Manuel Veth –
Germany vs Russia – Thursday, November 15, 19:45GMT/20:45CET – RB Arena, Leipzig, Germany
The German national team is a tough sell these days. A disappointing World Cup and the threat of relegation from the UEFA Nations League A has meant that ticket sales for Germany vs Russia in Leipzig have been slow as the German public have turned their back on a team that has failed to dazzle for the better part of a year.
It is, in fact, a love affair gone cold. Between 2006 and 2014 Germany was among the most dominant teams in world football. But somewhere after the World Cup victory die Nationalmannschaft became die Mannschaft and a team of youthful prospects a corporate machine focused too much on marketing and too little on the product on the field. The image of dominance became arrogance as Germany were among the favourites at Euro 2016 but were perhaps unlucky to take out France in the semifinals.
Die Nationalmannschaft then dominated in World Cup qualifying but with the job done struggled ahead of the World Cup and could never get into a competitive mode at the tournament crushing out during the group stage. What followed next was a halfhearted rebuild by Bundestrainer Joachim Löw, who was able to keep his job despite Germany’s worst ever World Cup performance. At first, that seemed the right approach as Germany managed a 0-0 draw against world champions France in a match that they should have probably won.
Perhaps that result led to a wrong found to believe that the core of the team still had enough in the tank to turn this ship around. But what followed was a disastrous 3-0 defeat to a Netherlands side lacking world class players. It was a watershed moment and finally got Löw to start new faces in Paris against France.
In that match, a youthful Germany side played perhaps their best game in 2018 but still lost 2-1 squandering an early lead. Now on the brink of relegation from the UEFA Nations League A Germany “have something to make up” to their fans as Joachim Löw said to kicker this week. “We know that we haven’t excited this year. It is a bit of a restart, and we have to work hard to bring back success,” Löw added.
Avoiding relegation will be out of Germany’s hands for now – the Netherlands play France on Friday and with a victory would relegate Germany to the Nations League B. Instead both games are about regaining the public interest in the German national team by showing that Löw, and his staff, are willing to bring new faces and reconstruct die Nationalmannschaft to such an extent that Germany is once again competitive at the next tournament.
It is the sort of process Russia’s head coach Stanislav Cherchesov has already concluded. The Sbornaya was the butt of all jokes going into the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Too old, not talented enough and full of overpaid millionaires was the consensus among the Russian public. No surprise then that Russians were somewhat slow to join the World Cup party fearing that their team would crash out of the tournament early.
What followed was a sensational 6-0 victory against Saudi Arabia to open the tournament and a run all the way to the quarterfinals were Russia was stopped by Croatia after a 120-minute fight that went down to a penalty shootout. Russia was never going to win the World Cup, but the tournament meant that Russians once again identified with the Sbornaya. Furthermore, the tournament also saw an increase in attendance numbers of 29% in the Russian Premier Liga and below the topflight Russians flock to the stadiums to watch football matches once again.
Head coach Cherchesov, in the meantime, has been able to build on the World Cup success on the pitch. Two wins against Turkey and a draw against Sweden in the UEFA Nations League means that Russia are on the verge of promotion to the Nations League A. The head coach has replaced the Berezutski twins, Sergei Ignashevich, Igor Akinfeev and has made short process with Aleksandr Kokorin as well as Pavel Mamaev. Both were arrested after starting several fights in Moscow and now face jail time of up to five years – even if both walk away with light jail sentences, it is now for certain that they will never play for Russia again.
Both authoritarian but also fair an friendly Cherchesov has gained the trust of his players, which is evident in the performances by the likes of Artem Dzyuba, who has resurrected his career during the World Cup but will not be available against Germany. The storm tank has been in non-stop action since the World Cup and will be rested during this game. In his stead, Cherchesov has nominated the Brazilian born Ari, who alongside CSKA Moscow’s Fedor Chalov (eight goals in 13 RPL games this season) could see some significant game time.
Another player who will be rested will be Denis Cheryshev and Ilzat Akhmetov, who had been excellent in midfield for CSKA this season, will miss the game with a complicated shoulder-injury. “The friendly match is a preparation match for the game against Sweden. We are allowed to make six substitutions, and we will make use of all of them,” Cherchesov told the media ahead of the match.
The same will likely be true for Germany. Joachim Löw will have to do without Marco Reus (rested), Julian Draxler (compassionate leave) and Toni Kroos (will join the team after the match) in this one and will likely field a very experimental side. Hence, expect a typical friendly in which both teams will go a high tempo for the first 60 minutes and then slow the match down to experiment.
Germany vs Russia – Players to look out for:
Timo Werner #9 – Germany
Chances are we will see a highly experimental Germany side against Russia on Thursday. Nonetheless, the probability is high that Timo Werner will feature at some point during the game. The forward had a somewhat problematic World Cup as he struggled to find a place in Löw’s tactical setup. As a result, Werner was heavily criticised by many armchair analysts, who suggested that he even might be one of the reasons for Germany’s overall problems. In truth, Werner had a decent season last year, and while he struggled at times, it said more about the tactical lineups used by his club coach Ralph Hasenhüttl and Bundestrainer Löw. This season he has been his former self as Leipzig’s interims coach Ralf Rangnick seems to get the best out of Werner. The striker has scored six goals in 11 Bundesliga games this campaign and is among the main reasons that Leipzig have jumped to third in the Bundesliga standings.
Ari #22 – Russia
Nominated to replace the rested Artem Dzyuba the Brazilian born Ari could play his first game for his adopted homeland. Ari started the naturalisation process all the way back in 2015 after marrying his Russian partner Natalia Gryzlova in December 2014. Having previously played for Brazil’s U20 side meant, however, that his naturalisation process, even with a Russian passport would not be easy – a player usually has to reside for five years in the country he wants to play for before making the switch. Furthermore, Ari hit a few rough patches since 2015 and was even sent out on loan to Lokomotiv Moscow last season as he struggled for playing time at Krasnodar. At Lokomotiv, he won the Russian championship but played just eight games scoring one goal and two assists. As a result, Loko did not make the move permanent and instead signed Krasnodar forward Fedor Smolov, which in turn opened a path back to Krasnodar for Ari. It is perhaps somewhat ironic that Smolov has since struggled at Lokomotiv whereas Arri has scored six goals and three assists in eight RPL games this season clearing his path to be called up for his adopted home country for the first time.
Germany vs Russia – Match Stats
- Germany have never lost to an independent Russia, having won five and drawn one of their six meetings to date.
- The record, however, does not include matches between West Germany and the Soviet Union. Germany’s record against the Soviet Union was W9 L3.
- The two nations first played each other in a consolation tournament at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. Germany won the game 16-0 with forward Gottfried Fuchs scoring a whopping 10 goals, which remained a joint world record in a competitive game until 2001.
- The last meeting between Russia and Germany was a 2010 World Cup qualifier in Moscow in October 2009, where Die Nationalmannschaft‘s all-time record scorer Miroslav Klose netted the game’s only goal.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Germany vs Russia – 2-1
Germany vs Russia – Lineups
Neuer – Kehrer, Rüdiger, Süle, Kimmich – Goretzka, Rudy – Gnabry, Havertz, Sané – Werner
Head Coach: Joachim Löw
Guilherme – Neustädter, Dzhikiya, Nababkin – Rausch, Zobnin, Kuzyaev, Al. Miranchuk, Ignatyev – Ari, Zabolotny
Head Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.