Posts Tagged ‘Lukas Podolski’

Joachim Löw’s “cheeky” tinkering paid off as Germany cruised past Greece and into the Euro 2012 semi finals.

In stark contrast to the Eurozone, this was Germany progressing at the expense of the Greeks. The onlooking Angela Merkel must have revelled in the irony.

Löw made four changes to the starting XI that had defeated Denmark, with Jerome Boateng coming back in for Lars Bender, and Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle replacing Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski.

It worked a treat, as goals from Klose and Reus, as well as Sami Khedira and captain Philipp Lahm helped Germany to a 4-2 win.

Germany dominated the opening exchanges, with Greece happy to sit back and defend. After having an early goal disallowed, it was a question of when, not if they’d score.

And when Lahm but them ahead with an excellent long-range effort after 39 minutes, it was a question of how many.

However, the next goal did not go the way of the Germans. A swift counter-attacking move from Greece ended with Georgios Samaras prodding home.

It was to be a brief respite though, with Germany back ahead just six minutes later. A ball from Boateng fell to Khedira, who had been quietly impressive once again, and he smashed it home with aplomb.

The game was well and truly over when Klose added to his already astonishing international recording, heading home a Mesut Özil corner for his 64th goal for die Mannschaft.

There was still time for Reus to get on the scoresheet, hammering the ball past a less-than-impressive Michalis Sifakis in the Greek net.

When Jerome Boateng handled in the area in the 89th minute, Dimitris Salpingidis stroked home the resulting penalty. It mattered not.

This was Germany’s most impressive performance to date, albeit against the weakest side they’ve faced. They will play either Italy or England in the semi final.

Given bringing in Klose, Reus and Schurrle was supposedly ‘weakening’ the side, I don’t think they’ll be too bothered who they have to face, and you’d expect them to continue their march to a possible repeat of Euro 2008s final with Spain.

Speaking to Uefa.com after the game, ‘Jogi’ Löw had this to say: “First of all, I would like to say it was a fantastic performance from our team. For the fourth time in a row, we have qualified for the semi-final of a major tournament. Nobody thought we could have done that back in 2004. We have won 15 games in a row. We are the youngest team at this tournament and have great prospects for the future. I am proud of my players. We absolutely deserved to win tonight.

“Greece scored two goals out of one chance. We were good from the start but perhaps the only thing I can say is that we didn’t take advantage of our chances early on. I was irritated at that stage and my emotions are expressed at times like that.

“After three wins here, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my team in the slightest, but I had been planning on making the changes to the lineup for a while. I thought we had to be unpredictable against Greece, because I felt they would be ready for us. It is good to be cheeky like that from time to time. I thought the plan worked out quite well. Looking ahead, I think the four teams in the semi-finals will be serious contenders for the title. We know from now on games of this magnitude are decided by small details, and we can’t allow a single mistake.”

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Germany ensured that they survived the group of death, and progressed to the quarter finals, with a 2-1 victory over Denmark.

The win means Germany finish as group winners, while Denmark join Netherlands in making their exit from Euro 2012, although with more pride intact than their Dutch counterparts.

After putting an early chance over the bar, Thomas Müller turned provider for the first goal of the game.

He fizzed a ball into the feet of Mario Gomez, but the Bayern striker – who already has three goals this tournament – miscontrolled it. However, that was all part of the script as the ball fell to Lukas Podolski, who was left with an easy finish and a goal to celebrate his 100th international appearance. (He’s only 27!)

The Danes were back level soon after though, with Nicklas Bendter rising to head a deep corner back towards goal, and that was met by Michael Krohn-Dehli who was able to nod the ball past Manuel Neuer.

Germany continued to push for a winner in the second half, going close through Gomez. By this point I was struggling to keep up with who could go through and how, and was sick of hearing the word ‘permutations’, which I’m not sure anyone had ever used before last night.

It could have all been different for, well, everyone in the group (except Holland, who continued to be a bit rubbish) had the referee decided to award a penalty and send-off Holger Badstuber when he appeared to pull back Bendtner in the box.

He didn’t, however, and minutes later a quick break led to Mesut Özil playing in the impressive stand-in right back Lars Bender, who finished coolly to put the game – and the group – beyond any doubt.

Germany will now face Greece, a side Joachim Löw described as “very hard…it’s like you’re biting on a rock,” for a place in the semi final. You can make your own jokes about the Euro/Euros etc in the comments box.

Löw, speaking to Uefa.com, said: “The match was very difficult, as expected. In the first half, we had an opportunity to open up a good lead; we missed three or four chances to make it 2-0 or 3-0. Then, from a standard set piece, Denmark levelled. After that, it became harder. In the second half, we controlled the match, looked after the ball and played with real maturity. Three or four years ago, we wouldn’t have won this. But on 60, 70 minutes, all those technical players we have who can take control of the ball stepped up.

“Denmark play with real calmness – they play like they don’t care about winning, sitting back, and then they hit you on the break. They pass the ball back and forth. I never got the feeling they wanted to win; I felt they were happy to keep it level and hope to get a set piece and score from that.

“While I was aware of what could happen, I always felt we would get the second goal. Today was the first decisive game of the tournament, but we did the job and qualified with nine points – a great performance, even if there’s still room for improvement. In midfield and defence, we maybe allowed too much space; we could have closed them down much earlier to avoid allowing Denmark to take the pace out of the game. Greece will be the same, so we need to tighten up.

“I’ve never played Greece and now it’s time. No one thought they would make it as Russia had been so strong. I think they’ve had three or four chances at this tournament and scored three goals; they’re masters of efficiency. They’re hard and great at the back, strong in the tackle; it’s like biting into a rock.”

The relegation battle will reach an epic climax this weekend, with two teams fighting to avoid the automatic drop.

Hertha Berlin are at home to Hoffenheim, and it is literally a must win game, anything else and they will be on their way to 2. Bundesliga.

FC Koln, meanwhile, face the daunting task of welcoming Bayern Munich to the RheinEnergieStadion. They can afford to draw, or even lose, but must hope that Hertha do the same.

The chances of Koln getting something from the game, however, look slim; they have the league’s worst defence, while Bayern have the second best attack.

Hertha, meanwhile, will be slightly more confident of getting the necessary win against mid-table Hoffenheim, although their home form has let them down this season: three wins, three draws and 10 defeats. Markus Babbel’s side, by contrast, have picked up twenty points on their travels this season, the 7th best record in the league.

The fact that these two sides are struggling will come as a surprise to anyone who was only watching before the winter break.

After the first 17 games of the season, Koln were 10th with Hertha in 11th, having picked up 21 and 20 points respectively. In their last 16 games, The Billy Goats have managed nine points, The Old Lady just eight.

Form suggests neither side will win, which would mean relegation for Hertha. History seemingly can’t pick between the two: the Berlin side were only promoted last year; Koln have been relegated three times in the last decade. 

Die Alte Dame slipped into the 17th position they currently occupy after matchday 26, following a 6-0 defeat to Bayern. Die Geißböcke first occupied 16th after matchday 28. Neither has moved since. In fact, since Hertha’s fall into the relegation zone, they have managed only one win between them.

Koln could be helped by the fact that Bayern will be focusing on their two upcoming cup finals, although Hoffenheim don’t exactly have much to play for either. It’s down to the wire, and it certainly looks too close to call.

Allan Edgar, of Bundesliga Football, did give us his prediction however. He said: “Köln to me are likely to be automatically relegated – they have been in freefall and not even the outgoing Lukas Podolski will be able to save them it seems. Hertha Berlin I consider to have enough in their arsenal to fight the drop. If they finish in the play-off spot I would envisage them seeing off the challengers from 2. Bundesliga.”

Podolski: Gonna be a Gunner?

Lukas Podolski is all set to leave the comforts of Koln for life in London this summer.

If reports are to be believed, then Podolski will join Arsenal for approximately £10.9m and £100k+ per week.

The big question is not necessarily whether he can cut it in the Premier League, but whether he can cut it at any club that isn’t FC Koln.

This is because a move to Arsenal won’t be the first time ‘Poldi’ has moved to a ‘big’ club; they won’t even be the biggest side he has left Koln for.

In 2006, following Die Geißböcke’s relegation to 2.Bundesliga, the frontman moved to Bayern Munich in a deal reportedly worth €10m.

At the same time, he was bursting on to the international scene, with some standout performances at the 2006 World Cup – including thee goals – helping Germany to third place and himself to the Best Young Player award.

While many struggle to replicate their club form for their country, it was the opposite for Podolski, as he failed to repeat his efforts for Germany in the colours of Munich.

Despite his poor form with Bayern, he continued with his contrasting performance for the national side. Germany finished as runners-up at Euro 2008, with Podolski scoring three goals for the second major tournament in a row, and being named in the 23-man squad of the tournament.

His three-season stint in Bavaria ended with a very poor return of 26 goals in 106 games in all competitions (15 in 71 in the Bundesliga), and he moved back to Koln for a similar fee to the one they originally sold him for.

His move back to Koln should have been the return of the king, but in his first season it was more like the clown prince than Prinz Poldi (as he is known in Cologne) as he scored just three goals in the entire season.

Despite that, he was still selected for Joachim Löw’s 2010 World Cup squad, scoring two goals from his now familiar position on the left to help Germany reach the semi-finals.

Since then, though, he has looked better than ever, and is currently enjoying his best season in the Bundesliga. He so far has 16 goals, which is his highest tally, and one that will surely be added to.

At 26, he is at somewhat of a crossroads. He is, domestically, in the form of his life, but at international level his place has perhaps never been under greater threat – such is the rise to prominence of the likes of Mario Götze and Marco Reus.

A move to Arsenal will give him the chance to prove the doubters wrong, that he can do it not only outside of Cologne but outside of Germany as well. And it could just be the thing that keeps him ahead in the national team pecking order.

He will fit well into Arsenal’s system, presumably playing on the left of the two or three behind Robin van Persie (if he stays), in the role that has been occupied by Gervinho this season.

He certainly has the ability to succeed. Whether he does or not will all come down to his mentality. He’s shown signs of maturing this season; next year will be the time for him to prove it.

“Poldi can lack tactical discipline and is used to being number one at Cologne. If he can settle in North London, accept that he is a cog in a larger wheel and do as he is told then he has the ability to make a significant contribution to the Arsenal team.” Terry Duffelen, German football blogger and co-host of the podcast Bundesliga Show. Twitter: @bundesbag.

The video below shows Arsenal fans exactly what they’ll be getting: