Juan Carlos Osorio is a man with a target on his back. Mexico’s manager, in charge since 2015, witnessed his side fall by a score of 4-1 to an “inexperienced” German team, at least that is how the media has portrayed them leading up to and during this 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
But to the tactical nerds and to those who keep a keen eye on the small details of sides, and not just the names on paper, this game was far from “experienced vs. inexperienced.”
The media narrative aside, this semi-final was top draw for this tournament. On Wednesday, Chile edged out Portugal 3-0 on penalties in what was a higher quality affair in technical terms and was a much more evenly paired match up. Mexico, on the other hand, while going undefeated in the group stage, never quite convinced.
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) June 29, 2017
Osorio has gotten much of the blame. He has rotated his players heavily and has played his backline with players who are out of position. Mexican National team fan, Alberto Manriquez, feels that Osorio shouldn’t remain as Mexico’s manager next summer. “No. [He’s] a coach that puts centre backs as right backs or left backs just because it works versus Honduras,” Manriquez added.
The criticism backs what we saw in the match. Mexico struggled to get comfortable on the ball early on, often losing the ball in midfield, while the Germans opted to play a patient defensive game that relied on quick-direct counters when the ball was won.
Low set up #Germany to play a mid-block press in a 5-3-2/5-4-1 and to play strictly off counters/transitions. No long balls or possession.
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) June 29, 2017
Mexico were awful in quick transitions from attack to defence. This is an area Osorio needs to improve. With that said, a final score never reflects the full story and what exactly transpires on the pitch. El Tri improved after Leon Goretzka’s double after eight minutes and made 25 attempts on goal.
Obviously, finishing is what counts and that is where Germany won – their killer instinct combined with their defensive organisation proved to be decisive. Die Mannschaft’s experimental team has had it’s small blemishes this tournament against Australia and Cameroon, but this was undoubtedly their best performance.
Despite Mexico fighting until the last minute, Joachim Low’s outfit won the match in the first 10 minutes. His side opted to play quite conservatively and it paid off. Germany are now going to the final to battle Chile on Sunday. Read here for the analysis of their group stage match.
Anyway, read on for what Germany did well and where Mexico failed.
Germany’s defensive approach created both opening goals
Germany are the most tactically flexible national team in the tournament and arguably in the world. Low’s side can play virtually any style and can do so at a high-level and create goals in a number of ways.
Both of Goretzka’s goals were the result of Mexico losing the ball in midfield and not being able to transition back into a decent defensive block. The image bellows shows Mexico’s poor defending on the opening goal.
Furthermore, Germany set up quite well defensively. The defending World Cup Champions set up in a 5-3-2/5-4-1 with their mid-press trying to disrupt Mexico’s build up from the defence to the midfield.
The graphic below shows how Germany’s mid-block press tried to isolate Mexico’s half-space and flank passing lanes when one Mexican midfielder drifted wide. The Germans managed to use a triangle shape to clog up Hector Herrera, Jonathan dos Santos, and Miguel Layun’s ability to build up the play.
The rough graphic shows Die Mannschaft’s set up and triangle press.
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) June 30, 2017
Also, the in-depth video below showcases Germany’s ability to defend well in three phases:
2. Mid-block press
3. Low-block defending
Mexico’s poor finishing
Look, Osorio doesn’t have world-class players at his disposal. But he does have technically sound footballers in attacking phases that can offer patches of flare.
Mexico created much more than Germany but failed to match their efficiency in the attacking third.
The video below shows just a sample size of the chances that were wasted.
Mexico didn’t get as badly beaten as many football fans are claiming. On another day, Mexico and Germany could have been tied 3-3 after Timo Werner scored Germany’s third goal.
“They are fair winners,” said Osorio, who is Colombian-born and who was an assistant at Manchester City in the early 2000’s. “But I think the score line seems like we were too far away and I do not think that was the case.” Regardless, Osorio is definitely on the hot seat. El Tri have to straighten out their starting XI and defending in transitional play.
Moving forward, Die Mannschaft, despite the ongoing talk about their “C” team, is playing anything but “C” team calibre football – they’re playing great. They’re unbeaten in this Confederations Cup as well. Sunday will feature two sides that have already met in this tournament. A 1-1 group stage draw between Chile and Germany saw both sides evenly matched but this Sunday something will have to give.
The tournament’s best sides will clash in what will most likely be a cracking match.