After what has been an interesting 2011 which has seen the completion of a successful European Championship qualification campaign and the development of a team that is looking good enough to win the tournament, the year comes to an end with a friendly fixture against one of the Nationalmannschaft’s favourite opponents: The Netherlands. The venue is Hamburg’s Imtech-Arena – the ground where the Dutch triumphed in the Euro 1988 semi-final when it was known as the Volksparkstadion – and Jogi Löw’s side will be looking to exorcise the memories of van Basten, Koeman and Co. and end the year in style.
Given that ESPN are showing the game “delayed live”, I have had to find a suitable stream to watch the match live: today it is Super Sport, an Albanian Channel which curiously – and thankfully – is simply broadcasting the same ESPN coverage that will be aired in a couple of hours’ time here in the UK – complete with English-language commentary. No hangs, no glitches, only some irritating adverts for household products that i find myself having to kill every couple of minutes or so. Pretty, pretty good.
So, on to the line-up and pre-match preview…
After all of the speculation about 4-4-2 systems and starting with both Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez, the coach decides on the more tried and tested 4-2-3-1, with Klose leading the line. Looks good to me.
Guarding the gate: Manuel Neuer
After being rested for the Ukraine match last Friday, the immovable object returns. After conceding some very late goals in the last couple of games, Neuer will be looking to close the door on the Dutch – and his former Schalke 04 team-mate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The defensive quartet: Jérôme Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstuber, Dennis Aogo
Essentially the same back four that featured in Kyiv, but with “old boy” Mertesacker coming in for Mats Hummels. Boateng is looking to strengthen his position in the side at right-back, while Badstuber was one of the better defenders against the Ukraine and is starting to look like a certain starter. Aogo has an opportunity to play a more orthodox left-back role and get the skinning he received in Kyiv out of his system, while Mertesacker will be hoping for a solid performance to keep himself ahead of Hummels.
The midfield workhouse: Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos
K&K pair up in defensive midfield, and both players will be looking to make the most of their chance with regular Bastian Schweinsteiger being sidelined. The two provide an excellent contrast: Khedira is a solid and reliable ball-winner as well as being a bundle of energy, while Kroos has that rare delicate creative touch.
The midfield polish: Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski
Back in a more recognisable formation, the familar offensive midfield trio of Müller, Özil and Podolski will be looking to carry their form through to the big event in Poland and the Ukraine next year – the only possible reservations concerned Podolski on the left, but his starting place became a non-issue with the late withdrawal of his rival André Schürrle. Özil had a relatively quiet game against the Ukraine and will be looking to weave his magic in a more stable formation, while Müller – who created an almost immediate impact when he arrived on the field in Kyiv – will be looking to impose his energy on the gamwe right from the start.
Chasing Der Bomber: Miroslav Klose
Back leading the line in place of Mario Gómez, the veteran striker will be looking to get a little closer to Gerd Müller’s all-time German scoring record while at the same time keep the pressure up on his younger rival for the single spot up front. Gómez was slightly disappointing against the Ukraine, and Klose – who is given the captain’s armband – will be out to show what he can do against arguably far more testing opposition.
1 min Germany kick off. Almost imemdiately some nice skill on the right gives Miroslav Klose a half-chance that he puts just wide of the Dutch goal.
4 mins The first defensive gaffe from Per Mertesacker allows Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to go through, and his shot flashes across the goal face. Luckily there was no support.
5 mins A good break down the right by the Oranje, but Huntelaar is flagged for offside.
6 mins Some good play by Thomas Müller, and Sami Khedira’s shot cannons off a Dutch defender.
7 mins Klose is brough down by Wesley Sneijder who is perhaps lucky to escape a booking.
9 mins Müller again engineers another move down the right flank with Mesut Özil but the last ball played into the danger area fails to find a taker.
11 mins Ryan Babel plays the ball inside to Sneijder who has a right-footed shot from distance that flies over the German crossbar.
12 mins Klose is bundled over by John Heitinga in the centre circle. Heitinga is given a brief lecture by the Turkish referee.
15 mins Toni Kroos plays a lovely long ball across to the right of the box, Klose cuts back a beautifully-weighted first-time pass and Müller is perfectly positioned to slot it home past Maarten Stekelenburg at the near post with his right foot. 1-0 Germany.
20 mins Germany make a great move through the centre after the referee plays a good advantage and Klose is almost put through. Sneijder is booked for a sneaky tackle on Kroos
21 mins Babel sends a shot that ends up closer to the corner flag than the German net.
23 mins Müller is found out on the right, and Özil sends in the free-kick which is met by Mertesacker whose header goes wide.
24 mins Germany win a corner on the left which is cleared by Joris Mathijsen.
25 mins Huntelaar causes trouble in the German box but Khedira does well to put it bakc for a corner. The corner comes in, and Dirk Kujt sends a shot just wide of Neuer’s right-hand post.
26 mins Germany break down the right with Müller, who finds the fast-moving Özil outside him. Özil whips the ball in with a sublime first touch, and Klose ghosts into the middle of the penalty area to find the back of the net with a perfectly timed and brilliantly-directed header that leaves Stekelenburg completely helpless. 2-0.
29 mins The Dutch win a corner on the right which is cleared, and Özil is fouled trying to get the ball away. The chants of “Sieg!” can be heard all around the ground.
30 mins Özil looks as though he is fouled in the Dutch half but the referee waves play on, allowing the Dutch to stream to the other side of the pitch. Kujt has a whiff of a chance, but fails to control the ball and Khedira clears.
34 mins There’s a bit of a lull in proceedings as the home side continue to control the pace of the game. The men in orange are starting to commit a series of unnecessary and niggly fouls as their frustration starts to build.
35 mins After another Dutch foul a Kroos free-kick is swung in left and the defender just about gets in front of Klose as he goes in for the header at the near post.
39 mins A beautiful fast break down the right involving the usual suspects almost sets up another chance. Müller sends Özil on his way, and the midfield maestro’s teasing cross is just too far in front of Klose who comes flying in at the far post.
43 mins Müller again, and Edson Braafheid is lucky to get away with a handball. Jérôme Boateng is called for a foul as he follows up to dispossess the Dutch left-back.
44 mins Klose clips the heels of Heitinga to give the Dutch a free-kick from some thirty yards out. Klose gets a harsh yellow card, and Sneijder’s effort flies high and not so handsome over the bar.
45 mins The half-time whistle blows.
A fantastic first half by the Mannschaft, defined by some patient play, swift breaks and truly delightful movement on and off the ball. Sami Khedira has been a titan in defensive midfield, the back four – apart from a hairy Mertesacker moment – have been largely untroubled and the offensive unit, particularly down the right flank, have been simply sublime.
For all those who have doubted Miroslav Klose’s place in the starting lineup, his performance over the first forty-five minutes have certainly sent out a message. Mario Gómez may be banging in the goals for Bayern this season, but there’s a couple of things he still lacks that Klose has in space: spatial awareness and finesse. The delicate touch to set up Müller for the first goal was world-class, and his positioning and finish to notch up his 63rd international goal was nothing short of outstanding.
More of the same in the second half, please.
46 mins Mats Hummels is on for Holger Badstuber.
49 mins A stray Dutch pass in midfield leads to another German break down the right, and the ever-energetic Müller pulls the ball back for Kroos who sends a shot high over the Dutch crossbar.
51 mins Babel tries to weave some trickery on the right but is foiled by some good defensive work from Boateng.
53 mins Germany are looking good in midfield and the Dutch are struggling to get hold of the ball.
54 mins Sneijder fashions an oppotunity from just outside the penalty area but sends his shot fizzing past the left post. Manuel Neuer has it covered.
57 mins Boateng this time engineers another right-flank attack, and Klose’s shot from the edge of the box is held by Stekelenburg.
58 mins Dennis Aogo slides in to prevent a Dutch cross on the right flank.
59 mins The Oranje put together a good move forward and finally get a shot on target as Babel’s long-range effort is easily held by Neuer.
60 mins Finally we see a move down the left, and Podolski sends in a cross to Thomas Müller is lurking just outside the box to the right. Müller has far more time than he thinks, and sends his shot sailing into the crowd.
62 mins Özil sets up another move through the centre, and finds Klose who tries to pass it pass Stekelenburg when he could have gone on and blasted it. Immediately there’s another attack and Müller is clattered by Mark van Bommel.
64 mins Kevin Strootman is replaced by Nigel de Jong for the Dutch.
65 mins A double substitution sees the solid Boateng replaced by Benedikt Höwedes and Mario Götze come on for the somewhat anonymous Lukas Podolski.
66 mins A Dutch miskick is pounced on by Klose, who almost immediately surges forward and finds Müller to his right. Müller cuts back and plays the ball inside to Özil, bypassing Klose who continues his run into the Dutch penalty area to pick up a perfectly timed first-time pass from the midfield playmaker. Klose smartly rounds both the defender and Stekelenburg to return the compliment, and Özil nonchalantly taps the ball into the empty net with his left foot to complete what is a world-class move. 3-0, and it’s surely all over now.
68 mins Müller once again breaks at speed down the right and plays the ball across the edge of the Dutch penalty area. Klose dummies but there’s nobody there to pick up the move.
74 mins Gregory van der Wiel creeps into the German penalty area and manages a shot on goal, but Neuer is more than up to the task.
76 mins A change for the Dutch as Roy Beerens comes on for the anonymous Huntelaar.
78 mins Germany win a corner out on the right, which is swung in by Özil. Mertesacker rises to meet the ball it is then cleared by the Dutch.
81 mins Götze gets the ball from Özil and gets a whiff of a chance, but can’t gather the ball to get a shot in.
82 mins Another double change for the Mannschaft as the evening’s hero Klose is replaced by Marco Reus and Kroos gives way to Simon Rolfes.
84 mins The Dutch win a corner on the right but it is easily cleared.
87 mins Georginio Wijnaldum and Luuk de Jong come on for Kujt and Sneijder for the Dutch, and Lars Bender gets a few minutes for Germany as Khedira’s excellent evening comes to an end.
90 mins Another scintillating move – this time down the left – but Özil is called offside just as he delivers another killer square ball into the danger area.
90 mins + 2 The home side keep hold of the ball and then suddenly spark another swift move down the left. Götze shows some excellent close control but cannot create a shooting opportunity.
90 mins + 3 The final whistle blows.
Not much more can be said: ninety minutes of scintillating football by Jogi Löw’s side, and the perfect way to finish what has been a highly successful calendar year. Bert van Marwijk’s Dutch side were completely outclassed and could very well have conceded four or five in what was a supremely dominant display by the Nationalmannschaft – and while it is worth nothing that the opposition were missing a number of key personnel, a win over the Dutch will always be a win over the Dutch. It is Germany’s first win over the Oranje since the 1-0 victory in Rotterdam in 1996, and their biggest margin of victory over this opposition since Köln in 1959 when Uwe Seeler scored a hat-trick as Sepp Herberger’s side ran in seven goals with no reply.
A number of indidividuals stood out, not least Miroslav Klose who marked his return to the starting line-up with a masterful and elegant display. The German captain renewed his at times telepathic relationship with Mesut Özil, and the third goal which saw them perform what could best be described as footballing surgery on the Dutch defence was a joy to behold. With a finely-taken headed goal – his sixty-third in the Schwarz und Weiß – and two excellent assists Klose was a clear man of the match.
While Klose was for me the clear stand-out, his presence also allowed a number of others to deliver world-class Note 1 performances: Özil, who had looked like a little boy lost against the Ukraine last week, saw his game improve tenfold as he bossed the middle of the park, and Thomas Müller was as energetic as usual in setting up what was a constant stream of attacks down the right flank. Noteworthy also were the performances of the two defensive midfielders: Toni Kroos continued to show that he is fast becoming an established member of the side with another stylish display, while Sami Khedira was a trojan in front of the back four with his tactical awareness, accurate distribution and clean tackling. A word also for Jérôme Boateng, who put in an accomplished performance at right-back.
Watch this space for a more in-depth match review and player ratings.
v Netherlands, Imtech-Arena, Hamburg 15.11.2011
Müller 15., Klose 26., Özil 66. / –
Team: Neuer – Boateng (65. Höwedes), Mertesacker, Badstuber (46. Hummels), Aogo – Kroos (82. Rolfes), Khedira (88. L. Bender) – Müller, Özil, Podolski (65. Götze) – Klose (c) (82. Reus)
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)
Assistants: Bahattin Duran, Tarik Ongun (Turkey)
Fourth Official: Peter Gagelmann (Germany)
Yellow Cards: Klose / Sneijder
Red Cards: – / –
Attempts on Target: 9 / 3
Attempts off Target: 6 / 7
Corners: 2 / 3
Fouls Committed: 12 / 15