After a rather painful 2014/15, Germany resume their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in what is a top of the table clash against neighbours Poland. After losing to the Poles for the first time in their history in Warsaw last year, Joachim Löw’s side will be looking at exacting revenge – while putting themselves back in pole position at the top of the group table.
New Manchester United signing Bastian Schweinsteiger is back in Germany to lead the team on his 112th international appearance, while at the other end of the experience scale Liverpool’s Emre Can – like Schweinsteiger another FC Bayern youth product – takes his first bow for the Nationaltrikot at senior level.
‘Keeper Manuel Neuer is back in the starting eleven after a two-match break, while new boy Can slots into the right-back role with Sebastian Rudy on the bench. There’s the established central defensive partnership of Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels, while 1. FC Köln’s ever-improving Jonas Hector is out on the left.
The two-man defensive midfield unit sees former FC Bayern München men Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos back together, while further up the field Thomas Müller is also back from a two-game rest, lining up alongside Mesut Özil and Karim Bellarabi. Up front is the roving “false nine”, Mario Götze.
The two teams walk out on what is a pleasant evening at the Commerzbank-Arena, a far cry from the famous Wasserschlacht of 1974. There’s a minute of silence after the national anthems – which turns into a minute of applause – for the late former DFB president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder.
1 min. Germany are kitted out in their now familiar all-white outfit, with the visitors all in red. In front of a capacity crowd, Poland get things underway.
3 mins. Poland start brightly, but Germany win the first corner as Özil and Bellarabi combine nicely down the left. The corner is swung in, but Müller’s head floats over the bar.
6 mins. A long ball catches the Polish defence a little flat-footed and Hector plays a neat cutback for Bellarabi. The Bayer Leverkusen winger’s shot is deflected behind for a corner which ends up in the hands of Polish ‘keeper Łukasz Fabiański.
8 mins. Müller is clattered by Maciej Rybus, who is shown the yellow card of the game by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli.
10 mins. It has been an excellent opening ten minutes for the home side, with Bellarabi the pick so far.
12 mins. A lovely move, and Germany are in front. It’s like a scene from Hannibal as the Polish defence is carved open with deft panache. In a move that starts deep in the German half, Schweinsteiger and then Kroos find Özil out on the left, who sends a sublime pass to advancing left-back Hector. Playing a quick one-two with Bellarabi, Hector cuts the ball back perfectly for Müller, who strokes the ball home from five yards with his left foot. 1-0.
After a glorious move that sees the Polish defence wide torn open, Thomas Müller opens the scoring for the Mannschaft
17 mins. There’s a threat from the Poles as Robert Lewandowski gets a shot in that is blocked, but after a little bit of a scramble the men in white clear their lines.
19 mins. Now here’s a thing of beauty. Kroos holds off his marker and sends a lovely pass out to Hector on the left, who quickly taps the ball inside to Götze at the edge of the Polish box. The red-shirted defenders stand back, Götze dances inside and unleashes a lovely right-footed shot that beats Fabiański at his near post. 2-0.
After leaving the Polish defence transfixed, Mario Götze elegantly sweeps Germany into a two-goal lead
24 mins. Kroos sends in Germany’s third corner of the evening, and Hummels’ header floats harmlessly over.
27 mins. Another corner, but straight into the hands of Fabiański.
31 mins. Özil is looking in top form, with plenty of smart touches. A crisp back-heeled pass finds the fast advancing Bellarabi.
34 mins. More nice movement, and Müller’s shot is blocked. This is a massive contrast to this time last year. The smooth movement is back, the confidence is there for all to see, and they are once again playing like world champions. The crowd are just itching for a third goal now.
37 mins. Out of nowhere, Poland are gifted a foothold. Poland counterattack quickly, and the German defence are all over the place. Collecting a long ball from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Grosicki is able to find plenty of space down the left before sending in a neat cross into the German box. Robert Lewandowski is there to meet it with a diving header, and although ‘keeper Manuel Neuer gets a hand on the ball he is unable to keep it out. 2-1.
Out of nowhere, Robert Lewandowski has the ball in the back of the German net, with Manuel Neuer left helpless.
41 mins. Another German corner comes to nothing.
43 mins. Poland are forced into making a change just before the break, as Łukasz Piszczek hobbles off to make way for 1. FC Köln’s Paweł Olkowski.
45 mins. It’s a real jittery end to the half for Löw’s side. A poor clearance from Neuer comes back with interest as the ‘keeper makes up for his gaffe with a world class save to deny Bayern team mate Lewandowski, and from the resulting corner the unmarked Polish striker’s header is on target but cleared off the line by Götze. Panic over, the whistle is blown for half-time.
One cannot deny that it has been an exciting first half. After dominating for the opening half an hour and knocking on the door in search of a third goal, the Mannschaft were caught completely cold. Cue the return of that all too familiar panic, which almost allowed Poland to grab an equaliser just before the break.
46 mins. Germany get the second half going.
48 mins. Bellarabi finds space on the left inside the Polish box and is all set to pull the trigger, but Grzegorz Krychowiak times his challenge perfectly. Both Bellarabi and the Polish defender end up on the turf, but all is well.
51 mins. Özil floats down the left with intent and rolls the ball in towards Müller, who sends his shot well wide of the target.
52 mins. Possibly the result of the previous challange, Bellarabi makes his way off the pitch to be replaced by İlkay Gündoğan. With the Leverkusen man now off the pitch Özil should move out to the wing, with the substitute taking up the central position.
55 mins. Gündoğan makes a good run down the middle, but can’t find another white shirt in the final third.
57 mins. More lovely stuff from the home side, who are once again looking good. Gündoğan has made an impact immediately and makes a run into the box only to be foiled by Krychowiak, and with the Poles unable to get a foot on the ball Götze sends a curling shot around Fabianski only to see it cannon off the base of the post.
59 mins. The play switches to the other end, and a well-timed cross is pushed out by Neuer onto Grosicki. The ball rolls narrowly wide of the post, but the Polish striker was clearly in an offside position anyway.
61 mins. Kroos is booked for a foul on Krychowiak.
63 mins. Poland make their second change, with Jakub Błaszczykowski replacing Krzysztof Mączyński.
65 mins. Can wins another corner out on the right, which is worked a little better. Kroos sends the ball in low, Can dummies, and Schweinsteiger sweeps the ball over under pressure from a red shirt.
67 mins. Löw’s men are looking good again, but they really need that third goal to calm their nerves. Poland are still looking dangerous on the break.
68 mins. Just as I type that, the Poles create another half chance. The dangerous Grosicki is well tracked by Hummels though, and Neuer collects.
71 mins. Another chance. Gündoğan tees up Özil whose shot is pushed away by Fabiański, and Müller can’t get a shot in as he is hassled by two Polish defenders. The ball is put behind for a corner.
72 mins. The corners are getting better, and this time Hummels gets on the end of it only to see Fabiański keep the ball out right on the line.
77 mins. And another chance. This time Götze has his shot blocked by Kamil Glik after some great play from the outstanding Gündoğan who makes his way to the byline before sending in a sharp low cross.
79 mins. Schweinsteiger is booked for a late challenge on the marauding Błaszczykowski. Milik’s kick is well delivered but the ball floats wide off Lewandowski, who is offside anyway.
82 mins. Götze finds space down the left, and his cross is well met by Müller, whose shot takes a deflection that wrongfoots Fabiański. The Polish keeper manages to keep the ball out with his legs, but having continued his run into the box Götze is on hand to sweep in the rebound with his left foot. It has taken some doing, but the two-goal cushion has been restored. 3-1.
Polish ‘keeper Łukasz Fabiański is left helpless as Götze taps in goal number three
82 mins. Poland’s final substitution. Sławomir Peszko is on for Grosicki.
88 mins. The Mannschaft are now passing the ball about and making the occasional burst forward. Fabiański is forced to tip the ball over after another slick move and a shot from Gündoğan.
90+1 mins. Two-goal hero Mario Götze gets a warm round of applause as his evening ends just as the clock ticks past the ninety minute mark. Lukas Podolski, now with Turkish side Galatasary, is on for what some might argue is another cheap cap – it is his 126th appearance in the famous white Trikot.
90+2 mins. The referee’s whistle blows for full time.
In an exciting and well-contested encounter, there was plenty of drama. Germany were the class act with many moments of sublime artistry, but the well-drilled Poles gave as good as they got. That infamous panic at the back threatened to derail Löw’s side at the end of the first half, but in the end 3-1 was a fair result.
The Mannschaft are back at the top of the group table, two points clear of the Poles in second place. A win in Scotland in four days time will almost certainly secure their place at the Euro finals in France.
v Poland, Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, 04.09.2015
Müller 12., Götze 19., 82. / Lewandowski 37.
Germany: Neuer – Can, Boateng, Hummels, Hector – Schweinsteiger (c), Kroos – Müller, Özil, Bellarabi (53. Gündoğan) – Götze (90.+1. Podolski)
Poland: Fabiański – Piszczek (43. Olkowski), Szukała, Glik, Rybus – Jodłowiec, Krychowiak – Mączyński (63. Błaszczykowski), Grosicki (83. Peszko) – Lewandowski (c), Milik
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
Assistants: Elenito Di Liberatore (Italy), Mauro Tonolini (Italy)
Goal Line Assistants: Luca Banti (Italy), Antonio Damato (Italy)
Fourth Official: Gianluca Cariolato (Italy)
Yellow Cards: Rybus, Grosicki / Kroos, Schweinsteiger
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 70% / 30%
Attempts on Target: 10 / 10
Attempts off Target: 8 / 1
Corners: 9 / 2
Fouls Committed: 10 / 10