Germany 2-1 Saudi Arabia: Timo Werner on target as world champions claim unconvincing warm-up win
- 2014 champions Germany won their final warm-up game ahead of the World Cup
- Timo Werner scored the opener and then created the second — an own goal
- Underdogs Saudi Arabia hit back late on with a rebound from a penalty kick
- They nearly equalised but Taiseer Al-Jassam passed when he should have shot
So here’s the dilemma: do we regard the Weltmeisters’ powers to be on the wane or do they have something special up their sleeves?
Germany, no matter what, are always bracketed as one of the favourites ahead of a major tournament and having won the Confederations Cup 12 months ago, many judges regard them as the team to beat in Russia. Why wouldn’t they?
A nation that can afford to leave Leroy Sane at home and have players like Mesut Ozil, Julian Brandt and Leon Goretzka in reserve must be odds-on to go deep into the World Cup; Germany should not have much difficulty negotiating a group that contains Sweden, Mexico and South Korea.
Timo Werner was celebrating inside the opening 10 minutes after scoring the game’s opener
No 9 Werner was congratulated by his team-mates, including Jerome Boateng (second left)
Germany went 2-0 ahead just before half time when Omar Hawsawi (left) scored an own goal
GERMANY: Neuer (Ter Stegen 46), Kimmich (Ginter 81), Boateng (Sule 46), Hummels, Hector, Khedira, Kroos, Muller (Brandt 74), Reus (Gundogan 57), Draxler, Werner (Gomez 62)
SUBS NOT USED: Plattenhardt, Ozil, Trapp, Goretzka, Rudiger, Rudy
GOALS: Werner (8), Hawsawi own goal (43)
SAUDI ARABIA: Al Muaiouf, Al Shahrani, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi (Albulayhi 83), Al-Harbi (Al Burayk 46), Otayf (Al Mogahwi 75), Al Shehri, Al-Jassam, Al-Faraj (Alkhaibari 90), Al-Dawsari (Babhir 87), Al-Muwallad (Al-Sahlawi 62)
SUBS NOT USED: Al-Khaibri, Kanoo, Asiri, Al Mosailem, Al Owais, Hawsawi
GOALS: Al-Jassam (84)
BOOKED: Al Mogahwi
But Joachim Low, who masterminded the stunning success in Brazil four years ago, will have anxieties as Germany look to defend their crown following a patchy performance in their final warm-up game against Saudi Arabia.
They may have qualified for the World Cup without any kind of problem but, since then, their form has tailed off and they failed to win any of their five previous friendlies, culminating in a 2-1 defeat to Austria last Saturday.
Another defeat here would have been seismic but there was never any sense of shock occurring in Leverkusen once RB Leipzig’s explosive striker Timo Werner scored in the eighth minute, smashing a drive off the underside of the bar following a cutback from Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus.
There were moments when Germany quickened the pulse, not least when Werner, Julian Draxler and Joshua Kimmich were involved – the last named of that trio provided a fabulous ball for Sami Khedira in the 37th minute but the midfielder’s shot was pushed onto the post.
What will have troubled Low, nonetheless, was the amount of times Saudi Arabia – who are also going to Russia – were able to carve out chances on the break thanks to the speed of forwards, headed Fahad Al-Muwallaid, who almost grabbed an instant equaliser.
Thomas Muller celebrated in the six yard box after Hawsawi deflected the ball into his own net
Germany named a strong starting XI at the BayArena in Leverkusen on Friday evening
Manuel Neuer, who has returned to fitness in the nick of time, was equal to that task but there were a couple of moments when, as his defenders dawdled, he was left exposed and a side with more ruthlessness would have punished those errors.
Instead, Germany were able to grind Saudi down and the second goal arrived just before the interval when Omar Hawsawi put through his own net trying to clear a cutback from Werner under pressure from Thomas Muller.
This was not the catalyst, though, for a second half onslaught and the most notable issue after the break was when Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan – who recently had his picture taken with the president of Turkey – was loudly every time he touched the ball after coming on as a substitute.
There was further reason for discontent, too, in the 83rd minute when Germany conceded a penalty. Substitute Marc-Andre ter Stegen psyched out Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and saved his spot-kick but he could not prevent Taiseer Al-Jassam following up on the rebound.
‘We are not putting an emphasis on this game,’ said Neuer after the match. ‘We are looking at the bigger picture and we have got bigger objectives.’
Saudi Arabia should have had an equaliser in injury time but only a superb tackle from Mats Hummels denied Al-Jassam his second goal. The final whistle saw more boos. Was this enough to have Germany’s rivals running scared? At this moment, the answer would most definitely be no.
Keeper Marc Andre ter Stegen came on as a sub and saved a penalty by Mohammed Al-Sahlawi
Underdogs Saudi Arabia scored from the rebound, with No 17 Taiseer Al-Jassam firing home
Saudi Arabia could have equalised at the end but Al-Jassim passed when he should have shot