LILLE — A late goal from substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger in the 92nd minute helped the defending world champion Germany defeat Ukraine 2-0 in their debut in the 2016 Euro.
Germany dominated the possession and was the better team but still showed some rough edges that need to be worked on in the short future.
Control of the ball
From the beginning of the game the German team took control of the ball and played in a very Pep Guardiola fashion moving the ball constantly from side to side looking for openings in a well-disciplined Ukrainian defense.
Despite the long possessions and apparent control of the game Germany settled and put many crossed into the box looking for the lone striker in Mario Gotze who’s aerial game is far from being his best attribute.
The best chances for Germany early came from plays in which Toni Kroos was directly involved. It took a Kroos free kick delivery to find center back Shkodran Mustafi in the far post to head the ball into the net and give Germany a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
In the 29th minute Kroos with a deep 40-yard ball found Sami Khedira in behind the defense but the shot from the Juventus midfielder was saved by Andriy Pyatov.
As the game came to a close Ukraine pushed forward and paid the price after Mustafi was able to cut a pass which led into a German counter in which Mesut Ozil found Schweinsteiger all alone in the far post to tap the ball in for thee second goal.
Lack of forwards
The biggest takeaway that can be take from the Germany victory over Ukraine is how much Germany struggled to find space in the final third of the pitch.
Manager Joachim Low decided to start with Mario Gotze as center forward which is not his natural position. In the German roster Mario Gomez is the only true center forward the team has although others like Thomas Muller who played in the right wing and Andre Schurrle who came from the bench to the left wing have also been used by Low in the past as center forwards.
Most of the chance creation came from a few set pieces, mid and ling range shots and deep balls from Kroos.
Low will have to figure out someone that can play in that position going forward as it doesn’t seem that Gotze is the right answer.
Ukraine takes advantage in the flanks
Germany has vast and deep team almost in all positions but there are three in which they have issues left back, right back and the already mentioned center forward positions.
Coincidentally the best players for Ukraine play in the flanks with Andriy Yarmolenko on the right and Yevhen Konoplyanka on the left were able to crate chances in put pressure on the German full backs.
Just in the fourth minute Konoplyanka took a shot from distance that forced a big save from Manuel Neuer. After going down in the scoreboard Ukraine reacted in great fashion and saw their best moments in the game in the final 20 minutes of the first half.
In a corner kick Yevhen Khacheridi’s header forced another momentous save by Neuer in the 27th minute. Ten minutes later Konoplyanka mishit the ball and although his shot beat Neuer it gave Jerome Boateng just enough time to clear the ball off the line to keep the clean sheet.
Despite the good finish to the first half for Ukraine, the tram wan’t able to create many chances during the second half, their best chance came in the 57th minute with a direct shot from a free kick by Yaroslav Rakitskiy which Neuer was able to save once again.
Ukraine will now take on Northern Ireland in Lyon, while Germany face with their neighbors to the east, Poland in Saint Denis. Both games will be played on June 16.
A long distance shot from Luka Modric in the 41st minute of the game gave Croatia well deserved three points in what looks to be one of the toughest groups in the tournament. Spain will face Czech Republic on June 13 in Toulouse.
Poland obtained their first ever win in the Euro with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland thanks to a goal by Arkadiusz Milik in the 51st minute of the game.