Niklas Sule would be paired with his Bayern Munich teammate Jerome Boateng. Low decided to start Antonio Rudiger and wasn’t done there. Sami Kherida and Mesut Ozil were both taken out of the starting XI and replaced by Sebastian Rudy and Marco Reus.

In the opening 10 minutes, the changes looked like the right decision. Germany completed 122 passes, compared to only six for Sweden. The Germans looked like they had been shot out of a cannon but couldn’t finish any of their chances. Die Mannschaft controlled possession but their crosses into the box were wasted.

Germany’s inability to prevent the counter-attack continued against Sweden. If the Swedes had more talented attacking players, Germany could have been down three goals at the half. Instead, it was only 1-0.

Low will again be forced to make changes in Germany’s third group stage game against South Korea. Boateng will have to survive a suspension after picking up two yellow cards. If Hummels is available he will start next to Rudiger. Sule will start next to Rudiger if Hummels can’t play.

2. Sweden took advantage of Germany’s mistakes in the first half.

Sweden were able to catch Germany on the counter-attack just like Mexico did in the first game. Marcus Berg was sent in on the goal ahead of Boateng. Manuel Neuer came charging out of his net and stopped the attempt, but should the ref or VAR have given Sweden a penalty? Boateng grabbed Berg’s shoulder and caught Berg’s foot when going for the ball. The Germans were lucky that Sweden didn’t receive a penalty and that Boateng wasn’t red carded.

The non-penalty was a turning point in the first half for Sweden, who were angry for not getting a penalty. However, the belief they could score gave Sweden confidence. The Swedes started pressing forward and attacking the Germans.

An inadvertent foot caught Rudy in the nose as he was trying to get up off of the field. Rudy was wobbly as he walked was forced to the sideline with blood running down his face. Low delayed making an immediate substitution and Sweden controlled the ball with Germany down a man. The lack of a decisive move from Low allowed Sweden scoring chances that they could not convert.

Ultimately, Low was forced to replace Rudy with Ilkay Gundogan, just 31 minutes into the game. Almost immediately after making the substitution, Toni Kroos gave Sweden the ball. The giveaway would be the worst giveaway of the tournament if not for Argentina keeper Willy Caballero gifting Croatia a goal days earlier. Kroos’ pass went directly to a Swedish player with no German player near the ball. Sweden immediately pushed forward with Ola Toivonen chipping the ball over the top of Neuer. Sweden could have had a second on the last kick of the half but Neuer made an incredible diving save.

In the second half, Sweden struggled to get the ball in the German side of the field. Despite Boateng being sent off with a second yellow card with less than 10 minutes remaining, Sweden decided to be cautious. Instead of pushing forward and trying to win the game, Sweden played not to lose. The decision backfired with Germany scoring in the final seconds of injury time.

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3. Low got his halftime adjustments right.

With Germany down a goal at halftime, they were 45 minutes away from their World Cup being over. Low had to make changes and he did to start the second half. Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez came on, replacing Julian Draxler. Timo Werner moved from the middle to the left-wing adding more speed to Germany’s attack.

While the decision was made partially out of desperation, it was exactly what Low had to do. Against Mexico and in the first half against Sweden, Germany aimlessly hit crosses into the box with no player capable of winning aerial duels. Werner simply could not deal with the physical play of Swedish captain Andreas Granqvist and Draxler did not offer enough speed.

The decision paid dividends only three minutes into the half. Werner coming in on the left played a ball into the box. Gomez made a run towards goal, drew a Swedish defender toward him and opened up space for Reus. With a slight touch from Gomez, Reus sending the ball into the corner of the net, tying the game.

While the adjustment worked for Germany, it makes the decision to leave Leroy Sane off the roster even more puzzling. Sane would have offered Germany pace and creativity on the left-wing that Low hoped to achieve when he moved Werner to the wing.

The winning goal was also the result of the halftime change. Werner used his speed to draw a foul when he was dragged down by Jimmy Durmaz just outside of the box. Kroos earned redemption scoring one of the most beautiful goals of the tournament. The Real Madrid midfielder tapped it forward to Reus who returned it to Kroos, who curled it into the top corner of the goal.

Low has to make a decision going forward how he wants to line up. Germany have been more dangerous with Gomez on the field but can he play an entire 90 minutes. If Low has confidence in Gomez playing 90 minutes in not one but potentially five more games, he should start Gomez and move Werner out wide.

However, if Low believe Gomez is best coming off the bench, Germany should consider moving Thomas Muller to striker and Werner out wide. That would allow Low to start either Ozil or Draxler next to Reus.