Wednesday’s FIFA friendlies avalanche produced more telling results than routine ones. Some final score lines were downright revelations, peeks at what may come this summer in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In a series of articles we dissect the significance of 16 of those matches.
Germany 1, Chile 0
In Stuttgart, Germany, the hosts, tipped by many as the strongest team going into the World Cup, barely managed to hold on to an undeserved 1-0 win over Chile, largely considered a dark horse at best this coming summer. The South Americans put on a show of midfield poise, attacking ingenuity, and defensive strength that saw the Germans stepping back to see who they were actually playing against.
The Germans had their moments and a Chilean defensive lapse allowed for Mesut Ozil’s brilliant assist on Mario Goetze’s in-the-box, point-blank score. Also, the hosts’ fluid attacking style produced some dangerous plays if most seemed destined to be snuffed out, albeit at times at the last moment, by a Chilean defense that was up to the task for the vast majority of the game—selective highlight clips notwithstanding.
Yet, on four separate occasions, two each half, the Chileans were simply unlucky not to get the ball over the goal line for what could have been a tie at least, or an ample victory on the other side of that pendulum. All game long they were but a whisker of good fortune away from what most would have thought a stunning result (http://bit.ly/1e9gcUi).
Arturo Vidal’s 9th minute header off the legs of a Philipp Lahm, on the goal line by the post, a shot off the German crossbar by Eduardo Vargas, and another Vargas chance off the woodwork when the sprawling and already beaten Manuel Neuer could be seen willing the wicked downward ricochet off the crossbar to the outer side of the goal line, were but the most spectacular of near misses. Others included slides (Felipe Gutierrez’s in particular) that missed reaching crosses where a simple redirecting contact would have sufficed for a score, and a surprised, unmarked Charles Aranguiz, in the same position as Gotze was in earlier, who simply mishit the ball into Neuer’s waiting grasp.
Aside from this, all night long Alexis Sanchez manhandled whomever the Germans put in his path. “You cannot catch him – it’s unbelievable how quick and how good with his feet he is. If you get one against one with him, it’s nearly impossible,” German defender Per Mertesacker said.
When asked for a summing up reaction to the game at the post-game press conference, Coach Joachim Low was at a loss for words to describe his visible on-camera agony as the latter minutes of the game unfolded, and his obvious mix of anger and relief at the final whistle. He stoically responded to what was behind the question by answering “My (World Cup) plan isn’t dependent on this game.” Meanwhile, German captain Lahm was more direct, “You can say it was a lucky win.”
Chile is no dark horse (http://exm.nr/1hTp0SX) and those looking at World Cup Group B who thought it would be easy for Spain and the Netherlands over Chile and Australia may want to take a moment to retool their perspective.