Germany and Spain both started with wins in their first group games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. In the second round, they will come up against each other in a game that promises to excite viewers. This tactical preview uses tactical analysis from both sides first game to understand where the game can be won and lost.
Can Spain play through Germany’s press?
Spain impressed in the first game by moving the ball quickly and dominating South Africa with their possession play. Playing out of a fluid 4-3-3 formation, Spain built attacks from the back with a clear purpose to find their attackers between the lines. In the image below, we can see that they played with a clear triangle in midfield and pushed the full-backs forward down the wings.
South Africa didn’t press high at all, which allowed Spain to progress the ball quite easily. However, Germany won’t allow that. They showed against China that they will press aggressively all over the pitch. They used a heavily man-orientated pressing system which China really struggled to deal with. In the image below, we can see how they overloaded around the ball and even had their full-back (black circle) on the ball near side step up to mark their opponent.
The image below highlights this approach again as the Chinese midfielder was pressed into passing the ball out for a corner.
Spain will need to find a way to overcome the German pressing in order to win this game. They showed some interesting tendencies to have a plan to do this with the use of long passes and inverted movement from their wingers against South Africa. The image below highlights this approach. The ball is sent long from the defence straight into the striker. The left winger Mariona makes a run inside and receives the knock-down and can attack the space between the lines.
Given the fact Germany will commit players to their press, this could be a method to progress the ball into Spain’s lethal attacking players.
Can Germany handle Spain’s press?
Just like Spain, Germany also insist on building attacks from the back. In fact, they commit their full-backs even higher up the pitch than Spain do. In the image below we can see how Germany set up in possession. The full-backs push high, the centre-backs split and the defensive midfielder Melanie Leupolz often drops in between the centre-backs to receive.
As highlighted, the other two midfielders, Sara Däbritz and Dzsenifer Marozsán pick up different positions with Marozsán acting more as a number 10 between the lines while Däbritz look to knit everything together between the other two central midfielders. On the right wing we see how the winger, Giulia Gwinn (white), moves inside while the right-back Kathrin Hendrich maintains width.
Similarly to how Germany press, Spain also used a man-orientated pressing system. We can see this in the image below. Again, Germany will need to find an answer to how to break through this press for them to get the grip of the game that they’d like.
It seems certain that Spain will target Germany’s centre-back Sara Doorsoun-Khajeh who made several technical errors against China. If they can angle their press towards her and force mistakes, then they will get opportunities to counter-attack.
Can Germany control the counter-attacks?
Stopping counter-attacks must be Germany’s priority in this game. They were lucky to escape unpunished from the game against China since China created numerous opportunities from counter-attacks. The image below highlights Germany’s positions in attack. Due to the high positioning of the full-backs, there’s a lot of space to expose down the wings if you counter-attack quickly into those spaces. China did this really well.
As mentioned, Doorsoun-Khajeh made several technical errors in possession but she wasn’t the only German player to do so. When the ball was won China would quickly look to transfer it to the opposite side and made forward runs from their two strikers and ball-far winger. As you can see in the below image, it’s no wonder that they could attack the space behind the right-back Hendrich in particular.
A more conservative positioning of either full-back, especially when the ball is on the opposite side, could be key for Germany to minimise the risk of being caught out in transition. By keeping one full-back deeper, they could have three defenders ready to defend the transition while still retaining the option of pushing on in attack when the ball was about to reach their respective wings. Dealing with counters could prove the key for Germany to secure a win against Spain.
As this analysis has shown, Germany and Spain are quite similar in their approaches. They both look to build attacks from the back and they both press aggressively. That bodes well for an entertaining game where it will be interesting to see which coach has found the right balance to prove victorious on the night.