The somewhat disappointing 2-2 draw with Cameroon in Mönchengladbach would put plenty of pressure on the team and coach Joachim Löw to deliver in their final match before the World Cup, and after a rather testing first half they wouldn’t disappoint. On an evening that would see seven second-half goals with five coming in the final eighteen minutes, there would also be time to see Miroslav Klose finally overhaul Gerd Müller’s long-standing goalscoring record.
However, the fantastic performance in the second half spearheaded by a resurgent Lukas Podolski would not be all happiness and light, with the evening overshadowed by the sad sight of a hobbling Marco Reus being helped off the pitch just before half-time with what was clearly a nasty-looking ankle injury.
News would come through the following day that Reus had torn an ankle ligament and will as a result miss out on the tournament in Brazil, and his becoming the latest name to be added to a long list of first-choice absentees would clearly put a dampener on what had in the end been a bright and morale-boosting victory over a game but ultimately ineffective Armenian side.
Reus would be rushed to hospital while his team mates were still on the pitch in Mainz, and when the news came through about his being sidelined for up to seven weeks the football world’s heart would break yet again. Rather than play his rightful part in what has been billed as a showcase of the world’s greatest footballing talent, Reus would join a growing list of absentees. The fleet-footed Borussia Dortmund winger will not only be missed by fans of the Nationalmannschaft, but lovers of the game all over the world.
A striken Marco Reus. Just like that, his World Cup is over.
Reus’ replacement would be named the following morning: while many of us had been expecting the recall of another attacking player such as Kevin Volland, Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw would instead make the announcement that Sampdoria central defender Shkodran Mustafi would be wearing Reus’ number 21 shirt in Brazil. A surprising decision perhaps, but given the coach’s position on the traditional striker role perhaps not.
Having named his final twenty three, the game against Armenia at the compact Coface Arena would be the perfect opportunity for the coach to fine-tune his tactics and reintroduce some of the players who had been out of action due to injury. While ‘keeper Manuel Neuer would sit things out, there would be recalls for skipper Philipp Lahm and midfield cog Bastian Schweinsteiger, who would come off the bench. The defence would see Jérôme remain out at right back with Benedikt Höwedes out on the left, and a new look Doppelsechs of Lahm and Sami Khedira would sit behind an offensive midfield trio of Reus, Toni Kroos and André Schürrle. With striker Miroslav Klose again on the bench, the striker slot would be occupied by Thomas Müller.
Facts and Stats
Mainz’s Coface Arena would become the fortieth ground since the war to host an international match, and Germany’s opponents Armenia would make their first visit since their 4-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier back in 1997. The first match between the two countries had resulted in a 5-1 win for the Germans in Yerevan, and this time the Armenians – ranked 38th in the world – would be looking to keep things tight at the back.
Playing for Germany for the 106th time, skipper Lahm would move clear ahead of Jürgen Kohler into fifth place on the all-time appearance list, while his appearance in the second half would push Bastian Schweinsteiger into eighth place on 102 caps, one ahead of Thomas Häßler and just one behind the legendary Franz Beckenbauer. Another mover on the appearances list would be Per Mertesacker, who would move onto 98 caps – level with former team mate Michael Ballack and two short of becoming the team’s tenth centurion.
On what would be be 132nd international appearance, Klose would finally overtake Der Bomber with his 77th minute header.
The first half would largely be a frustrating affair, with the Germans creating a number of decent opportunities but failing to break the deadlock. The Armenian defence would be resolute in defence, but on another evening Löw’s side could have been two or three goals up at half-time.
The real drama would come three minutes from the break however, as a rather innocuous-looking challenge for the ball by Reus would see him collapse to the ground in pain. He would be helped off the pitch and immediately sent to hospital for a scan, but just watching the replay you knew something was not quite right.
The second half by contrast would see a flurry of goals, and it was as if the men in white suddenly remembered how to his the target. A lovely opener from Schürrle would light the blue touchpaper, and although substitute Kevin Großkreutz’s clumsy challenge would gift Armenia an equaliser from the penalty spot it was just a matter of time before the home side upper a gear. Podolski would rifle in the second to restore the Mannschaft’s lead, and after that the Armenians couldn’t stem the flow.
Podolski would be the catalyst in providing three assists to go with his goal, and the rout would be completed by Höwedes, the inevitable Klose and a late brace from Mario Götze.
Conclusion and Ratings
The injury to Reus would be the leading story, but the dark cloud could perhaps have a silver lining with the form of both Podolski and Schürrle. While the latter was impressive throughout with his darting runs – the only criticism could possibly be his being caught offside too many times – and Podolski was simply magnificent. Having been castigated during Euro 2012 with many commentators believing that he was on his way out, the Arsenal winger is clearly hungrier than ever.
There was a much better tempo throughout than there had been against Cameroon, but once again the introduction of Podolski and then Klose would result in a more direct approach that would prove to be devastating against a hard-working but at times tactically naive Armenian defence. It was pure simplicity without overkill, and the presence of Klose up front as a clear and obvious target man would help the team squash the life out of the opposition.
The presence of Klose would even make Mesut Özil awake from his languid slumber: I have long believed that Özil functions better when there is a target man in front of him, and his almost symbiotic relationship with Klose would once again be illustrated by the midfield maestro’s performance in the latter stages as Armenia were put to the sword by a merciless German attack.
Then we have Klose himself. No matter what the coach and the tactical gurus may think and say about the death of the traditional number nine, nothing beats a player who can perform the role so well. Oh to have a younger Klose in the side: even at thirty-five, he still looked the part and could very easily have finished with a hat-trick.
A quiet game for the Borussia Dortmund ‘keeper, making his fine flying save right at the end even better. Went sent the wrong way from the penalty spot by club team mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and they’ll sure be talking about that on the training ground next season.
A solid display at right-back from the FC Bayern man, who looks like he is all set to occupy the role in Brazil. Was solid at the back without really being tested, was string going forward and had some decent efforts on goal. Made way for Kevin Großkreutz after sixty-seven minutes.
Having endured plenty of criticism last year Mertesacker appears to have settle down nicely. Was never really tested by the Armenian attack, but was on the spot to deal with any danger in what was another consistent performance.
Probably the weakest link in the defence at the moment, and for all his talent is still liable to produce an error. A few mistakes, but not enough to cost the team.
Brought in to start at left back, Höwedes is looking a good bet in the position after a very encouraging display. Solid enough in defence, but excellent going forward with a number of dangerous runs that were almost Brehmesque. Capped off a great performance with a well-taken goal.
Khedira is slowly coming back to his best, and despite not really being tested turned out another decent display. Another week should see him approaching full match fitness. Was replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger after fifty-nine minutes.
Slotting into the midfield role the returning skipper would have a solid if not exactly spectacular game. Like Khedira, should be back at his best in time for the opening World Cup match against Portugal. Made way for Mesut Özil at the start of the second half.
Following his fine cameo against Cameroon, another noteworthy display by the Chelsea winger. Was constantly harassing the opposition defence with his sharp runs down the flanks, and scored a lovely goal to opening the night’s scoring. Replaced by Mario Götze with a quarter of an hour remaining.
A relatively quiet game for the FC Bayern man, who started out in the offensive trio before slipping back into his more customary holding role alongside club team mate BSchweinsteiger. Nothing spectacular, but good awareness and distribution.
An ordinary evening by the Dortmund winger’s high standards where he would have a couple of decent chances, but nobody will be thinking about that. Three minutes before half-time, an innocuous-looking challenge and torn ankle ligament would rule him out of the World Cup. Replaced by Lukas Podolski.
Was here there and everywhere as usual, but overall a slightly fractured performance. Started out in the striker’s position and had a few half-chances, but was not his usual self in front of goal. Was replaced by Klose after sixty-seven minutes.
Came on for the injured Reus just before half-time, and almost single-handedly turned the game around. Set up Schürrle for the first goal and scored the second before setting up the fourth and fifth. Fast, strong and incisive, Podolski is clearly determined to win back his place in the starting eleven, and following the injury to Reus his performance could very well be the silver lining around the dark cloud.
After an ordinary display against Cameroon Özil would make a second half appearance in place of Lahm, and after a slightly sluggish start would work his way into the game. his all-round play would be dramatically improved by the arrival of Klose, and would almost look like the Özil of old. Was unlucky not to score when a typically deft shot hit the base of the post.
A welcome return Schweinsteiger, who entered the fray just short of the hour mark in place of Khedira. Quickly looked comfortable, and delivered the looping pass that would result in Benedikt Höwedes’ goal.
Replaced Boateng after sixty-seven minutes, and before he had even got a touch on the ball would send Gevorg Ghazaryan sprawling in the box. Was never really tested after that, and was involved in the buildup to the somewhat chaotic sixth and final goal.
Came on in place of Müller midway through the second half, and within moments was in the thick of the action. While not as sharp as the Klose of old, he would be on hand to head home Germany’s fourth goal after seven-seven minutes – and with it earn a place in the history books as the Nationalmannschaft’s highest goalscorer.
A fifteen minute cameo from the exciting midfield playmaker. Replacing Schürrle, Götze would put the nail in the Armenian coffin with two late well-taken finishes.
Weidenfeller (3), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (2), Hummels (3), Höwedes (3) Khedira (3), Lahm (2), Schürrle (2), Kroos (2), Reus (3) – Müller (2) Substitutes (until 75 mins): Podolski (1), Özil (3), Schweinsteiger (3), Klose (2), Großkreutz (4), Götze (3)
Weidenfeller (3), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (2.5), Hummels (3), Höwedes (2.5) Khedira (3), Lahm (3), Schürrle (2), Kroos (3), Reus (3) – Müller (2.5) Substitutes: Podolski (1), Özil (2), Schweinsteiger (3)
Weidenfeller (3), Boateng (2), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (3.5), Höwedes (2) Khedira (3), Lahm (3), Schürrle (2), Kroos (3), Reus (3) – Müller (3) Substitutes: Podolski (1), Özil (3), Schweinsteiger (3), Klose (2), Großkreutz (4), Götze (2)