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Harding’s Hark - The Inside Story: Defensive Discussions 

A 3-0 win in Munich for Germany against Austria in their Group C 2014 World Cup qualifier. Jonathan Harding dissects some key issues.

On his 100th cap for his country, Philipp Lahm once again proved why he is perhaps the best right back in the world. Defensively strong, incredibly fit and tactically smart, the Bayern and Germany captain was a joy to watch. He remains an understated leader.

Defensive discussions

Marcel Schmelzer at left back remains a question mark. Injury meant his playing time was limited to 45 minutes, but the reason for his selection – seemingly the connection with Reus – was far from obvious. Once again Oliver Sorg (can play left back) is a valid option that Löw continues to ignore as Brazil draws nearer. Marcell Jansen is another experienced option.

Another question was how much of a problem would Jerome Boateng be for the in-form Per Mertesacker? Not at all was the answer as Mertesacker carried his club form into the national team. He deserves credit for it too (often his form differs from club to country) because Boateng isn’t the easiest to play with.

Guardiola’s new favourite defender remains an issue in his own right, making one of Joachim Löw’s lamented individual errors after only 14 seconds.

Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes came on at half time (for Schmelzer) but at left back. With other options available in the Bundesliga in that position, surely Höwedes is worth considering in his preferred centre back position? Please note - his assist at left back is not enough evidence to suggest the position should be his.

Klose finally hits 68

Miroslav Klose has been hunting Gerd Müller’s record for a while and once again, it appeared to be distracting him to the point of disruption. Admittedly, loose balls from the defence and stunted service from the midfield didn’t help. His rebound (header) shortly before the half-hour mark is a chance he normally gobbles up and it looked like it might be another evening of chances missed before he slid in the opening goal. Great respect must be paid to the man who will almost certainly finish Germany’s top goalscorer before he retires. His decision to move to Lazio has perhaps enabled that record to (soon) be his own.

It was also the first look at Mesut Özil since his move to £42.5m move to Arsenal. Germany’s most expensive player impressed too, growing into the game and playing a number of well-disguised passes, including one in the build-up for the third goal. His almost lethargic manner hides his vision and touch. Germany fans are pleased to see what they have come to expect from one of their playmakers; Arsenal fans can get even more excited.

Also worthy of note: Thomas Müller’s goal may well be the spark that improves his domestic form. His movement was once again thrilling but his finish was, as it has been so far this season, a little short of the magic we are used to. Not conceding was also an important milestone for Löw’s men.

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