As news broke of Joachim Low’s decision to drop/rest his first choice attacking trio of Muller, Gomez and Podolski yesterday afternoon, it was seen in some quarters as a sign of disrespect. It did make for strange reading as despite Fernando Santos’ team being distinctly average and lacking the defensive resoluteness of Otto Rehhagel’s champions of 2004 it was still a quarter final of a European Championship.
The match did in fact turn out to be the perfect way for Germany to parade their embarrassment of attacking riches, the incoming Schurrle, Klose and Reus are hardly bad alternatives and Germany played with a fluidity reminiscent of 2010, producing their best display of the tournament so far. Low wasn’t completely satisfied at the final whistle after seeing his team concede twice, the second a dubious penalty decision coming in the final minutes of the game; in truth Germany could have scored more without ever getting out of second gear.
Mesut Ozil after missing an easy chance early in the first half again took centre stage with a calm but consistent threat in his advanced position behind the three forwards. Schurrle who joined Bayer Leverkusen last summer was deployed on the left of Klose with arguably the Bundesliga’s best player of last season Reus playing on the right. Reus smashed a volley off the underside of the crossbar to deliver the hammer blow as the sight of a delirious Angela Merkel compounded Greek misery, at least for those watching on television. ITV’s Peter Drury, the most irritating commentator of a generation, would have done little to lighten the mood of any Greek viewers with his insistence on mentioning the debt whenever possible. The man’s penchant for grandiose statements knows no bounds.
Marco Reus’ quick link up play and eagerness to run in behind saw him presented with a host of goal scoring opportunities which he squandered before lashing his volley past the hopeless Sifakis in the Greek goal. His presence was a welcome shift in Germany’s so far rigid and safe approach, with Klose providing an excellent foil with willingness to link with his back to goal and get involved in far more team moves than Mario Gomez has looked to do in the three group games. German golden boy, literally on the evidence of last night, Mario Gotze came off the bench to mark his first appearance in the finals. After barely kicking a ball for Dortmund last season it shows just how highly regarded he is but the game had all but petered out by the time he was introduced.
England and Italy will have watched on knowing Germany await in the semi finals, a team who look to be, predictably, warming up at just the right time again. The question of how such established stars would react to being replaced for such a big game was posed yesterday and Podolski, Muller and Gomez all gave interviews to the press after the game only too happy to talk on the importance of having a strong and versatile squad. Although Klose looked peeved after being replaced late on by Mario Gomez, obviously feeling there were more goals to be scored, the general mood in the German camp looks relaxed and content. You get the feeling they’ve been here before.
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