Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Muller’

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.”

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.

Mesut Ozil – practically a veteran at 23

Germany have perhaps the greatest pool of young talent currently available to any football playing nation.

However, it wasn’t always this way, and much like the other articles in this series, the way Germany turned things around following their Euro 2000 disappointment is very much something England could and should be looking at.

Just over a decade ago, having looked at poor performances from the national side, clubs in financial meltdowns and an ever-increasing number of foreign players, it was commissioned for 121 national talent centres, for players aged 10-17, to be built throughout Germany; while every club in the top two divisions had to have a youth academy.

Clark Whitney, German football editor of goal.com, said: “There is nothing serendipitous about the quality and quantity of young talent coming from the German first and second divisions. In 2000, after an aging Germany side utterly failed at the European Championship, the DFL made strict requirements for all 1. and 2. Bundesliga clubs to have youth academies, with very specific guidelines regulating their quality.

“There are also periodic sessions in which crops of youngsters are brought together to be trained in the style of the senior national team. The result is a large number of talented players who are well-nurtured, and take very little time to integrate into the senior national team.”

The benefits are clear for all to see. In recent years Germany have won the U17, U19 and U21 European Championships, and are one of the favourites for the senior tournament this summer.

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller and regarded as superstars, yet not one of them is older than 23. Similarly, the likes of Mats Hummels and Marco Reus are ready to burst onto the world stage, and there are plenty more waiting-in-line.

By contrast, England still call upon the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, John Terry and so on – all of whom are at least 30. There are some exceptions – Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker to name a few – but, ultimately, the English national side continues to be an ageing one, filled with players who have experience, and contributed to, past failures.

The fiasco that was no qualifying for Euro 2008, and the woeful performances in 2010’s World Cup were both supposed to lead to a youth revolution, but it is to the old stars Fabio Capello has turned, suggesting the younger players are not good enough.

Germany looks like having a side to challenge for at least the next decade. England may take that long before even attempting to catch-up.

You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Mr_Bundesliga.