Tag Archives: Ukraine

Toni Kroos display against Ukraine showcased he may control Germany’s Euro destiny

kroos euro 20156

Toni Kroos of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France. June 12, 2016| Credit: Alexander Hassenstein

Toni Kroos made it his mission to persuade Germany manager, Joachim Low, to start the 26-year-old in their Euro 2012 semi-final exit against Italy.

Consistently displaying his displeasure from the bench throughout the tournament, Kroos received extreme faith from his manager to aid Mesut Ozil in combatting with Italy’s abundance of ball-playing midfielders. On the day, Low’s men were considerably outplayed, whereas Kroos failed to impress in a right-sided attacking midfield role that ultimately limited space in the final third for either German to maximize their talent.

Four years later, in a completely different midfield role, Kroos has transitioned into key component in Low’s setup.

Where the German excelled in an advanced playmaker role prior to Euro 2012, now, Kroos is at his utmost best in a midfield trio as the designated passer, rather than a destroyer or a chief creator. Ultimately it wasn’t an entirely new prospect for the Real Madrid star considering he’s always showcased his ability to fulfill various duties in central areas – put simply, Kroos is the ideal all-round midfielder that can meticulously dissect the opposition with his metronomic passing, yet is also capable of utilizing his physical stature to dominate the centre of the pitch.

However, the evolution of Kroos’ game didn’t occur overnight. Since that tragic defeat to Italy in Warsaw, Kroos has played a significant role in Germany’s World Cup success, and most recently, Real Madrid’ eleventh Champions League title. From open play, Kroos sets the tone of the match with his composed passing and willingness to locate open space to receive the ball. And from set-pieces, the German’s deliveries have been the catalyst to several pivotal goals for both club and country.

To be frank, his impact in midfield is unparalleled from a stylistic standpoint, as Germany are now suited to play on the counter-attack, but equally adopt a false-nine system that heavily emphasizes quick movement, constant interchanging, and possession dominance. But Kroos faced a different task in Germany’s Euro 2016 opener against Ukraine, where he was responsible for directing the route of attack, but also offering protection for a backline without the injured Mats Hummels, and the retired Phillip Lahm.

Essentially, German supporters and Low would prefer Kroos perform superbly in both phases, but here, his limitations were on display. From an attacking perspective, he was one of Low’s best performers – which isn’t saying much due to several average performances from his teammates – as he recorded the most passes, created the most chances, whilst winning all of his take-ons.

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In other words, Kroos did what he does best, and that’s passing his side to victory. Whether it was quick combination plays to evade defenders, an inch-perfect free-kick that resulted in Shkodran Mustafi’s opener, or the splendid ball over the Ukraine defence for Sami Khedira, Kroos provided penetration and invention to a German side struggling to create chances from open play.

Yet, out of possession – mostly in the opening half – he was left with too much space in midfield to cover, thus enabling Ukraine to pose a threat via swift counter-attacks.

Nevertheless, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s late cameo and insurance goal suggests he’s nearing full-fitness, which provides Low with the midfield trio that starred in Brazil two-years ago. Schweinsteiger offers additional muscle in central areas, and a defensive shield that will enable Kroos to play within closer proximity of the interchanging attackers.

Low’s attack was at their best when they played quick intricate passes amongst each other, and while the German manager may insist several shots from outside of the box was a tactic to limit counter-attacks, in truth, they simply lacked runners behind the defence. Mario Gotze didn’t offer much as a false nine, Mesut Ozil’s appreciation of space was evident, but he lacked runners to supply passes, whereas Thomas Muller’s movement from the right was lacklustre. At times, the reigning world champions were simply guilty of circulating possession casually, opposed to quickly moving forward and combining in tight spaces – they were dangerous when doing the latter.

On the other hand, apart from Mustafi’s winner, and Jerome Boateng’s distribution, Germany’s defence were vulnerable when Ukraine pushed men forward to deliver crosses into the box. In fairness, Low is forced to play an inexperienced make-shift back-line, which once again emphasizes the risk of presenting Kroos with such significant defensive duties.

Although Germany have developed a ‘getting the job’ done identity in recent years, there were too many underwhelming performances in one night to assume they won’t improve as the tournament progressed. Schweinsteiger’s return to fitness offers a new dimension to Low’s midfield, while Mario Gotze’s role as a false nine could be sacrificed for a classic centre forward in Mario Gomez.

What can’t be denied is the numerous options available to Low, and similar to Brazil, regardless on whether he persists with the same XI or makes various changes, anything less than a winner’s medal will be deemed a failure. But unlike four years ago, Low can now rely on Kroos’ passing to control the tempo and outcome of a nations fate.


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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Euro 2016, Published Work


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Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Borussia Dortmund

Match in a sentence

A late equalizer from Mats Hummels has given Borussia Dortmund a deserved tie and two away goals to bring back to the Westfalenstadion in three weeks time.


  • Jurgen Klopp’s men opted to play in a 4-2-3-1 with Robert Lewandowski leading the line, and Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Jakub Blaszczykowski behind him. Felipe Santana and Sven Bender replaced the injured Neven Subotic and Ilkay Gundogan.
  • Mircea Lucescu’s men also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Luiz Adriano leading the line and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Taison and Alex Teixeira behind him. Fernandinho and Tomas Hubschman protected the backline in Shakhtar’s first competitive match in over two months.
  • Both sides played in identical systems, but with different approaches to the match. Shakhtar was unable to dominate in possession due to Dortmund’s high pressure, which allowed Dortmund to dictate the game in terms of possession. Shakhtar was shaped in a 4-1-4-1 when Dortmund had possession, hoping to break on the counter. Dymytro Chygrynskiy and Yaroslav Rakitskiy was forced to hit balls out wide to Taison, Srna or Teixeira, as they couldn’t get Fernandinho on the ball due to Dortmund’s pressure.
  • Despite all the pressure, Dortmund was unable to create any clear-cut goal scoring chances. Dortmund did look dangerous when going forward as Reus terrorized defenders when he picked the ball up from deep, Blaszczykowski had a few chances stopped by Andriy Pyatov and Hummel’s rattled the cross bar from a corner kick.
  • Shakhtar took the lead in the 31st minute courtesy of a Darijo Srna free kick that flew past Roman Weidenfeller. Unfortunately for Lucescu’s side, their lead lasted 10 minutes as Lewandowski equalized. Lewandowski’s failed miskick dropped two Shakhtar defenders and the Polish striker coolly slotted his shot past Pyatov. Shakhtar defenders could only blame themselves for the goal, seeing as they failed to clear their lines.
Lewandowski vs shahkhtar

Lewandowski goal GIF

  • In the first half  Sebastian Kehl and Bender dictated the midfield, but Gotze and Taison were the key players. Gotze was getting the ball in between the lines (drifting to the right) and it caused the Shakhtar defenders a few headaches. While Taison stormed down the left flank several times, always looking a danger when the ball was at his feet. Taison attacked the space that Lukasz Piszczek left available when he surged forward. Piszczek was more cautious when getting forward in the second half and usually did when Gotze freed space up for an overlap.
  • Lucescu made the first change in the second half replacing Taison (their best player on the pitch) with Douglas Costa. It was more of a tactical change for Lucescu as Alex Teixeira moved to the left and Costa pushed to the right. Shakhtar became an odd shaped 4-3-2-1 when they didn’t have the ball as Costa tucked into the midfield. If Srna didn’t bomb forward it opened up space for Fernandinho to attack.
  • Shakhtar took the lead once again and it came from the sub Costa. Hummel’s failed to deal with a simple ball over the top, Costa shrugged off Marcel Shmelzer and struck his shot past Weidenfeller. Costa’s first touch was superb, but the shot was even better.

  • Dortmund applied more pressure, but this time on the flanks as Costa’s introduction nullified Bender and Kehl’s control of the midfield. With three minutes to go they got their winner, from an unmarked thunderous Hummel’s header that Pyatov could only dream of saving.
  • Hummel’s not only made up for his error that caused the second goal, but it provided Dortmund with a fantastic away draw. Dortmund now head to the Westfalenstadion as favourites and Lucescu’s men will feel like they let this match slip away.
  • Lucescu himself has an issue with Taison, who looks like a great replacement for Willian. Will Taison and Douglas Costa start in three weeks? Klopp will be looking to get a better performance from his men in three weeks time, because this Shakhtar team is more than capable of getting a result in Germany. It was a first leg that was overshadowed by Manchester United – Real Madrid, but in terms of the quality of football the match was fantastic and the second leg will be even better.
  • Mats Hummels – “It is important that we are going into the second leg level and a 0-0 would see us through.”

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Match Recaps


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