Löw tactical experiment proves shaky in draw with Ukraine

Germany took to the field in Kyiv's newly-renovated Olympic Stadium in an unusual 3-5-2 formation against Ukraine on Friday night as Coach Joachim Löw used the friendly match to tinker a bit with his team.

Should Germany make it back to Kyiv's Olympic Stadium for the final of the 2012 European Championship in July of next year, a few things will likely be different than they were in Germany's friendly against Ukraine on Friday night.

For one, it will be a much warmer affair, with a few snowflakes drifting down to the pitch as the game got underway.

For another, Germany would be well advised to reexamine Friday's experimental 3-5-2 formation before bringing it back in a game as important as the EURO 2012 final. German Coach Joachim Löw used the friendly against Ukraine to change things up a bit tactically, and fighting back to earn a 3-3 draw after being down 2-0 and 3-1 says a lot about how the experiment went.

Germany was without a few of its usual players. Captain Philipp Lahm was given the night off, with his captain's band being passed on to Mario Gomez. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, normally a leading playmaker, was out with a broken collarbone.

The team's stalwart goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, was also not in the lineup, being replaced by Hanover's 22-year-old keeper, Ron-Robert Zieler, who made his national team debut. But even Neuer on his best night could not have done much against Ukraine's three goals, and that was exactly the problem with Joachim Löw's experiment.

Defensive holes

Germany's defense has long been the subject of debate. It's seen as the team's Achilles heel, and Friday's 3-5-2 formation did little to cover up the weakness. Time and again, Ukraine were given the space to string together strong counterattacks, leading to goals that Zieler was mostly hopeless to defend against.

The first came in the 28th minute, when Ukraine took possession and quickly moved the ball up the field after a German corner. Andriy Shevchenko started the attack with a long diagonal ball to Artem Milevskyi, who played to the end line and crossed through to the middle, where Andriy Iarmolenko deflected perfectly past Zieler.

Just eight minutes later, thanks to a sloppy turnover by Mats Hummels, Ukraine had another counter opportunity. After taking possession of a German corner, Milevskyi found a wide-open Evgen Konoplyanka, who raced across well over half the pitch and beat Zieler in a one-on-one to put Ukraine ahead 2-0.
Germany responded in the 38th minute with an authoritative goal from Toni Kroos that zipped across the area and into the corner of the goal, cutting Ukraine's lead in half.

Sami Khedira was inches away from the equalizer just before the half when his header deflected off first the cross bar and then Ukrainian goalkeeper Oleksander Rybka, but Rybka sprung on the ball at the last second to save the goal.

Instead, it was Ukraine who added an exclamation point at the end of the first half in another counterattacking situation. This time Serhiy Nazarenko, on the pitch for barely five minutes, launched a screaming shot from about 22 meters that gave Ukraine a 3-1 at the end of the first half.

Fighting back in second half

With substitutes Andre Schürrle and Simon Rolfes coming on at the start of the second half, momentum swung in Germany's direction and they were able to keep the rest of the game in check. Rolfes put the Germans within striking distance in the 65th minute, and substitute Thomas Müller tied it up in the 77th.

Despite evening the score and taking offensive control in the second half, Germany still left the door open to Ukrainian counterattacks. Zieler proved his mettle with some nice saves in the second half, including one right near the end of time that could have been a disappointing end to a hard-fought comeback by the Germans.

The most glaring deficit in Germany's game was the ease at which they allowed failed corner kicks to be turned into counter opportunities for Ukraine.

"After your own corners, you can't let them get a counterattack going like that," said Thomas Müller after the game. "We could have improved that."

Löw, while admitting the team's performance on its own corners was not up to par, was satisfied with the results of his experimental formation.

"I tested a three-man defense as a contingency just in case we need to play this way at some time during EURO 2012," said Löw. "I also saw that this young team wanted to turn the game around and came out after the break with a lot of confidence."

Germany's final friendly of 2011 is on Tuesday against the Netherlands, a match where Löw will likely revert back to his traditional four-man defense. He said the three-man back line could return at some point in the future in a tournament setting, for example, if a defender needed to be pulled in order to create attacking opportunities.

SOURCE:- http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15527700,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

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