Summer-Round-Up: Kick-Off at the EURO and Copa
In the summer round-up we’ll keep you up to date every week with Bayern’s national players.
A few days ago, Arturo Vidal set the tone at the Copa America. The Chilean deservedly lost with his team 2-1 against Argentina. Chile showed a rather modest performance. The bad structure in the build-up and simple turnovers in midfield, in which Vidal was also involved, represented the biggest problem. Vidal is mostly positioned very high up the field, and so doesn’t have a strong part in the build-up in the first line. At Bayern the 29-year-old has the game in front of him, because he often plays as a lone number six, or alongside Xabi Alonso. In the national team he occupies the number ten zone possession. Particularly under pressure Vidal doesn’t always make the smartest decisions. As usual, his counter pressing and his movements up-front, which always cause problems, are strong parts of his game. Vidal can be found all over pitch and tries everything to push forward the struggling Chileans.
In the second group game the Bayern player became the match-winner and had a much improved performance. In the 46th minute he converted a cross with the inside of his foot for the 1-0 lead. Yet Bolivia equalised with a beautiful free-kick. Everything pointed to a draw, but then in the lengthy added time, it was Vidal again who this time converted from the penalty spot (98’), and so kept open all possibilities for Chile for the last game against Panama.
In each game, the Chilean was able to lift himself more and more. Panama actually went ahead, but Vidal and Sanchez made sure with a beautiful combination that Vargas could stab home for the equaliser. In the same way it was also he who turned the game shortly before the break. Vidal registered the pre-assist for both goals. In the second half his game was somewhat more inconspicuous. Sanchez made it 3-1 and henceforth the game lost its tempo. Only in the closing stages, when Panama came back to 3-2, did it become a little more exciting again. The outsiders, however, didn’t use their half-chances and so it was Sanchez once again who finally secured passage into the next round by making it 4-2.
In the quarter-final Chile will face up against Mexico. It will need another big performance from Vidal, and indeed from Vargas and Sanchez too, to make it to the next round.
Past Friday evening, the European Championships started. In the opening game between hosts France and Romania, however, no Bayern player was on the field, because Kingsley Coman only sat on the bench. Didier Deschamps went for Griezmann, Giroud and Payet. The latter was the most impressive Frenchman on the pitch. L’Equipe wrote, in spite of that, that Coman could be in the starting line-up against Albania. The dribbler, who turned 20 on Monday, set a record. At 19 years, 11 months and 28 days he is the youngest player who has ever been subbed in at a big tournament for a French national team. After he came on for Griezmann in the 66th minute, he was however only able to slightly improve his side. One strong dribble on the right flank, which he concluded with a cross that was too short, and the pre-assist for the decisive 2-1 from Payet were his two highlights. The Frenchman on loan from Juventus collected 24 touches on his debut at the European Championships.
Robert Lewandowski had a rather disappointing start at the tournament off with Poland on Sunday. Indeed, the Poles were clearly the better team against the very defensively set-up Northern Ireland, and yet they rarely managed to create something out of their superiority. Lewandowski himself barely had access to the game and often dropped back into midfield, in order to get more involved. It was his strike-partner Milik who struck the only goal of the game and had the most scoring chances (5). Lewandowski, though, made the best out of his situation and focused on supporting his partner with clever movements. A pass-completion rate of 77%, only 18% of duels won and no shots of his own leave a lot of room for improvement in the games to come. Nevertheless the Bayern striker was at least able to cause some attacking danger with three key passes.
Most of Bayern’s national players line up for the DFB. With Neuer, Boateng, Müller and Götze four of the five Bayern players were in the German starting XI. Kimmich didn’t play at all. New arrival Mats Hummels, who will be a member of Bayern’s squad officially from the 1st of July 2016, wasn’t in the squad due to his injury. The 27-year-old did actually train with the team during the week, and could start into the tournament in the next game against Poland. With Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng counted among the best players of the game, shows that Germany didn’t quite get their game plan on the pitch. Jogi Löw’s team may have controlled proceedings for large stretches of the game, but at the end of the first half they needed the quality of both Bayern players. Neuer saved several big chances against the Ukraine, while Boateng won 100% of his duels and cleared acrobatically on the goal line once. The defensive boss had 113 touches, certainly opening up the game after initial difficulties (89% pass completion, one key pass). Boateng was the most important defensive player on the pitch and bailed out his team-mates several times. In the tricky period after the 25th minute, the German team lacked control in the centre. Many long balls from Ukraine generated a lot of danger and left the German defence “swimming”.
Thomas Müller and Mario Götze only had very little impact in the first game. Both were eager, but unfortunate. Götze was rarely brought into play by his team-mates. The goal-scorer from the 2014 World Cup final seemed a little sluggish. In spite of that, the 24-year-old cannot be reproached greatly, as his team-mates were never quite in the right areas to get him involved. Götze played just 27 passes, but of those 25 found their target. Two key passes and 43 touches underline his inconspicuous kick-off. Müller was indeed more often on the ball (69 touches), but wasn’t able to make his mark on the game. Most of the attacks were led for Germany on Draxler’s left side (41%). Should the Germans want to achieve something measurable against Poland, the attack has to harmonise better. With Götze up-front, far too many crosses were attempted. They were rarely able to get into the penalty area and so the only shots from good positions were Khedira’s chance after a long ball from Kroos, Mustafi’s opening goal, Özil’s counter attack shortly before the end, and the 2-0.
The 2-0, from Bayern’s point of view, made up for the otherwise poor offensive performance. No other than Bastian Schweinsteiger popped up to score the decisive goal after he was brought on for Mario Götze in the 90th minute. In spite of that, some questions remain for the next steps of Löw’s side. Can Khedira work alongside Kroos to ensure that there aren’t too large gaps in midfield? Will Löw find a solution for the full-back positions? Will the team manage to create more shots in the box? Against Poland the national team has to bring a better and most importantly more consistent performance to seal early passage into the next round.
Thiago Alcantara started in the tournament on Monday. Spain struggled for a long time against the Czechs, who defended resolutely. When Gerard Pique headed in the 1-0 shortly before the end, Thiago was already on the pitch. However, Spain’s number 14 didn’t have any great influence.
On Tuesday evening Alaba with Austria and Sanches with Portugal completed the first match day of the European Championships. David Alaba was impressive throughout on several occasions, but had to deal with disappointment. After roughly 30 seconds the 23-year-old saw a shot from distance strike the post, and a shot from inside the penalty area didn’t succeed either. Alaba showed leadership qualities though, in that he constantly demanded the ball, always offered himself and led the way forward. The whole team disappointed, however, and so the Bayern player also had some simple turnovers. At the end Austria lost deservedly 0-2 against Hungary.
Renato Sanches had a similar day to Thiago. The 18-year-old new boy from Benfica was only on the bench, which was to be expected after Portugal’s last games. In the 71st minute he was brought on with the score at 1-1. Subsequently Sanches could only prove himself a little bit. With a secure passing game and some dynamic dribbles after turnovers, he was only able to help the team marginally. Eventually he was only able to hint at his potential and Portugal, in spite of an appealing performance, were not able to improve on the 1-1 score line against Iceland.
Arturo Vidal is the first Bayern player of the week this summer. With his strong performances at the Copa America the Chilean almost single-handedly made sure that his team is still in the competition. After initial problems against Argentina, Vidal found his usual strengths from the calendar year of 2016. The 29-year-old was dynamic, won a lot of duels, was present and ever more secure with his passing game. Arturo Vidal is proving right now impressively that he is one of the best midfielders in the world.