Boys against journeymen

OK, it was a friendly. Yes, there were a couple of duff penalty decisions – one given to Australia, one not given to Germany. Yes, the game flipped on its head in a crazy three minute spell. Yes, Australia’s penalty scorer Luke Wilkshire should have been sent off for a horrid foul that had no part in a friendly game. And yes, this was a young and inexperienced German team. But let’s not beat around the bush here – these youngsters are among the Bundesliga’s finest and brightest young things, and they should have easily disposed of what could best be described as a bunch of hard-tackling yet very average journeymen from down under.

Instead, we got to see yet another poor friendly performance and Jogi Löw’s third home defeat. I can understand the reason to experiment with the squad a little, but Jogi needs to realise that people are paying good money to watch this. It’s not the fact that the team lost – they were unlucky, and Scheiß happens – but that they were pretty awful, particularly in the second half where they didn’t make one decent chance.

The much-observed striker Mario Gómez was hauled off after seventy-minutes and exchaged frosty looks with the Nationaltrainer, but the fact remains that he was given little or no service after scoring his stunning opener. André Schürrle looked sharp in short bursts, but lacked overall consistency. Skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger looked tired, the usually ebullient Thomas Müller looked uninterested, and debutant Sven Bender looked out of his depth at this level. The only man in the midfield unit who looked as though he wanted to be there was Lukas Podolski, who ironically let himself and the team down on account of his unselfish play.

The new-look defensive unit were also lacking. It was Mats Hummels whose gaffe allowed the Socceroos to get their equaliser out of nowhere, though ‘keeper Tim Wiese was just as much to blame. I have never really rated Christian Träsch, though I am not going to blame him for giving away the penalty – it clearly wasn’t a foul. Arne Friedrich looked far from fully fit, and Marcel Schmelzer needs to spend more time developing his game.

As for Wiese, he wasn’t really tested but when he did need to show his alertless he was just too slow off the mark. With René Adler’s continual injury problems, Jogi needs to look elsewhere for a backup for Manuel Neuer – Wiese is just too slow and unpredictable, and wouldn’t even make my own top Bundesliga top five. Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller and Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler are just two alternatives that come to mind.

There’s not much I can say about the actual match itself. A quiet start, good German pressure leading up to a great twenty-sixth minute Gómez strike sharply set up by Schürrle, and then not much else afterwards. The Australian side were solid enough, but threatened nothing until Mats Hummels’ gaffe gifted David Carney with the equaliser on the hour mark.

As for the penalty that turned the game completely on its head two minutes later, well – some you get, some you don’t. It wasn’t a foul as Träsch clearly got the ball and Harry Kewell went down in what was at worst a tangle of legs, but the referee pointed to the spot. Luke Wilkshire – who on another day might well have been dismissed for his two-footed flying tackle on Schmelzer less than ten minutes earlier – drilled it home, and that was that.

Old hand Miroslav Klose provided a bit of a spark when he came on for Gómez with seventeen minutes left on the clock; he sent one shot narrowly wide of the target when the ball wouldn’t quite sit for him, and right at the death was clearly clipped in the opposition box – only to be given a yellow card by Monsieur Magoo for his pains.

The match official’s myopia at both ends of the park should not be used as an excuse, however: the fact remains that had this talented young side played to even fifty percent of their ability the game would have been in the bag long before. Instead, the plaudits went to the Socceroos and their German coach Holger Osieck – one of the men who had stood by Franz Beckenbauer’s side during Italia ’90.

It would be easy to dismiss both the performance of the German side and the result on account of the match being a friendly: where there is little or nothing at stake, players who mightt otherwise give their all may unconciously take a mental step back for fear of injury. In an interview on the Bundesliga website, Miro Klose would admit as much: when quizzed on comments made by Bayern president Uli Hoeneß that such games are “pointless”, Klose clearly referred to the threat of injury, “especially against a team like Australia who like to get stuck in”.

With this thought in mind one needs to look no further than Luke Wilkshire’s grotesque tackle on Marcel Schmelzer, which could very well have resulted in serious injury for the young Dortmunder. Would six months on the physio’s bench have been worth it?

Right, time to throw some shrimps on the barbie. Or not, as it is now raining outside.

v Australia, Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach (Friendly International) 29.03.2011

1-2 (1-0)
Gómez 26. / Carney 61., Wilkshire pen 64.

Team: Wiese – Träsch, A. Friedrich, Hummels, Schmelzer – Schweinsteiger (c) (64. Kroos), S. Bender* – Schürrle, T. Müller (64. Götze), Podolski – Gómez (73. Klose)

* Full international debut

Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (France)
Assistants: Eric Dansault (Frankreich), Michael Annonier (France)
Fourth Official: Marc Seemann (Germany)

Yellow Cards: Träsch, Klose / Jedinak, McKay
Red Cards: – / –

Attempts on Target: 4 / 3
Attempts off Target: 6 / 3
Corners: 4 / 5
Fouls Committed: 8 / 17

Attendance: 30,152

Boys against journeymen
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