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Marc Lim
Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Sports

Are Germany the new Spain?

The Straits Times | Marc Lim | Friday, Jun 20, 2014

It was already the scene of one European humiliation. But, as if claiming the scalp of world champions Spain was not enough, the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador served up yet another humbling of a European heavyweight.

Germany's 4-0 trouncing of a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal delivered a warning to world football's elite that Joachim Loew's men are serious title contenders in Brazil.

The lop-sided manner of Monday's Group G opener created shockwaves reminiscent of last week's 5-1 thrashing of Spain by the Netherlands. But, while the emphatic Dutch win raised questions of the future of Spain's tiki-taka brand of football and whether it remains enough to dominate teams, Germany's victory may have breathed fresh life into the short-passing game.

Slick, quick touches, intelligent off-the-ball running and decisiveness in the final third were the hallmarks of Spain at their peak.

The Germans have that and more. They strung together 588 passes, had a completion rate of 82 per cent and enjoyed 54 per cent of the ball, numbers similar to Spain's. But they have added speed and urgency to the mix, almost like a marriage of possession and counter-attacking football.

Everything they do is quicker, from closing down opponents when not in control of the ball, to their swift interchanging of passes and positions when they regain possession, at times involving up to seven players in an attacking position.

It was in direct contrast to the lumbering Portuguese, whose backline just could not cope with the constant German pressure and found themselves three goals down and a man short by half-time. Despite a bright first 10 minutes, when Nani and Ronaldo looked dangerous, the Portuguese wilted under the heat and humidity - the match kicked off at 1pm local time - with Ronaldo largely marked out of the game by Jerome Boateng.

"We did make mistakes, not only in our defence but also in the sharpness of our attack," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento after the loss to Germany - Portugal's fourth in four major tournaments, following the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

"For us, the game was over by half-time and, although we tried a bit in the second half, we didn't show much either."

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