- Action on the wings could be key during Germany-Mexico
- Captain Julian Draxler has been thriving in central role
- Mexico's familiarity may tip the balance
As the current kings of world football prepare to square up with CONCACAF's latest conquerors for a spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 final, there will be plenty to catch the eye when Germany and Mexico step onto the field.
But, to narrow things down, FIFA.com team reporters Steffen Potter (Germany) and Martin Langer (Mexico) have chosen six points that could be key on Thursday night.
A dangerous German right flank
Out of the seven goals *Die Mannschaft *has scored in Russia so far, no less than four have come from the right wing, with just one (against Chile) stemming from the opposite side. The likes of Joshua Kimmich, who has played as right centre-back, right winger and holding midfielder already in this tournament, has been instrumental in provided two of those from his flank. It appears that the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ winners are purposely overloading that side of the field at times and are a little more cautious going forward on the left.
*Mexico's ball-controlling midfield
Mexico have easily won the possession battle in all three matches they have played so far in the tournament. The main reason for that is coach Juan Carlos Osorio's ball-controlling approach, based on constant movement and quick one-twos. But none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the excellent technical qualities of midfielders Jonathan Dos Santos, Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado, who are extremely comfortable in possession. Guardado will be suspended for this match though, so it remains to be seen if his replacement can maintain the same high standard.
*Free-flowing Draxler *Julian Draxler has been a joy to watch in Germany's attacking midfield, typified by a cheeky nutmeg in build-up to the opener against Cameroon. Often played as a left winger in the national team's 4-2-3-1 in the past, coach Joachim Low's current 3-4-2-1 has him operating behind the frontman, enjoying all the liberties it grants. He thrives in it, with success at Paris Saint-Germain and captaining this young side seemingly given him a boatload of confidence.
*Talented *El Tri wingers **If there is a position where Mexico have a surplus of talent it is on the wings. No matter who plays of Carlos Vela, Hrving Lozano, Javier Aquino or Jurgen Damm, Germany should be extremely attentive of the damage they can do by stretching the play. Interestingly, Osorio has used a striker in that position, too, deploying Javier Hernandez down the left against Portugal and Raul Jimenez against New Zealand. There is, in short, a plethora of options for the team, and all of them are of an excellent standard.
*Defensive trio leaving Germany open *For all the talk about what is good with Germany, their current system with three at back allows opponents to quickly attack down one wing and then switch play to the empty opposite side before the wing-backs, who usually play high up, have returned to make it five behind the ball. Chile did so several times and it is something Mexico could capitalise on, particular in light of the last point.
The fruits of 18 months of Mexican labour
If you compare the two sides player by player, the Germans could be considered favourites. Despite their young age, many of their players ply their trade in some of the best teams in the world. However, they have trained together as a team only for a few weeks. That's not the case of Mexico, where Osorio has been implementing his system since he arrived one and a half years ago. The system, however, is a complicated one, seeing the team have ups and downs with it, but the chemistry should in theory be light years ahead of their rivals.