Germany can still win Euro 2016

http://nairobidigest.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/germany.jpgGermany can still win Euro 2016

Can world champions Germany win Euro 2016 or will they get found out in the latter stages of the competition?

They produced a comfortable, if not entirely convincing 2-0 victory against Ukraine at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille on Sunday evening.

Despite keeping an impressive 88 per cent possession and creating the early chances, Germany also showed rare vulnerabilities which Ukraine were unable to exploit, but other teams will.

Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi powered home the opener and then Bastian Schweinsteiger came off the bench to score his first international goal in five years and seal three points.

With games against Poland and Northern Ireland to come, coach Joachim Loew will fully expect his side to make progress.

Here, we explain why Germany are seen as genuine title contenders and why some may see them as an ailing force.

Germany, eyeing their fourth Euro triumph but first since 1996, looked towards their midfield maestro Toni Kroos to unlock the Ukrainian defence.

Kroos was at the heart of much of their attacking threat and played the game at his own metronomic, unhurried fashion, making 130 touches over 90 minutes.

The Real Madrid man played in a deeper, central role, wary of protecting an inexperienced backline as well as unlocking defences when going forward.

Kroos came second in most passes made in La Liga last season and he has the highest pass accuracy rate (92 per cent). It was no surprise to see him dominate the middle of the park.

He will be aiming to become the complete German midfielder at Euro 2016, dominating with and without the ball. His range of passing and thought of passing is unique.

The cultured Kroos found himself as the deepest central midfielder behind Mesut Ozil, but was ably assisted by the Arsenal star when Germany looked to counter.

Low picked a frightening front four with World Cup winners Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze supported by Wolfsburg’s Julian Draxler.

They have never lost their opening game at the European Championship finals and the German juggernaut marched on with another victory.

It was understandable that Ukraine were concerned about their opponents’ ability to counter-attack so much so that they were happy to sit deep and squeeze the ball, rather than allow space in between the backline.

Mustafi’s opener meant the Germans were always strong favourites to go on and claim all three points having won 18 of their last 19 games after being in front at half-time.

The Germans will worry if they progress to the latter stages of the tournament with Gotze playing as the false No 9 and no recognised striker.

They will look to Spain, who have won tournaments without a recognised striker, but their ball retention is not the same. So can they rely on Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Muller to bring them glory?

German goalscorer Mustafi was released by then Everton boss David Moyes in 2012 after making just one substitute appearance during his time at Goodison Park.

The 24-year-old moved to Italy to get his career back on track and while at Sampdoria he broke into the Germany national team.

It has been a remarkable last four years for Mustafi since leaving Everton, with the player making his competitive debut at the finals in Brazil as Germany went on to win their first major trophy since 1996.

“The time I was at Everton, I had to step on because I was not playing,” said Mustafi. “I needed to play so I asked David Moyes to release me. I needed to play to grow up.

“Everton were really professional with me and said it wasn’t a problem to give me away because I wasn’t playing. They always thought about the players, not themselves.That is unusual. They wanted to give the players the best opportunity and, for me, that was to move on and go somewhere where I could play.

“I took a step back to go to Serie B in Italy to make two steps forward and now I am here.”

Mustafi has since moved to Valencia where he has established himself in their first team and after scoring his first international goal in only his 11th appearance for his country, he has given Low a selection problem ahead of Poland on Thursday.

Low opted for the experience of Benedikt Howedes and Mustafi in a makeshift defence despite the fact the Germans started with 10 World Cup Winners.

The pair were part of the squad that won the World Cup two years ago and were preferred to Joshua Kimmich and Emre Can in a defence ravaged by injuries, but you wouldn’t know.

Mats Hummels was only fit enough for a place on the bench, whilst Antonio Rudiger was forced to pull out the squad after suffering cruciate ligament damage last week. Schalke’s Howedes started at right-back with Valencia’s Mustafi partnering Jerome Boating at the heart of the defence.

Full-backs Howedes and Jonas Hector offered little pace on the flanks but their selection was aimed at slowing down Ukraine’s dangerous wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka.

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Frazier Omondi