Match Summary: Tactics & The Flow of the Game
In a dominant performance that should've resulted in more goals, Kroos and Germany cruised past Northern Ireland with a 1-0 win. Starting off in a simple 4-2-3-1 formation, Kroos and Khedira anchored their side in a double pivot that allowed Ozil, Muller, and Gotze to act as free roaming attackers, with Joshua Kimmich and Hector supplementing the width from the fullback positions. While this set-up was a little light defensively, it proved to be too much for Northern Ireland to handle, as Kroos acted as the charioteer to the racehorses that were the personnel in Germany's attack.
Yet, things did not begin auspiciously for Toni Kroos, as the Real Madrid man immediately misplaced a long ball and a vertical pass inside 4 minutes. Luckily, this did not prove to have much of a bearing on Kroos' performance, as he quickly got his act together and began advancing Germany up the pitch with some excellently selected vertical passes and short-play combinations. This allowed Muller, Ozil, Gotze, and Mario Gomez to intertwine and create three clear one-on-one chances inside only 12 minutes. But McGovern heroically saved all three shots, frustrating Germany to no end.
This morale killer could've stemmed the flow of most teams, but Kroos was relentless, sitting 10 yards from the box and acting as Germany's distributive hook in the final third.
Eventually the tempo that Kroos set paid off, as Mario Gomez finally found a way through to goal after a superb pass from Mesut Ozil and some great awareness from Thomas Muller. Germany would have some more chances until the break, but they were completely incapable of converting them.
Northern Ireland began the second half more brightly as they finally played with more intensity. This allowed them to create some decent counter-attacking opportunities, but more importantly it allowed them to break some of Germany's rhythm. Thus until the 70th minute, Germany looked somewhat pedestrian in comparison to what they did in the first half. Joshua Kimmich became the prime attacking hook in those minutes, as he used his superb passing skill to find spaces with long vertical passes and used his excellent movement to stretch the point of the attack. Eventually Germany, Kroos, and Ozil, resumed their usual dominance and created more chances. But McGovern stopped every shot that came his way, managing a supreme 8 saves by the end of the 90 minutes.
Germany's Attacking Tactics
There was something beautifully balanced about the way Germany probed Northern Ireland. Instead of just punting the ball out wide like so many teams have done in this competition, they prioritized central play, using the wings as only a choice outlet when the situation became advantageous to do so.
(Germany ended the match with 79% possession, 645 completed passes, 6 corners, and 28 shots)
Kroos was obviously the center of this, underlining his credentials as the best and most intelligent controlling midfielder in the world. His decision making and ability to pick vertical passes allowed Germany to balance their attack so well and allowed him to produce some impressive statistics.
If Kroos keeps this up, there is little reason to doubt that Germany will win EURO 2016.