A settled team, a striker who really appears to have found his shooting boots, three more points, and a foot in the quarter-finals of the Euros… I don’t think that as supporters of the Nationalmannschaft we could have asked for any more. Well, OK – we could perhaps have killed the Dutch off a lot earlier.
I could go on and wax lyrical about Mario Gómez’ almost balletic opening goal, but let’s get on with it.
Facts and Stats
This was Germany’s thirty-ninth game against the Netherlands, and their fifteenth win – with fourteen draws and ten defeats. Until yesterday’s win the Oranje had held the upper hand on the Mannschaft in European Championship finals, but as of now the record between the two teams stands at two wins each and one draw.
With his two goals Mario Gómez became the tournament’s joint-top goalscorer alongside Russia’s Alan Dzagoev, and has now netted twenty-five times in fifty-four matches. He has now scored three goals in his last two appearances, and should he do match this in his next games he will take his goals per game record to 0.5.
Miroslav Klose would appear late in the second half to take his tally of international caps to 118, while winger Lukas Podolski would earn his ninety-ninth cap, putting him one game shy of becoming the seventh German player to reach the century mark. Should Podolski make his 100th appearance against Denmark on Sunday, he will become the youngest player to achieve the feat at twenty-seven years and thirteen days.
The Team and Tactics
It could not have been easier for Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw, who was able to name the same starting eleven that had taken to the field in the opening game against Portugal. Although there were some – including myself – who had called for Klose to start instead of Gómez up front, the coach kept his faith in the FC Bayern München striker. Podolski would also benefit from the coach’s desire to maintain stability, even though the new Arsenal signing had been at best very ordinary against the Portuguese.
With their Dutch opponents having to chase the game it was always going to be a more open affair than the Mannschaft’s opener, but Löw stuck with the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation that had been so successful in the previous encounter with the Oranje at the end of 2011. While the encounter in Kharkiv would never quite reach the same heights as that encounter in Hamburg, there were many moments – particularly in the first half – where Löw’s side were simply streets ahead of the opposition.
Apart from testing final quarter of an hour where the Dutch threw everything forward in search of an equaliser, the team was able to keep its shape and withstand the pressure. The game could arguably have been put to bed before half-time, but a little bit of pressure can never be a bad thing.
Conclusion and Player Ratings
Against Portugal skipper Philipp Lahm had proved to be the one weak link in the four-man defence, but as expected he was quickly back on top form. All four men at the back would deliver a solid performance, and Bastian Schweinsteiger – who had looked tired against the Portuguese – upped the gears to show why he is such an important part of this German team. Then there was Gómez, who two first-half strikes could only be described as world-class.
Overall, this was an excellent team performance – with only one man really performing under par. Lukas Podolski was not as poor as he had been against Portugal, but it is still hard to believe how he has played two full ninety-minute spells without being substituted. He is almost guaranteed to start against Denmark and win his 100th interntional cap, but once again all eyes will be on him. He surely can’t have five bad games in a row and still be a starter. Or can he?
Had a fairly quiet first half, but would be called into action late in the second when he dived low to his right to make a fine save to deny Robin van Persie. He could do nothing to stop the Dutch goal, which caught him slightly unsighted.
After Saturday’s poor show it was business as usual for the German skipper, who used his tactical nous to keep a tight rein on his dangerous FC Bayern München team mate Arjen Robben. Was less effective than usual going foward, but a solid game nevertheless.
The big FC Bayern centre-back has an excellent footballing brain and tactical awareness, and turned out his second excellent performance in as many matches. Showed that he can be dangerous offensively as well, and was rather unlucky not to notch up his second international goal when his firm head was blocked by Dutch ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Another solid show from the Borussia Dortmund centre-back, but things could have been so different were it not for Robin van Persie’s fluffed chance early on. As against Portugal Hummels started slightly nervously, but grew in stature as the game went on. Provided one of the highlights of the match with a Nowotnyesque buccaneering run that almost resulted in his second international goal.
Followed up his good performance against Portugal with another strong defensive display, and showed great bravery to fling himself in front of a stinging Wesley Sneijder shot that took the wind out of him. Needs to improve slightly coming forward, but wasn’t afraid to show a sense of adventure with a long-range effort that ended up closer to the corner flag than he Dutch net.
Quiet, clinical, strong, efficient – and with a touch of style too. Khedira never sets the world alight and as a result is often at the end of sharp criticism from the know-it-alls in the media, but he is one of those quiet workers that keep things running smoothly. Showed excellent vision and offered great distrubution as always.
If the man described as the Mannschaft’s defensive midfield engineroom looked tired and out of sorts on Saturday, it would be a different story in Kharkiv. While perhaps still not a hundred percent fit, Schweinsteiger was behind a number of the more dangerous German moves, and capped off an excellent man-of-the-match performance – for me at least – by setting up the two winning goals. Two simple passes, but like many things the genius would be in the simplicity.
Having failed to impress in the two pre-tournament friendlies and in the opening fixture against Portugal, Podolski appears to be resting on his laurels and relying on his reputation. While yesterday’s performance was marginally better than in the previous match, the left-sided midfielder often looked isolated, and whenever he got a half of sight of goal often let fly without thinking. With talented individuals such as André Schürrle and Marco Reus waiting in the wings, Poldi needs to turn things around, and fast.
The mercurial midfield maestro found more space to roam than he did against Portugal, and while he didn’t completely dominate proceedings there was more than the occasional piece of magic. Hit the post in the early stages of the match with an audacious snapshot from the edge of the penalty area, and as usual worked well with those around him. Was replaced with ten minutes to go by Toni Kroos.
Nothing spectacular from Müller, but then we all know that the fancy stuff isn’t really his game. Made a number of good runs and kept Dutch youngster Jetro Willems on his toes, and did a great job of creating space for his team mates by pulling the opposition defence out of position with his awkward movement. Was involved in the build up for both goals. Was substituted by Lars Bender in injury time.
Unlike Miroslav Klose Mario Gómez doe not involve himself in intricate moves, but has perfected the art of being in the right place at the right time to do his job. He must have had a combined time of less than half a minute on the ball during the entire match, but this would see two spectacular goals that sent a clear message out to his critics. Having been criticised for his poor first touch, he was able to put all of this behind him in producing two exquisite, world-class finishes.
The veteran striker would get a decent run out for the last twenty or so minutes of the game, and more than played his part. Could very easily have got on the scoresheet when he almost intercepted a wayward Dutch backpass.
The Bayern München youngster entered the fray with less than ten minutes remaining, and provided additional strength to the defense as the team closed the game out.
Another injury time cameo for the Leverkusen man, who got a few touches of the ball before the final whistle.
Neuer (2), Boateng (2), Hummels (2), Badstuber (1.5), Lahm (2), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (1), Müller (3), Özil (3), Podolski (4), Gómez (1). Substitutes (before 75 minutes): Klose (3)
Neuer (2), Boateng (3), Hummels (2), Badstuber (2), Lahm (2), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (2), Özil (3), Podolski (3), Gómez (1). Substitutes – no ratings.
Neuer (1.5), Boateng (3), Hummels (2), Badstuber (2), Lahm (2), Khedira (2), Schweinsteiger (2), Müller (2), Özil (3), Podolski (3), Gómez (1). Substitutes – no ratings.
There’s a little more consistency between the ratings for this match, though both Bild and Kicker are perhaps a little harsh on Jérôme Boateng and soft on Lukas Podolski. Given the relative performance of both players having watched the entire match twice, I have no idea how anyone could give them the same score. While there is obvious agreement on the top rating given to Mario Gómez – who also won the official Men of the Match award – I have decided to venture a little out of the box in plumping for Bastian Schweinsteiger as my top performer.