Germany vs. Chile: 1-0, Germans whistled off after unconvincing win

Charlie Crowhurst

After scoring against the run of play, Germany hung on for a narrow and not entirely deserved win against an entertaining and impressive Chile.

The scoreline tells one story; the game, quite another. Germany came into the game knowing that they are often a little shaky against South American opponents, and the vivacious Chileans came within inches of matching and perhaps even outdoing one of Europe's strongest sides.

For the first 15 minutes of the game, Chile's attacking approach threatened to knock Germany thoroughly off balance. Quick, fluid and refreshingly direct, they spent the opening stages of the match galloping into the spaces behind Germany's fullbacks, and only imprecise crosses prevented them manufacturing a decent scoring opportunity from open play. They did, however, get a corner, from which Arturo Vidal — entirely unmarked — headed firmly towards goal. He beat Manuel Neuer; he didn't beat Philipp Lahm, who hacked clear from the line. When even Lahm looks flustered, something fun is going on.

Of course, one downside of all that exciting position-swapping is that it can, at times, leave Mario Götze unmarked in the middle of the penalty area. Germany were always going to get their foot on the ball at some point, and as soon as they did they took the lead. Mesut Özil exchanged passes with a colleague and advanced into the penalty area. Finding his own route to goal blocked, he rolled the ball gently to his right, where Gotze waited — also entirely unmarked — on the penalty spot. One nil.

The goal visibly settled the home team, who began to dominate possession and find spaces behind the Chilean defence. Götze, Özil and Bastian Schweinsteiger began to chime with one another, and the interplay started to flow. Oddly, though, the most presentable German opportunity was created not by any of their midfield string-pullers but from Per Mertesacker, loitering after a corner. Holding off a defender, he slipped a short pass in behind to Götze. The Bayern man couldn't quite get the ball under control, however, and his shot slid wide.

Though they weren't seeing as much of the ball, Chile's attacks remained threatening, and they carved out two more presentable chances before halftime. The first came after Schweinsteiger lost possession in midfield. Alexis Sánchez slipped the ball inside to Charles Aránguiz, who in turn passed to Vidal, again in too much space too close to the goal. His shot, from a position of mild imbalance, was weak and straight at Neuer. The second, perhaps even better, followed another misplaced German pass. Showing patience, Chile worked the ball via a series of short and scooped passes out to the flank and then back into the box, where Aránguiz was blocked by the desperately extended leg of Schweinsteiger.

If Germany thought that Chile might fade in the second half, they were in for a shock. Chile pressed harder and higher, and once again the aristocrats looked thoroughly discomfited by their speed in the transition. Time and again Chile broke down the right, time and again Sanchez filleted Marcel Schmelzer, and time and again the cross flashed past the jabbed-out legs of Vidal or Aránguiz. The best chance fell to Vargas, who smashed the ball into the underside of the bar from 12 yards out. Neuer tried to look as though he'd had it covered. Nobody was convinced.

Apart from occasional moments of German skill — one flick from Özil was particularly delightful, until Götze patted the ball weakly at Herrera — the second half belonged to the visitors. Had they managed an equaliser, nobody could have complained; had they nabbed a victory, nobody would have been too surprised. Their imprecision at the final moment will have vexed coach Jorge Sampaoli, but their verve will also have worried Spain, the Netherlands and Australia, their World Cup opponents.

As for Germany, though they were jeered from the pitch, and though Jogi Löw at times looked to be in literal pain, they were given and they squeaked through a proper test. If they can learn lessons from this — particularly in defence, where they were too often scrambling and disorganised — then this will likely have been of more value than any 3-0 stroll against a weaker team. But the doubts about Löw's ability to influence a game going badly will only be increased. At least their new away kit of fat black and red hoops looked very smart indeed.

Germany: Neuer, Grosskreutz, Mertesacker, Boateng, Jansen (Schmelzer 24'), Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Kroos, Özil (Ginter 89'), Götze (Podolski 83'), Klose (Schürrle 45')

Goal: Götze (16')

Chile: Herrera, Isla, Gutierrez, Medel, Jara, Silva (Gonzalez 83'), Sánchez, Vidal (Fernández 90'), Vargas (Pinilla 86'), Aránguiz (Orellana 80'), Beausejour (Valdivia 76')

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