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German press player reviews:
Flick receives clear instructions on next XI

By Peter Weis   @PeterVicey

Just as we did following the opening group stage match, we're pleased to supply full translations of "Einzelkritik" ("individual player review") pieces appearing in Germany's two major papers-of-record, Der Spiegel and die Süddeutsche Zeitung. 

Jan Göbel was once again on hand to write for Der Spiegel while Christof Kneer and Philipp Selldorf handled matters for die Süddeutsche following Sunday's 1-1 draw with Spain. Staff writer Peter Vice translates for Bulinews.

In contrast to Wednesday's result, all three of Flick's substitutions received glowing reviews. It's essentially clear which actors Germans expect Flick to deploy from the start on Thursday against Costa Rica.  
German press player reviews following Sunday's 1-1 draw with Spain in the second group stage fixture of the 2022 World Cup remained fairly uniform across two of Germany's main papers-of-record. The very same journalists covering individual player reviews following Wednesday's 1-2 defeat to Japan didn't agree on much of anything when discussing the performances of the starting XI and three relevant actors who entered on a triple substitution in the 70th.

Based on these reviews, one can easily infer the starting XI Germans expect from Bundestrainer Hansi Flick ahead of Thursday's final group stage match against Costa Rica. The German footballing punditry and public expect (fitness permitting) Niclas Füllkrug, Leroy Sané, and Lukas Klostermann to take the respective starting places of Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry, and Thilo Kehrer. There will also conceivably be few complaints if Flick uses David Raum's rib injury as an excuse to give Christian Günter a go.

As was the case in their previous pieces, Jan Göbel, Christof Kneer, and Philipp Selldorf peppered their analyses with plenty of humor and no shortage of exclusively German cultural and footballing references. Bulinews' Peter Vice does his level best to insert some clarity via editor's brackets.

Manuel Neuer--(GK, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Germany's eternal #1 brought both light and shadow. Neuer's save in the 7th minute, when he deflected Olmo's shot onto the crossbar and prevented the 0-1, was strong. Precise passes far forward are one of Neuer's strengths, and they could have been a means of getting forward quickly on this evening."

"Yet, in the 26th minute he played the ball into the opponent's foot and it immediately became dangerous. After that, a murmur went through the crowd every now and then when Neuer was on the ball, and not in a good way. Neuer cannot be blamed for the 0-1 from a very short distance."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Neuer arrived on the pitch to to warm up early. he had traveled to this second preliminary round match - and that despite the fact that the Al-Bayt Stadium in al-Chaur is 76.1 kilometers away from the German team headquarters, equivalent to a 47-minute drive."

"The day before, Bundestrainer Flick had forbidden his players to travel to Doha for the obligatory press conference because he did not want them to travel the distance (102 kilometers, one hour and two minutes). Neuer's presence is generally pleasing, but on this evening he made one nervous at times."

"Had his problems with timing. At one point, he played an errant pass that Flick probably found unacceptable. Innocent during the 0-1, after which one was allowed to become calmer as a spectator."

Thilo Kehrer--(RB, 70 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The West Ham man moved into the starting XI after the Japan defeat and was supposed to provide stability on the right side of defense. He didn't exactly not succeed. The first Spanish attacks that led to shots on goal went through Kehrer's side, and he also failed to exert any pressure on the 0-1."

"He had to correct positional errors with fouls. When Kehrer won duels, there was immediate applause and encouragement from his teammates. Many have had their turn at the Germany's wide-open right back position, but a permanent solution has not been found."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Flick's regular at the position, which is generally considered pretty perplexing. It was even more astonishing that Flick then replaced him in the first World Cup game, of all occasions, with Niklas Süle. Against Spain, Flick reinstated the 'Kehrer just plays for whatever reason' principle."

"Once again, the West Ham defender refused to provide a convincing justification for this principle. Allowed himself to be played off and fooled several times when defending and posed a risk with the ball. Cautioned with yellow in the 37th for a panic foul, which rendered him a liability for the German team.

"Flick trusted him, and Kehrer did repay this trust, allowing Olmo to pass through on the 0-1 because he stayed too far away from his mark."

Niklas Süle--(CB, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Did much better [than Wednesday] in his more central defensive role. The Dortmund player was able to exert more influence on the opening of the game. In the 24th minute, Süle managed to win a particularly strong ball in Spain's half, and after his pass upfield, Germany got their first incursion."

"Süle also put in a strong performance in the air, and yet he was unable to reward himself. At 0-1, he was too lax on his mark and could not arrive at a duel with goal-scorer Álvaro Morata in time."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Was severely reprimanded for his blunders in the first game and promoted to central defense by Flick for it. The short little naps that doomed him against Japan did not afflict him this time.  He was as alert as a surgeon in the operating room. Had he taken a few Agaricus muscarius [a widely derided homeopathic stimulant] globules?"

"Süle remained authoritative in the air, kept focus in his direct duels and was also a reliable way-station in picking up balls. In the 62nd minute, however, the moment came when Süle switched gears a fraction too late - and Alvaro Morata promptly slipped away from him."

Antonio Rüdiger--(CB, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Harmonized much better with Süle than with Nico Schlotterbeck, who had played alongside Rüdiger against Japan. Rüdiger radiated enormous calm and was strong as a defender."

"In the 40th minute, he was jubilant about an apparent, but the Real Madrid defender was just offside after unnecessarily starting a bit too early. Better timing would have been enough to take the lead. Rüdiger otherwise did an impeccable job."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Next to Süle, the best man in the defense. Ran off opponents' deep passes with powerful strides, collaborated here and there, and acted like the defensive boss Flick famously anointed him as."

"His [skied] shot in the 30th minute went nearly toward the team's training camp some 76.1 kilometers way. Scored a headed-goal well drawn up in the set-piece-playbook from a free kick - but it turned out to be an offside goal. No defensive lapses."

David Raum--(LB, 87 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

In principle, the Leipzig man is supposed to contribute to the attack from the left. Raum can accomplish that, but it was noticeable against Spain that the 24-year-old hasn't been playing at this level for that long."He often came under pressure, partly because the Spaniards had targeted him as a weak link."

"Raum was thus mostly pinned back in his own half. There were hardly any forays forward, and when there were, they were imprecise. From time to time, even Musiala, the youngest, seemed frustrated with the mediocre passes.

"At least Raum prevented a shot in the 26th minute with a slide tackle, which could otherwise have been dangerous."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Apparently used the days after the Japan game to secretly watch some old tapes of [former France and FC Bayern München left back Bixente Lizarazu. He made a recognizable effort to heed his legendary teaching principle for left-backs about duel-winning."

"He literally fought his way into the game and was so present in the opening phase that he provoked some anxiety on the sidelines when he was briefly knocked down after 20 minutes. A saving tackle in the 27th minute against the free-standing [Ferran] Torres, whom he generally kept from having much joy."

"Raum is often praised for his offensive actions and blamed for his defensive weaknesses. This time, the inverse was the case."

Leon Goretzka--(CM, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Who will pair together with Kimmich in central midfield? The Bundestrainer answered this question this time with Gündoğan in the more offensive role [moved up to ten] and Goretzka in the more defensive one. The plan was clear: work a lot against the ball and keep the central lanes closed."

"At the beginning, Goretzka could have distinguished himself as a goal-scorer if he had not waited too long with the pass to Gnabry. Against the ball, he initially had his problems, especially with Spain's 18-year-old prodigy Gavi from FC Barcelona. The Munich player improved and then performed up to his usual level, which he did not have after his substitution against Japan."

Die Süddeutsche:

"After the Japan game, Flick remembered that he used to the head-coach FC Bayern and had a midfield duo there that got along so well that there were suddenly six more trophies in FC Bayern's display case. Hence he put Goretzka alongside Kimmich; hoping to win at least this theoretical Final against Spain."

"Surprisingly, he started as a classic six, instructed to protect his own defense with his broad shoulders first and foremost. He initially abstained from his famous forward runs at first. One exception: his 11th advance, when he got into position for one of his dreaded outside the 18 shots, but instead played a pass offside."

"He later received a yellow card, but was still on the move like [2. Bundesliga legend Willi Landgraf] 'Kampfschwein Willi'."

Joshua Kimmich--(CM, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The Bayern star could have been an option for the right-back position, but the Bundestrainer clearly sees Kimmich in the center and considers him indispensable there. End of discussion. As chief strategist, Kimmich had to coordinate a lot, plug gaps and was a symbol of an overall solid German defense."

"He set up Rüdiger's offside goal with a free-kick cross from the right. In the second half, he got a great chance, which he had created himself with a fantastic ball recovery in the 56th minute."

Die Süddeutsche:

"The Bundestrainer answered the question of whether Kimmich should play at right back or central midfield in an interesting way. He opted for both. He positioned Kimmich in what was sometimes a central half-back role. The tasks were to help colleague Goretzka condense the middle, to shadow Spaniard Pedri, to help colleague Kehrer build up play."

"That was quite a lot to ask, but very much appropriate considering the importance of the occasion. In answer to this call Kimmich showed some shadows of [famous former German national team defensive midfielder] Jens Jeremies with his run-down of balls."

"A late leader of the push for an equalizer."

Jamal Musiala--(LW, 90 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Against Japan, Musiala appeared capable of doing whatever he wanted. That's much harder against a footballing power such as Spain. And yet the World Cup debutant was outstanding. He showed off his fine dribbling skills and turns. He was so difficult to separate from the ball that even Spain's Busquets felt compelled to commit a foul worthy of a yellow card shortly before the break."

"The 19-year-old then even tackled away a great Spanish chance after a corner. Musiala can apparently shine everywhere, but not yet as a goal scorer at this World Cup. In the 74th minute, he missed a great chance to equalize but failed on to set up Niclas Füllkrug. Instead, he set up Füllkrug's goal a little later.

"It would be a shame for this top talent if he were to reach the end-of-the line after the group stage."

Die Süddeutsche:

"The most valiant little tailor under the desert sun. [a reference to the famous Grimm collected fairy tale sometimes translated as "Seven in one Blow" in some English collections] Did not have it easy against the Spaniards, who constantly swarmed around him in numbers."

"Didn't always assert himself, but never failed to stop trying. His skill on the ball surely had to make an impression in Spain as well. He was once again a cut above when Leroy Sané partnered with him late.

"Of course, he played a major role in the German goal, with a snake-like twist that is unrivaled in world football at this point."

Ilkay Gündogan--(AM, 70 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The Manchester City pro, so strong against Japan, moved ahead of the two defensive midfielders [into the ten slot]. There he showed his passing quality in the 10th minute when he set up a potential great chance. In the second half, he almost set up Kimmich's opening goal."

"It wasn't the best Gündoğan showing this time, however, even though he was very important as Sergio Busquets' marker.. In the Spanish opening goal, he had not been able to prevent the penultimate pass as the attack shifted wide left."

Die Süddeutsche:

"After the Japan game, something else occurred to Flick. Namely, that colleague Pep Guardiola had successfully retrained Gündogan to be an attacking player in Manchester. On the tactics board on this eve, Gündogan served as a number 10; In practice sometimes almost a nine-and-a-half.

"On top of that, assigned as a protective force against the Spanish captain Busquets, whom Flick feared. Gündogan showed that he has the key for decisive offensive moments - but he showed it too rarely. Had his scenes where he kept up with the Spaniards in terms of play, but produced little effect with them. He was no longer needed for the late comeback push."

Serge Gnabry--(RW, 85 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"Gnabry's strong club form took a dive. He seemed unfocused, was culpable on easy ball losses, and unnecessary misplaced passes. Even the first German shot on goal, which Gnabry fired from an acute angle in the 24th minute, was a mixture of a cross and an attempt on goal.

"Gnabry must begin to assume some responsibility for the fact that the German team is so unthreatening in front of goal."

Die Süddeutsche:

"One of the Bundestrainer's star pupils previously furnished good arguments for another chance. He didn't seize the opportunity this time. Often disappeared from sight and, when popping up, wasn't in advantageous positions. He passively let the game pass him by."

Thomas Müller--(LS, 70 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The Bayern attacker started in the center of attack, acting more as a first defender. Müller did his thing as a continuous runner, attacking Spain's defenders early and trying to force ball losses."

"The veteran undertook this running-intense work as well as he could after his recent injury layoff. As a true attacker, he was invisible; Müller is not a classic target player who locks down balls. After his substitution, that changed thanks to Füllkrug in the German game."

Die Süddeutsche:

"The first line of defense. As a result, missing as front attacker, which he should have been according to the match schematics. Ran as if there were a thousand imps and hobgoblins after him."

"And yet, where did he run to? And what was the point? Gesticulated a lot, but did anyone understand him? Too busy to play football. An Honorable effort, but there was no way around his substitution."

Niclas Füllkrug--(LS, 20 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The Bremen player entered and immediately announced his presence as an aerial threat. It got even better: In the 84th minute, Füllkrug scored the equalizer. He sank Musiala's pass fantastically under the crossbar in the penalty area - a real attacker, after all. This number nine literally attracts the balls and is worth his weight in gold for the DFB team."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Up until this point, Flick had successfully concealed the fact that Germany had a center forward. Füllkrug was viewed with reservations by experts because he had not yet played a game at feverish World Cup level. The Bremen attacker furnished a brilliant response to such critics."

"He played as he does in the Weser stadium on a Friday night kickoff: with power and determination. He was immediately capable of scoring goals and offered himself as a textbook example of how to finish chances..

"He slammed one of them under the crossbar, terrific for the 1-1! Invited back. Actually, demanded back."

Leroy Sané--(ATTM, 20 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"The FCB man was in the form of his life before getting injured before the start of the tournament. With his first World Cup minutes, Sane showed off his technique and demonstrated class as an attack accelerator, immediately setting up Musiala. He played the penultimate pass on the 1-1."

"In stoppage time, he was even on his way to the 2-1, but then lost control and allowed himself to be pushed to the outside. This substitution paid off, and Sané will be very important against Costa Rica."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Relegated to a relief Appearances due to injury. Upon introduction, proved himself to be the Sané Flick wished him to be. He immediately livened up the game and wasted no time in forming a fascinating duo with his buddy Musiala. Almost scored the 2-1."

Lukas Klostermann--(RB, 20 minutes)

Der Spiegel:

"His nomination for the World Cup squad came as a surprise following another long injury layoff. And in Qatar, people have been wondering so far, how fit is the RB Leipzig man? Apparently fit. In any case, he helped Germany to equalize. He may even be a candidate for the starting XI in the Costa Rica game."

Die Süddeutsche:

"Fought against Dani Olmo far more effectively than predecessor Thilo Kehrer, in part because he has the advantage of knowing Olmo from club level. Should have been introduced earlier."

Jonas Hofmann and Nico Schlotterbeck--(RW and LB 3 minutes)

Spiegel and Süddeutsche:

Both were present enough defensively to help preserve the scoreline. Schlotterbeck, used as a sort of auxiliary left back, saved the day with an incredibly tackle on Alvaro Morata. It was a daringly brilliant challenge, deservedly celebrated with a fist pump by last match's problem child."

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