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They found their best form for the national side on Wednesday, but can the midfield duo replicate their success at club level? investigates

By Clark Whitney

Following Germany’s 3-2 win against Brazil on Wednesday, one man stood alone in the spotlight: Mario Gotze.

The Dortmund man delivered a spectacular performance and was deservedly named man of the match. However, his formidable supporting cast has gone largely under the radar; a shame considering the fine performances of several players, including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos.

In January, Louis Van Gaal was so convinced that the duo would serve as Bayern Munich’s long-term defensive midfield pair that he was willing to part with captain Mark van Bommel in order to make way for Kroos. The plan failed: FCB were great with the ball and rarely conceded possession, but the youngster was found to be lacking in defensive quality. Van Gaal was later fired, and Kroos relegated to the bench.

In contrast to their performance at club level, against Brazil, the pair played extremely well together in the centre of the park. Kroos was quite clearly used in an advanced role, somewhere between anchor Schweinsteiger, and free playmaker Gotze. Germany’s formation was more 4-1-4-1 than anything else, and despite the presence of just one true 'No. 6', Joachim Low’s men were rarely troubled through the centre.

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With defence rarely a concern, Kroos and Schweinsteiger comprehensively dominated the midfield in a style very different from that played under Jupp Heynckes at Bayern. For club, Schweinsteiger is forced to advance to uncomfortable depths. His defensive midfield partner, Luiz Gustavo, offers precious little going forward and only uses his right foot to run. Kroos, meanwhile, plays just behind lone striker Mario Gomez and often looks desperate for nearby passing options.

For Germany, Schweinsteiger was able to play the role of midfield anchor, his most comfortable position. Kroos played slightly advanced, and at all times had a plethora of quickly moving passing targets in his immediate vicinity.

But for a couple cheap give-aways, Kroos was brilliant: with fast passing and clever runs all around him, he was the perfect sidekick for Gotze. If the Dortmund man was the conductor of Germany’s attack, Kroos, who had 114 touches and made 94 passes, was the architect. The 21-year old found his way into the box to win a penalty, and later assisted Gotze’s goal with a superb through ball.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Toni Kroos
Shots assisted
72 (94.44)
Passes (% completed)
94 (90.43)
14 (85.71)
50-50 challenges (% won)
21 (42.86)

Schweinsteiger relished what proved to be a quieter role in deep areas, forming the foundation of Germany’s forward movements. With ball-playing duties primarily delegated to Kroos, the vice-captain was able to focus more on reading the play, which led to better decisions, and far better defensive positioning than he has often shown for his club.

Brazil did have their opportunities to break in the middle, but time and time again, the superb central defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber left the South Americans frustrated. The Dortmund man was quick to anticipate passes and step forward, while the Bayern stalwart held back and was unyielding in his challenges.

Bayern are fortunate to have both Schweinsteiger and Kroos in their roster, but have just one half of the Germany central defensive pair: Badstuber. The real key to whether the Bavarians can effectively emulate Joachim Low’s selection rests upon the ability of Jerome Boateng to take on the role Hummels plays for country: a tall order.

Following consecutive lacklustre attacking performances in the DFB Pokal and Bundesliga, Bayern are in desperate need for a change in their midfield. Until recently, Jupp Heynckes' options were limited. But now, following their fine performance against Brazil, Schweinsteiger and Kroos deserve a chance. They have certainly earned it.

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