Euro 2016

Gomez shows the way to goal

Germany's Thomas Muller failing to score past Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern. Both sides reach the last 16 after the Germans' 1-0 win.
Germany's Thomas Muller failing to score past Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern. Both sides reach the last 16 after the Germans' 1-0 win. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Against the stubborn Northern Irish, Germans blend invention with directness to eke out victory

PARIS • It is not easy scoring goals against mid-ranking nations who are content to sit back and frustrate but Germany showed the way again on Tuesday.

That tends to have been the way of tournament football for the past 50 years.

England, for instance, created 27 chances against Slovakia on Monday but could not put any of them away.

Germany had 26 against Northern Ireland, who qualified for the last 16 as one of the best third-placed finishers, but that included the shot from Mario Gomez that flew past the otherwise brilliant and blessed goalkeeper Michael McGovern for a 1-0 victory.

That goal, and the victory it brought, took Germany through as Group C winners, but the obvious temptation to cite stereotypical efficiency should be resisted.

  • 3.8%

  • Germany's chance conversion rate against Northern Ireland, making only one out of 26 shots count.

If Joachim Low's side had a more ruthless edge, they would have scored half a dozen from a dominating display at the Parc des Princes.

Germany will have to wait until the knockout rounds to learn if they have simply done the minimum necessary as a warm-up for tougher games, or whether they do have a problem with finishing.

But at least they were highly creative as opposed to their previous goal-less draw with Poland.

If Roy Hodgson can claim all England's missed chances point to an opponent being on the end of an imminent hiding, the next team Germany face should be really worried at the bombardment to come.

While England made six changes to their starting XI against Slovakia, Germany made only two.

One was the introduction of Joshua Kimmich, a midfielder with Bayern Munich, who was thrown in at right-back for his second cap. At 21, he was relentless in bringing width down the flank in what was effectively a 2-2-6 formation.

Germany used every means to slice through Northern Ireland; slick one-touch passing around the penalty box orchestrated by the sprightly Mesut Ozil, officially Man of the Match despite McGovern's heroics in goal, but also direct balls into target man Gomez.

The introduction of the big forward, starting his first tournament game since the Euro 2012 semi-final, was key and not just in claiming his 28th goal in 66 internationals after a set-up from Thomas Muller.

It was an object lesson in using a muscular centre-forward against a team who were always going to defend deep and narrow.

"We decided not to have a false nine but a real nine," Low explained.

"Gomez scored and he occupied two or three defenders because he likes to stay in the centre. We needed someone in this area to give spaces to Muller and (Mario) Gotze."

As a tactic, it paid off as Muller worked with Gomez or fed off him as a roaming second striker.

Muller could so easily have had a hat-trick, hitting the frame of the goal with a diving header and a side-foot shot.

The world champions regularly created the sort of chances that should have been buried but, befitting this low-scoring tournament, they were either unfortunate like Muller or wasteful like Gotze.

Germany have only three goals from as many games, with Muller still yet to score, but those statistics are surely due an overhaul.

There were too many chances to list them all, but the use of Gomez to tie up defenders and the quick, inventive flicks from Ozil were crucial German ingredients to eventually break down obdurate defences and claim the win.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Gomez shows the way to goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe