The German Machine Rolls On: The Quest for Euro 2022 Glory
Germany have once again proved all doubters wrong. They made the presumptive ‘group of death’ look like an easy task, qualifying for the knockout stage without conceding a single goal. Can the record Euro champions add a ninth title this summer?
Ahead of a ball being kicked at Women’s Euro 2022, Germany were viewed as giants on a downward trajectory. After dominating European football for decades, the Germans were eliminated from the 2017 tournament in disappointing fashion against Denmark, and in more recent times they’d failed to defeat any of the other big footballing nations in Europe – a defeat to England and a draw with Spain in February latest examples of that trend.
Fast forward to the present and Germany have just finished top of arguably the toughest group at Euro 2022 – containing Spain, Denmark and Finland – and won every single game without conceding a goal. The only previous occasion that they did this in a group stage at a Euro finals tournament, they went on to win the title (2005).
The German recipe for success in attack this summer has been their aerial threat. Whilst Germany aren’t the most prolific crossing team at Euro 2022 (66) – five teams have fired in more at the tournament so far – being attacked from wide positions by Germany is not a position their opponents want to be in.
Of the 16 teams at Euro 2022 in the group stage, no team attempted more headed shots than Germany (16), while they scored the most goals (5) and had the highest expected goals total (3.1) from headers.
A figurehead in their aerial threat is captain Alexandra Popp. The 31-year-old finally made her Euro Championship finals debut after missing the 2013 and 2017 tournaments through injury, and she’s made up for lost time.
Popp has scored in all three of Germany’s matches at Euro 2022, becoming the first German to score in every group stage match at a Euro Finals and only the second player overall after Beth Mead beat her to the record by a day.
All three of the German captain’s goals at Euro 2022 have come via headers, becoming the only player to score as many as three headers in a single Euros in recorded history (since 2013). Those three goals have come from six headed shots, worth a total of 1.3 xG – the only player to exceed 1.0 xG from headers at the tournament so far.
Whilst the threat they’ve posed in the air has been one reason for their success in the group stages of Euro 2022, their defensive solidarity has arguably been their key strength.
The Germans cruised through their tricky group without conceding a single goal, but that was helped by their ability to stifle opponents’ attacking threat. They conceded just five shots on target in three group games – a tournament low – while only England (15) faced fewer shots overall than the Germans (19).
Whilst Germany have faced the third lowest xG from non-penalty shots (2.2), behind England (1.1) and Sweden (1.6), the average quality of these shots have been much higher than the other two contenders – the average non-penalty shot faced by Germany has had an xG of 0.12, compared to England’s 0.07 and Sweden’s 0.08. That’ll need to be something that Germany will have to address as the tournament goes on.
Germany haven’t been careless in giving away possession in their defensive third too often at the tournament so far – their 25 high turnovers against is only bettered by Italy (17), Sweden (18), England (20) and France (20), while only three of these have ended in shots.
They might have to be more wary of this threat in their quarter-final tie against Austria, however – only England (10) attempted more shots from high turnovers than the Austrians (8) at Euro 2022 in the group stage.
Our match predictor gives Germany the best chance of progressing to the semi-finals of all eight sides in this round (75%), while they are currently second favourites behind England (20.9%) with a 20.6% chance of glory at the end of the month.
Whilst this tie is probably the best they could have hoped for in the quarters, Austria won’t roll over for their neighbours and stiffer tests await in the semis, with a tie against either France of reigning champions the Netherlands. We’re going to be watching on with interest.
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