The Impenetrable German Wall Goes Up Against Italy

Image: AFP

There have been 44 matches played at this year’s European Championship in France. Over that span, 24 teams have combined for 88 goals (two goals per match). Only two of the 24 nations have only allowed one goal or less this tournament. One of those two impenetrable countries: Germany.

The reigning World Cup champions went through the group stage with shutouts over Robert Lewandowski’s Poland, Will Grigg’s Northern Ireland (no, their defense was not terrified), and Yevhen Konoplyanka’s Ukraine. In the knockout stage, Hungary was added to the victims list as they suffered a 4-0 defeat. Through those four games, Germany’s opponents have combined for just five shots with Ukraine the only nation to register more than one shot.

When you have arguably two of the best talented center backs in the world, it’s always going to be difficult for opponents to break you down. At the heart of the German defense are two Bundesliga stalwarts in Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng (I guess they’re also Bayern Munich teammates now too). Last season, Boateng and Hummels helped lead Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund to the two best defensive records in the league respectively.

The two defenders make a brick wall in the heart of Germany’s defense. Sorry for the Manchester United reference on this one, but Hummels and Boateng remind of the glory days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford. Similarly, to Ferdinand, Hummels has a keen eye for where to be on the pitch. He can spot the pass before the opposition makes it and can just as easily play a pass of his own to start the counter. Boateng, like Vidic, provides the tenacity and speed to shut down opposing strikers.

Oh yeah, and sitting behind these two world class is the best goalkeeper in the world: Manuel Neuer. The 30-year-old has been named to both the FIFPro World IX and UEFA Team of the Year for the last three seasons. In the 2014 World Cup, Neuer was awarded the Golden Glove award. Over the last two seasons, Neuer has allowed just 35 goals at the club level over 68 matches. Granted, this tournament hasn’t forced the Bayern Munich keeper into too many difficult moments, but if history has shown us anything, he’s more than ready for the challenge when it comes.

Filling up the defensive unit for the Germans are some lesser known names, but still ridiculously talented nonetheless. FC Köln’s Jonas Hector, Valencia CF’s Shkodran Mustafi and FC Schalke’s Benedikt Höwedes, you could argue, would be automatic starters in almost any other nation’s squad this tournament. Alongside that group of veterans is 21-year-old utility player Joshua Kimmich from Bayern Munich. Unfortunately for this talented group, they must compete with their ridiculously talented countrymen.

Next up for the Germans is their hardest test of the Euros. In the quarterfinals, Joachim Löw’s squad will travel to Bordeaux to take on the only other flawless team in the tournament: Italy. This is a titanic matchup that would be worthy of the finals. The Italians have only been held scoreless once this tournament and are coming off of a two-goal display against a stout Spanish backline. Will the Germans be able to handle such a talented roster and continue their relentless destruction of opposing strikers?

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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