World champions Germany started their Euro 2016 campaign with a solid, if unspectacular, 2-0 victory over Ukraine on Sunday night in Lille.
Joachim Low’s side moved instantly to the top of the group table.
Die Mannschaft would have expected to top the group and with games against Poland and Northern Ireland to come there is very little to suggest that will not be the case.
Very efficient display
The German national team are known for their efficiency, as their country in general and this has to be a performance that fits into that category. They did what they had to do to get the points, but they were not quite at their best.
Germany have a number of highly-talented players in their squad, but it took a header from a centre-back in Shkodran Mustafi and a stoppage-time strike from Bastian Schweinsteiger to win the win.
Real Madrid playmaker Toni Kroos was the stand-out player for Low’s side, who for much of the game looked comfortable. The former-Bayern Munich star is the one that dictates play from the engine room, in the way that Schweinsteiger has done in previous tournaments for Die Mannschaft.
Kroos is vital in both the defensive and attacking sides of Germany’s play. He may be classed as a defensive midfielder, but he seems to be involved in everything good about his team’s attacking play.
From that deep defensive midfield role he still managed to have 130 touches of the ball, in his own unhurried style in the centre of midfield. He will be a key player for the rest of the tournament for Low’s side.
Still questions to be answered
Germany are by no mean perfect and they showed some chinks in their armour against Ukraine on Sunday night, case in point being when Jerome Boateng had to be alive to clear Yevhen Konoplyanka’s effort from his own goal line.
The world champions look like they have an experimental defence at the moment. The full-backs were Benedikt Howedes and Jonas Hector against the Ukraine. Howedes is a centre-back by trade, but played at left-back during the Germans successful World Cup campaign in 2014.
Howedes and Hector offered very little pace and attacking threat from the full-back positions, but did a good job at subduing Ukraine’s main threat wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Mustafi was filling in at centre-half alongside Boateng for usual first choice centre-back Mats Hummels, who has been a mainstay of that defence for a long time. Hummels was being rested against Ukraine, having only been fit for the bench so Mustafi was handed his chance.
The Valencia defender did not do a bad job and even opened the scoring, so his selection paid-off. If Hummels is fit for the Poland game though it looks likely that Mustafi will be relegated back to the bench.
No doubt the German defence will meet teams that offer a bigger attacking threat in the next few weeks. Next opponents Poland will offer that German defence a challenge with Arkadiusz Milik and Robert Lewandowski players that offer a major attacking threat.
Justified favourites for glory
Germany are one of the favourites to win Euro 2016 at odds of 18/5, with only hosts France shorter odds to claim glory. Joachim Low may have some work to do and some questions to answer for the next game against Poland.
However, the Germans are a tournament team. They only seem to turn up to games that matters and when it comes to big international tournaments its very rare they do not turn up. Friendly games do not count for much and Low has experimented in those games.
Germany are at their best when people question their credentials and try and find their vulnerabilities. Make no mistake about the Germans are here to win the tournament and have all the weapons in their armoury to achieve their objective.
Will Germany win Euro 2016?