Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, 22.03.2017
Podolski 69. / –
Germany: ter Stegen – Kimmich, Rüdiger, Hummels, Hector – Weigl (66. Can), Kroos – Brandt (59. Schürrle), Podolski (c) (84. Rudy), Sané – Werner* (77. Müller)
England: Hart – Keane, Smalling (85. Stones), Cahill (c) – Walker, Livermore (82. Ward-Prowse), Dier, Bertrand (83. Shaw) – Lallana (65. Redmond), Alli (71. Lingard) – Vardy (71. Rashford)
Colours: Germany – white shirts, black shorts, white socks; England – dark blue shirts, dark blue shorts, dark blue socks
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Assistants: Jure Praprotnik (Slovenia), Robert Vukan (Slovenia)
Fourth Official: Matej Jug (Slovenia)
Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –
Match Programme Details
The A4-sized edition of Aktuell – the official DFB match programme – for the 2017 fixture against England in Dortmund contains ninety-eight pages, retaining the cover price of one Euro. On the cover is World Cup winning midfielder Lukas Podolski, marking his final match in the Nationaltrikot.
There is an introduction by DFB President Reinhard Grindel, with features on the history of the Germany v England fixture and 130-cap veteran Podolski.
Dimensions: 297 x 210 mm (Standard A4)
Numbered Pages: 98
After an eight gap between their previous matches in Germany, England would make their second visit in just under a year when they lined up for the thirty-fifth meeting between the two countries in Dortmund or the thirty-first if you choose to ignore the four amateur fixtures played before 1930. Having played their previous two matches against the Three Lions at the bogey ground in Berlin, the move to Dortmund was a pleasant change of scenery for the Mannschaft.
Germany’s record at the Westfalenstadion was near perfect, with only one defeat – the 2-0 semi-final reverse against Italy at the World Cup in 2006. After Berlin, Nürnberg, Hannover, Düsseldorf and München, the Ruhrpott city became the sixth venue to host this famous fixture.
While Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw was comfortably fine-tuning the German squad ahead of the upcoming Confederations Cup in Russia, England were in a serious state of flux. A terrible campaign at the European Championships in France had ended with an ignominious 2-1 defeat against popular outsiders Iceland, which had resulted in the dismissal of manager Roy Hodgson. Then, Hodgson’s successor Sam Allardyce would only have one match in charge before he was forced to resign following allegations of financial misconduct and corruption.
When German football could be content after their last-four finish at the Euros and a perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, English football was in a mess. If their performances on the pitch during the summer had been embarrassing enough, the shenanigans off it would take things to a new low.
Following Allardyce’s resignation, Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate would take over as caretaker manager at the end of September 2016. In a situation reminiscent of that of former Nationaltrainer Rudi Völler in 2000 following the scandal involving Christoph Daum, Southgate was offered the role on a permanent basis at the end of November.
Having taken the Three Lions to two wins and two draws as caretaker, the friendly in Dortmund was Southgate’s first match in charge following his being made permanent.
For German fans, the match was all about one man. Shortly after the Euro 2016 campaign, both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski would call time on their international careers. Having made their names as the heroes of the 2006 World Cup campaign, “Basti” and “Poldi” had become established senior professionals, both notching up a century of international caps.
The idea was for both players to bid farewell in the autumn friendly against Finland in Mönchengladbach, but an injury to Podolski meant that Schweinsteiger would have to say goodbye on his own. Out of action for the remainder of 2016, Podolski would have to delay his farewell until the following year. One could not have written a better script. On his 130th and final appearance in the Nationaltrikot, the thirty-one year old would lead out the team, wearing the captain’s armband for the first and last time. Then, he would get his final moment of glory, the perfect ending to what had been a stellar thirteen-year career.
With a number of the big names rested ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan later in the week, the team was a balanced mix of youth and experience. While Podolski was singing off on his long and successful international career, another player was starting out. At the age of twenty-one, RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner became the latest addition to the long list of German internationals.
Having worn their away kit in Berlin a year earlier, it was back to normal on the Trikot front. Germany were back in their famous white shirts, black shorts and white socks, while their English opponents were kitted out in an navy blue outfit that made them look a bit like… France.
Much like in the meeting in Berlin almost a year previously, it was England that started the game the brighter. While the new-look German team struggled to find any rhythm early in the piece, the visitors were quick to apply the early pressure with their aggressive approach. The first scare would come after just six minutes, when Jamie Vardy took an outrageous tumble in the penalty box when being closed down by ‘keeper Marc-André ter Stegen. The Slovenian referee was right on the spot though, waving play on.
The home team had hardly had a look in for the opening quarter of an hour, and despite getting a few more touches of the ball there was little of the usual confidence in moving the ball around. Meanwhile, both Kyle Walker and Dele Alli were causing plenty of worries out on the flanks for England.
The discombobulated German defence had no real answers to the pace and energy of their opponents, and found themselves having to sit back and absorb the pressure. Their not conceding was more down to good luck than good judgement, with England lacking the necessary bite in the final third.
There was a little luck, too. A sharp attack engineered by Walker and Alli finished with the ball being desperately hacked away. Eric Dier, the man who had scored the winner in Berlin a year earlier, was unable to repeat the feat as he sent a header straight into the grateful arms of ter Stegen. Then, a charge into the box by Adam Lallana saw the Liverpool man beat the diving ter Stegen, only to see the ball crash against the base of the post.
With most of the play taking place in the German half, there were few bright moments for the home side at the other end. Joe Hart in the England goal was never threatened during the opening forty-five minutes, but one of the few forays forward by Löw’s side would result in a good claim for a penalty. Julian Brandt’s ball in the box was clearly handled by England captain Gary Cahill, but the referee remained unmoved.
Southgate’s men would create an another excellent opportunity shortly before half time, but for all his pace Alli was found wanting when it really mattered. Breaking free into space, the Spurs man did all of the hard work before hitting his shot straight at ter Stegen.
There must have been some strong words in the German dressing room at half time, as the home side returned to the pitch with what looked like a greater sense of purpose. Brandt would sent a shot narrowly wide after a poor punched clearance from Hart, and the hitherto absent Podolski was also able to get into the game. England continued to play with gusto, but were unable to match the territorial dominance they had been able to impose in the first half.
When the disappointing Brandt made way for André Schürrle just before the hour mark, the Mannschaft were finally able to edge their way out of first gear. It was if a switch had been flicked. Leroy Sané went close as the Mannschaft upped the ante, and things slowly started to come to the boil. The midfield, stagnant for most of the first hour, had started to tick. Germany had started to look like Germany.
In the sixty-ninth minute, the busy Schürrle found Podolski just outside the England penalty area. Taking full advantage of the space being afforded to him, the veteran unleashed a left-footed thunderbolt that flew past Hart before crashing into the back of the net. German fans had seen plenty of Poldi’s famous left foot over the years, and he had scored far more important goals. But for many, his forty-ninth and final international goal would be the most poignant.
The cheers almost blew the roof of the Westfalenstadion clean off as the beaming Podolski charged in celebration to the touchline, and the goal clearly energised both the German players and the crowd of just over sixty thousand. The pendulum had swung decisively in the Mannschaft’s direction, and for the remaining twenty minutes Jogi Löw’s side were able to take things easily. Sané could have doubled the lead when he scuffed a shot straight at Hart, and with ten minutes remaining the men in white passed the ball around for close to two minutes to shouts of Olé from the crowd.
There was even time for Podolski to enjoy a film star exit six minutes from time, accompanied by the theme from Gladiator as he made his way off the pitch. On any other day it would have been indulgent or even cheesy, but somehow it felt completely appropriate.
The German players stayed out on the pitch for a good time afterwards, milking the loud applause from the happy home crowd before delivering their own farewell for Podolski. As for the man himself, he would remain at the ground for a number of hours afterwards in his kit, posing for selfies and signing autographs.
England had threatened to tear up the script with their bravura performance and consider themselves a little unlucky not to have got a better result, but one felt that there was no way that Podolski was not going to be denied the sendoff he deserved.
Home: played 15, won 4, drawn 3, lost 8. Goals for 21, goals against 35.
Away: played 13, won 7, drawn 0, lost 6. Goals for 14, goals against 26.
Neutral: played 7, won 4, drawn 1, lost 2. Goals for 10, goals against 9.
Overall: played 35, won 15, drawn 4, lost 16. Goals for 45, goals against 70.
Competitive: played 12, won 7, drawn 2, lost 3. Goals for 18, goals against 17.