When Spain beat the Germans in the final of Euro 2008, it was not only the start of an era of Spanish dominance but also a beginning of a revolution in International Football. Germany was one of the greatest benefactors of this tactical transition.
Traditionally, the Germans have always played a safe game. Their most glamorous players tend to be great finishers while their middle men have always inclined towards a workman ethic rather than the romantic artistry. But all that was about to change. It wasn't so much about their presence in the top level, they did reach the semis and finals in the last couple of tournaments, it was more about the manner of their loss in that final. Spain had made them look mediocre. The movement and technique was beyond comparison and the Germans just did not look comfortable.
Then came the whole sale changes. More foreign players were nationalized (Ozil, Khedira, Boateng to name a few) and the hope they'd bring in some much needed breath of fresh air. It definitely helped. But the biggest step was Joachim Low's appointment.
When Joachim Low was appointed Manager in 2006, not many people knew what to expect. Germany had been traditionally pragmatic. But Low was different. He wanted a side that could play attractive football. He favoured the artistry of Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos upon whom he built his teams foundations. Die Mannschaft has never looked back since.
The Germans have played some breath taking football and under the coach they reached the semi finals of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa where they lost to eventual winners Spain. They lost the semi finals of the Euro 2012 to Italy. And then came the triumphs.
Germany won their 4th World Cup beating Argentina in the final of thw World Cup 2014 in Brazil. The first time a European country had ever won a title on South American soil. The Confederations Cup followed. With some talented players coming through the ranks, Joachim Low will no doubt focus on building another new generation fo world beaters.
Joachim Low likes to play his team in a modified 4-2-3-1 with an occasional shift to a 4-3-3. His system is flexible and usually relies on the players at hand to interchange positions regularly down the flanks. Toni Kroos is his most important player especially now that Ozil and Co have retired. He's their main playmaker and his vision plus control on the game tempo is crucial for Die Mannschaft.
In their preparation for this game, Low has shown more emphasis on playing Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt in key advanced roles. With some amazingly talented new players coming in (Kai Havertz for example), it'll be interesting to see what the set up will be. Chances are that the German side will focus on playing more done the middle rather than expanding the game play through the wings.
One really wonders what might have happened had Javier Tebas not sacked Julen Lopetegui a day before the national teams opening match in the 2018 World Cup. He had his reasons, but in the grand scheme of things, one cannot deny that the National team suffered greatly from his decision.
This of course, is a nation that has had a record breaking era that lasted decade or so. They have redefined the philosophy and with great success. In the tournaments played and won, La Rojas have have simply given new meaning to the phrase "winning in style". And that's not all. Spain are a nation with great sporting history. They're the benchmark for youth development and sporting facilities of the highest level.
Fast forward to this day, and Spain seem to have recovered and are ready to start a new chapter under Luis Enrique. And with great promise, we see some very talented players taking over positions and roles vacated by legends seemlesly. In Luis Enrique, they have coach that can give the team just the right balance and mix of tactical shrewdness and philosophical greatness that we've all been accustomed.
Luis Enrique is a loyal believer of the 4-3-3 system. There will always be a focus on details regarding how the system should be played and the duties handed to the players. Upfront we might witness a youthful start up with 3 forwards especially with Ferran torres, Ansu Fati in support of Rodrigo.
As has been the tradition, the midfield will be key in controlling the game. Playmaker Thiago will be at the forefront with his passing tempo controlling ability. He'll be supported by either Busquets of Rodri and we might see Merino play in middle as well. Gaya and Reguilon will battle it out on the left wing back region while at right back we can expect more experience in Carvajal.
It is all about controlled possesion with Luis Enrique. He likes his teams to slow the game down and speed it up at will. Despite the mix of youth and experience, we can expect La Rojas to have a balanced starting line up.
Germany Trapp, Koch, Süle, Ginter, Kehrer, Gündogan, Kroos, Draxler, Havertz, Werner, Sane
Spain: David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Eric Garcia, Sergio Reguilon, Dani Carvajal, Sergio Busquets, Thiago A., Merino, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres, Rodrigo
Prediction: Matches between these two nations never disappoint. Both try to impose themselves in the middle of the park and its a joy to watch. We can expect fireworks here.
The midfield battle will be key. This is ofcourse between two of the most accomplished playmakers in the world. This is Kroos vs Thiago. Rodrigo's battle against the opposing center backs will be worth watching but Spain do have the element of surprise with both Torres and Ansu Fati.
Expect alot of speed down the flanks. Luis Enrique does have a headache regarding his Goalkeepers with both De Gea and Kepa not showing good form. Low has a liking for Draxler and we could see the German playing behind the main striker for Die Mannshaft. That could help free Kroos to play his style and control the tempo of the game.
This game will be played in phases. Both teams will feel each other out and they'll both get chances to score goals. It's an open game but importantly it's an enterprising gameplay with alot of details that both the coaches will look to exploit.
German's defense do not like getting overstretched on the flanks so Luis Enrique will rely on his forwards to expand the field as much as possible with switching passes from Thiago ofcourse. Likewise, Spain do not man mark players so Joachim Low will possibly rely on late runs most notably by Toni Kroos for cut backs and finishes.
It's a game that could go either way and I will go for a 1-1 prediction.