Posts Tagged ‘Bastian Schweinsteiger’

Germany all but sealed qualification to the quarter finals of Euro 2012 with a 2-1 victory over old rivals the Netherlands.

A first half brace from Mario Gomez was enough to secure the win for Joachim Löw’s men, despite Robin van Persie pulling a goal back in the last quarter of the game.

Both sides created chances early on: van Persie shot straight at Manuel Neuer when put through; Mesut Özil hit the post.

Like Germany’s goal against Portugal, their opener was made by Bastian Schweinsteiger, and finished with aplomb by Gomez.

Schweinsteiger strode through the middle of the park unchallenged, teeing up his teammate to turn superbly and fire past Maarten Stekelenburg.

The movement of Germany was too much for Holland to handle, with Müller, Özil, Schweinsteiger and Khedira all proving too difficult for the Oranje to pick up.

It was this that led to the first goal, and so it was for the second. Once more it was Schweinsteiger who orchestrated it, and once more it was Gomez who finished it, with another cool strike past Stekelenburg.

Bert van Marwijk changed things up at half time, going more offensive with the introduction of Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

They certainly looked sharper going forward, and looked more than capable of getting a goal back.

However, pulling two back – and preventing Germany from scoring again – looked beyond them. They managed the second; they could not do the first.

Germany were still hitting them on the counter-attack, perhaps sensing the need to attack in the face of a possible Dutch onslaught. Defender Mats Hummels forced a double save from Stekelenburg.

Holland did get a goal – their first of the tournament – when van Persie turned away from his man and shot through the legs of Holger Badstuber and past Neuer.

It gave them hope, briefly, but it was not enough and the Germans held on to their lead.

Joachim Löw, speaking to Uefa.com after the game, said: “With this victory I think we’ve opened the door to the quarter finals. It’s now in our hands to make everything clear on Sunday [against Denmark].

“It was a very intense game today, a very tight game. The temperatures were extreme and it was difficult to keep a high tempo for the whole match. We did really well defensively as Holland’s game is to play on the attack – they have four or five top guys up there.

“What is clear in this so-called group of death is that we’ve already got six points. There is always room for analysis after a game, though.

Germany put an early nail into Portugal’s coffin with a 1-0 win in the opening round of fixtures in the ‘group of death’.

A Mario Gomez header was enough to hand the nationalmannschaft victory, as they cemented their billing as favourites to top the group.

It was Portugal who fired the first warning shot though, serving as a reminder that they were anything but underdogs. Fabio  Coentrao wove through the German defence, although – as has often been the problem for 2004s runners-up – he had no end product.

Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski both had half chances for the Germans, before the former actually put the ball in the net. However, play was brought back for a foul on Mesut Özil, and the resulting free kick could not replicate the goal they’d been denied.

Germany’s focus was on the counter-attacking and quick transitions that had served them so well at the World Cup two years ago, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira – now aided by Dortmund defender Mats Hummels – linking up defence and attack to good effect.

However, while they enjoyed plenty of possession, with Podolski and Özil looking in particular lively, the failed to carve out any real chances.

That was almost punished on the stroke of half time, when a corner fell to Pepe. He curled it towards the top corner in a strike you wouldn’t normally associate with the no-nonsense, oft-insane defender. His shot bounced off the underside of the bar and onto the line. Despite Portuguese protests, it was deemed not to have crossed the line – which TV replays proved to be the correct decision.

Germany came out quickest after the break (figuratively speaking, I actually have no idea which team was back on the pitch first), with Thomas Müller causing problems down the right.

For Portugal, while Pepe went close in the first half, it was the other two-thirds of their Real Madrid trio – Coentrao and, more pertinently, Ronaldo – who looked the most likely to make something happen.

It was Jerome Boeteng charged with stopping the world’s second best player, and he managed to do so twice in succession – albeit in very different ways. First, a brilliant challenge; second, he had to resort to harsher methods, picking up a yellow card in the process.

It was, though, the Germans who took the lead with a goal scored in Ukraine, but made in Munich. Schweinsteiger’s deflected cross was met by the head of Gomez and, as he did 41 times for Bayern last season, he found the net.

That was to be Gomez’s last contribution, as Joachim Löw sent on birthday boy Miroslav Klose.

It may have been Ronaldo who looked the most dangerous (no mean feat for a player who seemingly changed his hairstyle at half time), but it was 20-year-old Nelson Oliviera who had the best opportunity to equalise. He latched on to Ronaldo’s pull back across the box, only to be denied by the imposing figure of Manuel Neuer.

Germany held on to claim an all-important victory, in a group where one win could be enough to see a side through.

After a game with the 10th best side in the world (according to FIFA, anyway), you’d think things might get easier. Their next game: Holland, ranked 4th. Although in fairness, against Denmark they were just rank, and Germany will not be losing any sleep over the prospect of facing Oranje.

The Champions League climax no one saw coming is final-ly (sorry!) upon us.

This was supposed to be the ultimate El Clasico; the grandest game on the grandest stage.

Not one, but two teams decided to spoil the party. And it could be even better for it.

Bayern’s role in the final was always set to be hosts. However, while it had long been known the game would be played at their home, no one expected them to be in.

Chelsea, meanwhile, thwarted their modern rivals Barcelona. They came through far from unscathed, but came through nonetheless.

Both sides have had casualties, mostly because of suspension. David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luis Gustavo miss out for Bayern. Chelsea’s losses were even greater: Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and, of course, John Terry are all forced to sit this one out.

The defence of both teams is where the suspensions have stung the most, and could well have the greatest impact on the game. The loss of Badstuber and Alaba means the left half of Bayern’s back four is missing.

Philipp Lahm will switch to left back, where he is equally as excellent, but the incoming Rafinha at right back and Daniel van Buyten at centre half are less so, and the likes of Juan Mata and Didier Drogba will more than fancy their chances against them.

It’s the same story for Chelsea, who will likely see a centre back pairing of David Luiz and Gary Cahill, and are set to be in for a tough night against the freescoring Mario Gomez. Similarly, Franck Ribery will be licking his lips at the thought of running at Jose Bosingwa.

In midfield, meanwhile, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien will need to turn the clock back and play like their old selves against a midfield duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos. The former is rightly regarded as one of the best central midfielders in the world, and Kroos – who has had a stellar season – will surely be in time.

It’s likely to be a fairly tight affair, and Chelsea will need to be at their Barcelona-beating best to come away with their win. In my opinion, especially given the fact they’re virtually the away side, that will be a bridge too far.

Key Man: Toni Kroos. Talk will be of Gomez, ‘Robbery’, Mata, Drogba and so on. But it’s the young midfielder who is capable of pulling all the strings.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea

Who do you think will win? Make a prediction in the comments section below…

Germany’s most successful side take on Europe’s, as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid revive an old rivalry.

Munich have won the Champions League four times – more than any other German side; Madrid have won it nine times – more than any other side in history. Neither, however, have done so in ten years.

Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes is no stranger to this competition, or to Real Madrid: he led Los Blancos to the Champions League title back in 1998. His opposite number, Jose Mourinho, has won this competition twice: firstly, with Porto in 2004, and then with Inter in 2010, when they beat the Bavarians in the final.

Bayern aren’t exactly heading into this game in the best form. On Saturday, they were held to a 0-0 draw with Mainz, in a rather dull encounter. More pertinently, they lost to Dortmund last Wednesday, and also lost any chance they had of winning the title.

By contrast, things are going extremely well for Madrid. On Saturday, they brushed off Sporting Gijon with a fairly routine 3-1 win. Last Wednesday, they stuck four past their city rivals Atletico, and they’re currently four points clear of Barcelona in La Liga.

Having both rested players at the weekend, neither side has any real injury concerns. Bastian Schweinsteiger may not be fully match fit, but such is his importance that he is likely to start.

There are likely to be a few key battles throughout the pitch, not least if Mourinho decides to pit Cristiano Ronaldo against the young Austrian David Alaba, who is in line to start at left back.

Similarly, Bayern’s biggest threats could come from out wide, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben – who has a point to prove against the club that sold him – coming up against the solid if unspectacular Alvaro Arbeloa and the attack-minded Marcelo.

Mario Gomez is the second highest scorer in the Champions League this season, with 11 goals (only Lionel Messi has more), while the in-form Karim Benzema may just get the nod over Gonzalo Higuain.

The odds seem to be in the favour of Madrid, something supported by Edson Karimi of Bayern blog Red Robbery. He said: “Real Madrid play the second leg at home, have a deeper squad and can win dirty whereas Bayern need the lead, struggle to play well without the ball and haven’t been in a good form recently.”

His sentiments were echoed by Corey Fiske, of Real Madrid Football Blog, who said: “I am very confident in the match, but I would not go so far as to say we will make the final. Being favorites is fine, but I will not say we will win the tie, only that I like our chances and given Bayern’s loss to Dortmund and draw to Mainz, their loss of the league title yet again has to give Real Madrid a psychological advantage. Then again, if Real were to lose the Clasico sandwiched in between the two legs, the tables could turn. It should be a great tie, and I am looking forward to it.”

Let the games begin…

Prediction: 1-2

 

Make your own prediction, or discuss the potential teams etc, using the comments box…

Many watched in wonder as Germany destroyed England and then Argentina at the 2010 World Cup.

Back then it was only Spain – who also defeated Germany in the final of Euro 2008 – who could stop Die Mannschaft.

Spain were, of course, the best team in the world and were recognised as such by winning the tournament.

Whilst they’re still favourites for Euro 2012, they should be worried. Because Germany are even better than they were two years ago.

This view was expanded on by Michael Cox, editor of Zonal Marking, who said: “Three months ago I thought they were favourites. Now I think Spain are ‘faves’ again, although I think they’re less complete than many think.

“Holland are either very average or ruthlessly efficient – I couldn’t decide at the WC, I can’t decide now. Germany are second favourites, I think.”

Out have gone Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich – the weak spots of the 2010 side – and in are Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber, two of the most talented young centre backs in world football.

Manuel Neuer, very good back then, is now probably in the top three goalkeepers around, while at the other end Mario Gomez has been an absolute goal machine.

It is in midfield, however, that Germany has an embarrassment of riches.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira ran the show from midfield in 2010, despite being just 25 and 22 respectively.

Schweinsteiger has had injury problems of late, but he should be fit and firing come the Euros, and if that is the case then he will again be the heartbeat of the side. Khedira, meanwhile, hasn’t enjoyed the success of his compatriot Mesut Ozil since they both made the move to Real Madrid, but his experience in South Africa should stand him in good stead.

Khedira’s spot is likely to come under threat from Toni Kroos, who has been a revelation for Bayern in the absence of Schweinsteiger and is developing into a top class playmaker. Euro 2012 could well do for Kroos what the World Cup did for Khedira. Then there are the Bender twins, Lars and Sven, who have been in great form for their clubs.

The midfielders playing ahead of those, if – as expected – Germany keep with their 4-2-3-1 fomation are an equally mouthwatering, jaw-dropping array of talent.

There’s the aforementioned Ozil, one of the stars of Real Madrid’s season as they have demolished all in their path in La Liga. Thomas Muller – top scorer at the World Cup two years ago isn’t in the best form, but that’s unlikely to make much difference and he’s still a big part of the side.

Lukas Podolski is, at 26, enjoying his best ever season in the Bundesliga and likely to move to Arsenal in the summer. Given his age, his record of 43 goals in 95 internationals is staggering.

Then there’s Mario Gotze, one of, if not the hottest property in world football – and he isn’t even guaranteed a start.

An unbelievable arsenal in both attack and defence, and I haven’t even mentioned the captain Philipp Lahm or Miroslav Klose – the latter is just five goals away from equaling Gerd Muller’s record of 68 goals for Germany.

Then there’s Marco Reus, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Andre Schurrle and more. The hardest part of Löw’s job will be fitting all these players into a 23-man squad and then finding his best XI.

And if he gets that right, then he and the rest of the Germany are likely to be celebrating a fourth European Championship success.