I promised myself I wouldn’t use the word “efficient” when describing the German national team, for obvious reasons. But damn it, I can’t think of a much better word to encapsulate their performance today against a scrappy, underrated Danish squad that also had urgency on their side (they needed to win to advance out of the group). While many television and twitter commentators bemoaned their play, especially in the second half—calling it “uninventive” and even “lazy”—I couldn’t help but be amazed at the Germans’ patience and persistence; they knew what they needed to do control their destiny and they executed their game-plan almost flawlessly.
They didn’t rush, they didn’t force the issue, and they didn’t lose their composure. Instead, they worked as a team to wear the Danes down, find the opening they needed, and then capitalize on it: in short, the definition of efficiency.
Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Holger Badstuber, and Lars Bender all played exemplary football, and even while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira left some to be desired, they helped put together a clinic in domination football in the second half, with Bender of course netting the winning strike.
Nobody panicked, nor acted selfishly. The Germans retained their shape, coordinated their attacks, and simply probed the Danish defense until an opening presented itself. The meticulousness of their possession, which often involved goalkeeper Manuel Neuer coming way off his line to usher a switch-field or complete a triangle, was anything but lazy. In fact it was just the opposite, with Germany emerging as an exemplar of mental discipline, poise, and fastidiousness.
It is often said that the Germans, when in these kinds of tournaments, employ a strategy whereby they only use the energy they need to advance through each match, always saving something for the later stages. This team appears to be adhering to type; Joachim Löw has his side healthy, rested, and gaining in momentum heading into their match with Greece in the quarterfinals on June 22nd.
So before one criticizes the Germans for not racking up goals, one should heed the words of Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote: “Of inference, all are capable; of judgment, only a few.” That is, ask yourself what kind of team wins all three of its group-stage matches, each by one goal, and heads into the quarterfinals with almost no yellow-card trouble and still plenty to leave on the field.