Farewell, Fußballgott: Basti says goodbye in Mönchengladbach

A new international season begins for the Mannschaft, but for one of its greatest stalwarts the journey comes to an end. Twelve years and 121 matches after his international debut as a teenager against Hungary in the early summer of 2004, Fußballgott Bastian Schweinsteiger gets the chance to say goodbye in front of a home crowd in Mönchengladbach against Finland.

A player who quickly became one of Germany’s favourites, Schweinsteiger played his first international tournament under Rudi Völler at Euro 2004, was one of the young stars at the World Cup in 2006, and soon became a fixture in Joachim Löw’s team. By 2014 he was one of the senior figures, and one of the heroes in Rio as the Mannschaft won their fourth world crown.

Battered and bruised, Schweinsteiger was the personification of the German team that battled they way to the title against Argentina. There were various images of “Schweini” over the years, but the picture at the Maracaña will always be the most memorable of them all.

Having fought a long catalogue of injuries to make his seventh and final major tournament appearance at Euro 2016, Schweinsteiger even scored a goal within a minute of coming on off the bench against Ukraine. Having announced his retirement shortly after the team’s semi-final elimination against France, he gets the chance to sign off in style.

Sadly, the player with whom Schweinsteiger lit up the 2006 World Cup is not able to make a similar farewell. Lukas Podolski, who also called time on his international career in the summer is injured and was unable to make the squad.

Before the match the popular midfielder is presented with an award and warmly acknowledged, holding back the tears as he makes his final speech to the crowd of just over thirty thousand people.

Bastian Schweinsteiger can’t hold back the tears before his final international appearance

As Schweinsteiger makes his final appearance in the Schwarz und Weiß, there is a full international debut for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim defender Niklas Süle, one of the heroes of the silver medal winning Olympic team.

There is a youthful look to the German starting lineup. Süle’s fellow Olympians Julian Brandt and Max Meyer win their second international caps, and FC Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen gets a go in goal with regular Manuel Neuer rested.

In the absence of the injured Jérôme Boateng and the rested Mats Hummels there is a new look to the defence, with new boy Süle joining Joshua Kimmich and Shkodran Mustafi. Skipper Schweinsteiger occupies the sole defensive midfield role, while Jonas Hector and the recalled Karim Bellarabi are out wide.

Meyer is in the centre of the offensive unit alongside Brandt and another returnee in Kevin Volland, while Mario Götze is in the false nine position up front. The anthems are both played, and both teams are ready to get going on what is a fine evening at the Borussia-Park.

1 min. The visitors, dressed in blue and white, get things under way as Belaruss.

5 mins. A solid start for the home team, who have started to pass the ball around well and establish a steady tempo high up the pitch.

8 mins. Kimmich and Brandt combine nicely down the right, but the ball into the box is cleared behind by a blue shirt. Bellarabi’s corner is taken quickly but comes to nothing.

12 mins. Schweinsteiger is being cheered every time he touches the ball, and his ball out to the right is picked up by the pacy Bellarabi. The Leverkusen man’s cutback is touched by keeper Lukas Hrádecký, and Finland clear the danger.

14 mins. Meyer gets a shot on goal from outside the area after collecting a Schweinsteiger pass, but his well-hit low shot is easily collected by Hrádecký.

16 mins. Meyer is tugged by Finnish skipper Niklas Moisander, and Germany win a free-kick in a dangerous position. Schweinsteiger takes the shot which takes a deflection off the wall for a corner. Meyer’s deliver is excellent, but Mustafi heads over the bar. That was a really good opportunity.

19 mins. Hans Backe’s side win a corner at the other end, but Kimmich clears the danger.

24 mins. Germany break at pace and once again Meyer is in the middle of it, finding new Leverkusen team mate Volland inside the Finnish box. Volland cuts the ball back inside the helpless Hrádecký, but there is no white shirt there to provide a finish.

26 mins. Nearly the opening goal for the hosts, as Hector’s sharp cross from the left is almost turned into his own net by Finnish right-back Paulus Arajuuri. Luckily for him, the ball crashes off the post.

32 mins. Bellarabi’s smart ball inside finds Brandt, whose even smarter pass into the box finds Götze. The new Dortmund signing does all the hard work as he takes the ball around the Finnish ‘keeper, but spends too much time looking for a shooting chance before being dispossessed.

33 mins. Germany are smelling the goal now, and Bellarabi sends a wild shot high over the bar.

36 mins. Bellarabi dances towards the edge of the penalty area and finds Meyer, whose gets way too much elevation on his left-footed effort.

38 mins. Bellarabi looks to send a cross into the opposition box, but the ball is easily collected by Hrádecký.

40 mins. Finland haven’t offered much and ter Stegen has had a quiet night between the sticks, but at the other end the Germans have not been effective enough in the final third. Plenty of half chances, but nothing for the Finnish ‘keeper to get too worried about.

42 mins. Just as I say that, Süle is given way too much time on the ball outside the Finnish penalty area. He gets in a firm shot which looks to be curling just inside the post, but Hrádecký dives to his right to turn it behind. Inevitably, nothing comes from the resulting corner.

43 mins. The busy Brandt finds Volland to his right, and the flag is raised for offside. It is very tight, but the Leverkusen man hits the side netting anyway.

45 mins. There’s a minute of additional time, but Löw’s men are content to keep the ball.

45+1 mins. The whistle blows for half-time.

Plenty of possession for the Mannschaft, but nothing to show for it in what has been a match played at a relaxed tempo. This is a opening autumn friendly, and it looks like one. Nothing of note from the Finns, and some (gentle) huff and puff from the home team – and plenty of possession.

As expected, there are some changes from both coaches. Ter Stegen’s easy night as a spectator is over as he is replaced by Bernd Leno. For the visitors, Kasper Hämäläinen makes way for Teemu Pukki.

46 mins. The men in white shirts gets the second half going.

47 mins. Pukki gets some early action just outside the German box, but is well marshalled by Mustafi.

49 mins. Mustafi is challenged and looks to have tweaked an ankle, but is able to continue. Jonathan Tah looks as though he is getting ready to come on, but sits back down.

51 mins. The visitors engineer a fast break as the Germans are caught napping, and Jere Uronen’s teasing ball across the German goal is just too far in front of the fast-advancing Pukki.

53 mins. Süle finds Volland on the left, who muscles his way past Thomas Lam before stabbing the ball across the face of the Finnish goal.

55 mins. Finally, we have a goal. Götze breaks down the right, his ball back into the box is well left by Volland, and Meyer charges through the middle to execute a brave left-footed finish. After his excellent showing at the Olympics, it is Meyer’s first goal for the senior Mannschaft. 1-0.

Max Meyer arrives to open the scoring for the Mannschaft after fifty-five minutes

56 mins. Bellarabi has a shot on target, but it is easily gathered by Hrádecký.

58 mins. A second change for the Mannschaft, as Jonathan Tah comes on for Süle. There’s a distinct Bayer Leverkusen look about this German team right now, with five Werkselfers on the pitch: Leno, Tah, Bellarabi, Volland and Brandt.

60 mins. A double change for Finland. Janne Saksela and Rasmus Schüller are on for Uronen and Robin Lod.

61 mins. A pitch invader in a Schweinsteiger shirt arrives, and is met with little resistance as he makes a beeline for the great man. There’s time for a selfie before he ambles off the pitch. Harmless enough, but what were pitch security up to?

63 mins. The changes are coming thick and fast now, as Hector makes way for Mesut Özil.

65 mins. The ball is in the Finnish box, and Mustafi is somehow able to get it back to Götze who has the goal at his mercy from point-blank range. He gets his shot in, but Finnish sub Saksela slides him to make a excellent block.

66 mins. Kimmich and Götze combine down the right, and Bellarabi’s shot is blocked by Hrádecký.

68 mins. The biggest cheer of the night. Schweinsteiger is beaming as he walks off the pitch. Handshakes and hugs all round as the skipper is replaced by Julian Weigl.

72 mins. Two more changes for Finland. Eero Markkanen is on for Joel Pohjanpalo and Sakari Mattila replaces Markus Halsti.

74 mins. A speculative long distance effort from Brandt is hit straight at Hrádecký.

77 mins. There’s some lovely work from Volland down the left, and his reverse pass finds Özil. The Arsenal man’s cross takes a wicked deflection off Arajuuri, and it is too much for Hrádecký. 2-0.

Mesut Özil is congratulated by team mates after his deflected second goal

78 mins. Another change for the Mannschaft, as Brandt makes way for Thomas Müller. Müller was clearly not expecting to come on, as he hastily finds someone to look after his wedding ring.

81 mins. Finland’s next change. Juhani Ojala is on for Atajuuri.

86 mins. The match is drawing to a close now. Finland look content to leave with a 2-0 defeat, while the home side look satisfied with what has been an easy evening’s work. Both German ‘keepers have been little more than spectators both on the pitch and the bench.

89 mins. Götze shows show neat skills after collecting a sweet short pass from Özil, but goes down way to easily as two blue shirts close in on him. The referee waves play on.

90 mins. There are three minutes of additional time to play.

90+3 mins. Right at the death, Finland have an excellent chance for a consolation as they break at speed. Pukki is clean in on goal, but Leno is quickly off his line to execute the block. The final whistle blows.

As August friendlies go, nobody was expecting anything energetic – and so it proved. The friendliest of friendlies, and an easy win for a German team that didn’t even need to get out of first gear. The result was satisfactory and the level of the performance will surely improve when the real business begins later in the week against Norway, but the night was always going to be about one man.

A satisfactory result, and a game that was far from a spectacle. But none of that mattered. It was all about Basti.

For Bastian Schweinsteiger, it was the perfect farewell and closure to what has been a stellar career. Basti, we will all miss you.

v Finland, Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach, 31.08.2016

2-0 (0-0)
Meyer 55., Özil 77. / –

Germany: ter Stegen (46. Leno) – Kimmich, Mustafi, Süle* (58. Tah) – Schweinsteiger (c) (68. Weigl) – Bellarabi, Hector (63. Özil) – Meyer – Volland, Brandt (78. Müller) – Götze

Finland: Hrádecký – Lam, Arajuuri (81. Ojala) Moisander (c) – Raitala, Uronen (60. Saksela) – Ring, Halsti (72. Mattila), Lod (60. Schüller) – Hämäläinen (46. Pukki), Pohjanpalo (72. Markkanen)

Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov (Belarus)
Assistants: Dmitry Zhuk (Belarus), Oleg Masylyanko (Belarus)

Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 68% / 32%
Attempts on Target: 8 / 2
Attempts off Target: 6 / 0
Corners: 8 / 2
Fouls Committed: 5 / 3

Attendance: 30,121

*Full international debut

Farewell, Fußballgott: Basti says goodbye in Mönchengladbach

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