EURO 2016

Draxler excels in German plan

Left: Julian Draxler (left) volleying home to open his account at Euro 2016 and seal Germany's 3-0 win over Slovakia. The midfielder also capped his performance with an assist for Mario Gomez and was named as Uefa's Man of the Match. Below: Defender
Julian Draxler (left) volleying home to open his account at Euro 2016 and seal Germany’s 3-0 win over Slovakia. The midfielder also capped his performance with an assist for Mario Gomez and was named as Uefa’s Man of the Match. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Left: Julian Draxler (left) volleying home to open his account at Euro 2016 and seal Germany's 3-0 win over Slovakia. The midfielder also capped his performance with an assist for Mario Gomez and was named as Uefa's Man of the Match. Below: Defender
Defender Jerome Boateng leaping to join his coach Joachim Low as they celebrated his opening goal for Germany.

Low's tactics bear fruit as midfielder scores and sets up another to send Slovakia home

LILLE • Germany coach Joachim Low appears to have found the right formula to get his attack firing at Euro 2016 after Julian Draxler's outstanding contribution in Sunday's 3-0 win over Slovakia.

The 22-year-old was the Man of the Match as the Germans produced arguably their slickest performance since winning the 2014 World Cup to clinch a place in the quarter-finals.

After Jerome Boateng's early opener, Mesut Ozil had a 13th-minute penalty saved before Draxler intervened with an assist and a goal to set the world champions up for a last-eight date with Italy or Spain.

Playing on the left wing, the Wolfsburg midfielder combined superbly with Jonas Hector before cutting the ball back for Mario Gomez to double Germany's lead just before half-time.

Draxler then volleyed home from close range following a corner just after the hour mark, securing a comfortable win on a sunny evening in northern France.

The midfielder had started Germany's opening two games before being left on the bench in the 1-0 win over Northern Ireland last Tuesday. But he was recalled, at Mario Gotze's expense, and his performance justified Low's selection.

"It wasn't easy in the last game because I didn't play but today I was happy to play and help the team," said the former Schalke prodigy.

"We have a lot of quality in our side so it doesn't matter if I don't play. I just work hard in training so the manager can count on me if needed."

Draxler, who said he found out he would be starting when he spoke to Low just after breakfast at the team's hotel, admitted getting himself into one-on-one situations with the Slovakian defenders was a key part of Germany's game plan.

"The coach asked me to do that. He gave me a lot of self-confidence. He trusts in my quality and wanted me to search for the one-on-ones," said the German.

Draxler's goal was just his second for his country on his 22nd appearance, with his only other strike coming in a friendly defeat by the United States in June 2013.

But his game is more about making chances for others, and Gomez's latest scoring display to follow his winner against Northern Ireland was another source of satisfaction for Low.

After Gotze's unsuccessful stint as a false nine in the 2-0 victory against Ukraine and the goal-less draw with Poland, Gomez has come in and scored in successive games.

Low has not used the same starting XI in any of his team's four matches at Euro 2016 so far and looks to have embraced the concept of flexibility after scintillating displays from Draxler and Gomez.

Asked if Sunday's win was the end of his false nine experiment, Low replied: "For us, the problem is not having a real or a false nine. If nobody runs in behind the defence, we won't do anything.

"Whether it's Gotze, (Thomas) Muller or the others, they got in behind every time.

"Today was the case as well. When we got the ball into the box, we always had three or four players there. That wasn't the case against Poland."

With their defence keeping a fourth straight clean sheet and an attack clicking at the right time, Germany will take some beating.

Slovakia coach Jan Kozak was humble in defeat and said his team should consider their Euro 2016 campaign a success.

"Any defeat is painful but there should be a good feeling that we got to the last 16 and played the world champions," he said, noting that Germany's last loss had come against his side in a 3-1 friendly defeat last month.

"We've played them twice now. One win and one loss, so that's OK," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Draxler excels in German plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe