THE Confederations Cup continues on Thursday and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the semi-final showdown between Germany and Mexico.
Germany v Mexico | Thursday 19:00 | ITV
World champions Germany take on CONCACAF’s dominant force Mexico in Sochi on Thursday night to fight it out for a place in the final of the Confederations Cup.
Mexico – the only team in the tournament who have previously won the competition, when hosting in 1999 – are 3/1 (Marathon) outsiders with Germany available to back at 21/20 (Ladbrokes). The draw is 27/10 (Marathon).
An experimental Germany squad topped Group B ahead of Chile but it wasn’t completely convincing. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno had a forgetful opening game against Australia as Die Mannschaft won 3-2 whilst fellow cat Marc-André ter Stegen didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in a 3-1 triumph over Cameroon.
Sandwiched between the two encounters against the pool outsiders, Germany overcame Chile’s suffocating press to seal a well-deserved 1-1 draw. Overall, it’s probably fair to say Jogi Low’s outfit have been the better side in five of the six halves of football they’ve played thus far.
Although there’s a vulnerability and weaknesses to the inexperienced German defence, Low’s side have looked a lot more comfortable going forward. Captain Julian Draxler has looked bright in his preferred role behind the frontman in Die Mannschaft’s current 3-4-2-1 structure.
Germany have now suffered a sole reverse in 20 – keeping 13 shutouts in that sample – but seeing as the current crop are effectively a new squad, it’s hard to throw too much value behind recent results and trends.
Germany team news
Low’s been unafraid to make changes and tinker with his team during the group-stages but we should expect Germany to revert to their strongest XI for their third trip to Sochi in this tournament.
No side has fired in more attempts at goal in the competition but the Die Mannschaft boss is known to be slightly concerned at Germany’s conversion rate. That means Timo Werner might be brought into the side from the start following his well-taken brace against Cameroon.
Expect Germany to focus their attack down the right wing – it’s been the source of four of their seven goals thus far with just one stemming from the opposite flank. It appears the pre-match favourites are purposely overloading that side of the field. However, they must tighten up defensively.
The three at the back system has allowed opponents to seize upon space down either flank when the German wing-backs have been pushed up to support the attack. It’s certainly an area Mexico may look to capitalise on.
Mexico missed out on top spot in Group A to Portugal on goal difference. Having made a promising start with a last-gasp leveller (2-2) against the Iberians, El Tri made heavy work of securing 2-1 victories against New Zealand and Russia.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s side have needed to come from behind in all three of their pool matches and could easily have been two or three behind against Russia on Saturday whilst benefitting from some poor goalkeeping at the opposite end.
Mexico have now suffered just one defeat in 16, are unbeaten in 11 competitive matches and further back have lost only two of their past 41 outings. El Tri have scored at least twice in all three Confederations Cup games with all six goals converted by different players
Mexico's team news
Osorio is a popular figure amongst the squad but continues to be widely criticised in the country’s media due to his rotation policy. Only third-choice goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota hasn’t enjoyed playing time in Russia thus far.
But the Colombian coach has a few selection headaches for Thursday; key midfielder Andres Guardado is suspension and defender Carlos Salcedo is out for the tournament. Diego Reyes and Hector Moreno are major doubts and Javier Hernandez has reportedly been suffering from muscle fatigue.
That might mean a call for captain Rafa Marquez. The veteran hasn’t featured prominently but could fill a void in Mexico’s defence or holding midfield should Osorio’s side require an experienced body to fill a hole in the backline.
Mexico have failed to put in a full 90 minute performance thus far, too often let down by sloppy periods at the back. El Tri have conceded too many opportunities due to lapses in concentration and must improve defensively.
It’s not all negative, mind. El Tri have fired in the second-most shots in the tournament and enjoyed the highest percentage of possession. Jonathan dos Santos and Hector Herrera have proven vital in their ball-keeping ability whilst the flanks are full of threats when Mexico go forward.
The betting angle
There’s no doubt these two nations are top-heavy, geared to get forward with plenty of attacking artillery to chose from across the offensive line. However, keeping the goals out hasn’t been quite as straightforward.
Both Teams To Score has proven a profitable punt in all six of Germany and Mexico’s collective Confederations Cup clashes and so I’m not going to ignore it when it when Betfair are offering a generous 4/5 on a repeat.
Mexico have fired three blanks in 30 fixtures with Germany being silenced just twice in 22 competitive contests.
Germany v Mexico – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Betfair)