The qualifying campaign for the 2008 European Championship was a mixture of the spectacular, the industrious and the lazy – in what turned out to be a fairly manageable group that saw Joachim Löw’s team through to the finals in Austria and Switzerland with little drama and with three games to spare.
Having taken over from Jürgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup campaign, Löw’s first competitive game in charge saw his team take on the Republic of Ireland – always a testing fixture. In what was a tight game in Stuttgart the teams were divided by a deflected Lukas Podolski free-kick, and Germany were perhaps slightly fortunate to collect all three points.
The solid display against the Irish was then followed by two excellent displays away from home, as minnows San Marino and dark horses Slovakia were both dispatched with something approaching disdain. In what would be a record-breaking display, the hapless San Marinese were completely destroyed as Podolski added four more to his international tally in a 13-0 win – Germany’s biggest away win in their 100-year history – and a month after that four goals were put past Slovakia in Bratislava, a win that took Joachim Löw to five wins from five – the best-ever start by a new Nationaltrainer.
The run of wins would come to a surprising end in Cyprus, where his team were pegged back by an obdurate home side having taken an early lead through Michael Ballack. It would be a ground-breaking moment for the Cypriots: in their four previous games against the Mannschaft, they had not managed to trouble the scorers while conceding a total of twenty-four goals.
Things were back on track following the what was probably the toughest match of the group as Löw’s side beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Prague, and by the end of the 2006-07 season Germany had one foot in the finals following three more well-worked victories. The home game against San Marino was not as spectacular as the first encounter and was finished with six goals in just over twenty-two minutes either side of half-time, while Slovakia provided a tougher challenge in Hamburg and a Miroslav Klose brace was enough to see off familiar opponents Wales in Cardiff.
When the Mannschaft visited the Republic of Ireland in October 2007 they only needed a point to make sure of their place in Austria and Switzerland, and this was duly achieved as both side produced few chances in what was a rather dull goalless draw.
Having been the first team to qualify, Joachim Löw’s side then slipped back into first gear as they fell to a 3-0 home defeat by the Czech Republic who also made sure of their place in the finals. It was a flat and rather lazy performance in front of what had been an expectant crowd in München’s Allianz Arena, and a major disappointment in what had otherwise been an encouragingly positive qualifying campaign.
The defeat by the Czechs was followed by a routine 4-0 win over Cyprus, but in the final match the Germans had to settle for second place in the group table as they were held to another goalless draw by Wales in Frankfurt – once again letting down a home crowd that had expected better. Although they had clearly been guilty of switching off in matches where nothing was at stake, Löw’s side had qualified with ease.
Match Results and Details
v Republic of Ireland, Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart, 02.09.2006
Podolski 57. / –
Team: Lehmann – Lahm, M. Friedrich, A. Friedrich, Jansen – B. Schneider (84. Borowski), Ballack (c), Frings, Schweinsteiger – Klose, Podolski (76. Neuville)
1-0 Germany win an indirect free-kick just outside the Irish box, and Lukas Podolski’s left-footed effort leaves Irish ‘keeper Shay Given completely stranded when it take a wicked deflection off the advancing Robbie Keane.
v San Marino, Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle, 06.09.2006
Podolski 12., 43., 64., 71., Schweinsteiger 29., 47., Klose 30., 45., Ballack 35., Hitzlsperger 66., 73., M. Friedrich 87., B. Schneider pen 90. / –
Team: Lehmann – Lahm, M. Friedrich, A. Friedrich, Jansen – B. Schneider, Ballack (c) (46. Odonkor), Frings (62. Hitzlsperger), Schweinsteiger – Klose (46. Asamoah), Podolski
1-0 Bernd Schneider is given far too much space on the right and has plenty of time to swing a right-footed cross into the San Marinese box, where it is met by Lukas Podolski whose gets in front of Nicola Albani to head the ball home past ‘keeper Aldo Simoncini.
2-0 Marcell Jansen has the space a time to deliver a neat square ball from the left into the box that bends behind the defence, and Bastian Schweinsteiger strolls into space to slide home.
3-0 A nine-pass move takes Germany from one of the pitch to the other. Torsten Frings plays a neat pass out left to Miroslav Klose, who skips past Simonconi before chipping the ball into the empty net with his left foot.
4-0 A smooth move down the centre of the field sees Schweinsteiger play a deft low ball to Michael Ballack, who has enough time and space to place a gently swerving low shot past Simoncini into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
5-0 Jansen takes a quick throw-in from the left to Schweinsteiger, who pays a deft first-time ball into the box for Schneider to chase. Schneider knocks the ball back into the centre of the penalty area with the outside of his right boot, and Poldolski sweeps it into the net with his left from the edge of the six-yard box.
6-0 Ballack plays a gently looping ball into the box for Klose, but Simoncini gets there first to parry. Unfortunately for the San Marinese the ball hits Klose’s legs, and after a defender fails to clear Klose calmly readjusts to walk it into the net.
7-0 Germany win a free-kick some thirty yards out, and Schneider tips it to Frings who in turn sets it up for Schweinsteiger to blast an arrow-like shot into the top right-hand corner of the net. Simoncini flies desperately to his left, but has no chance.
8-0 A perfectly-placed long ball from Schneider finds substitute David Odonkor haring down the right flank, and his neat cutback from the byline finds the fast-arriving Podolski who taps the ball past the static ‘keeper from five yards out to complete his hat-trick.
9-0 A Schneider free-kick from out on the right is craftily curved across and to the back of the penalty area on the left, where substitute Thomas Hitlzsperger hits a terrific first-time shot with his left foot. Simoncini can only look as the ball skids past and into the back of the net.
10-0 Hitzlsperger sends a pass out to the left side of the penalty area where it is neatly held up by fellow sub Gerald Asamoah to allow Jansen to drill the ball back in into the danger zone. There to meet it is Podolski, who with a crisp left-footed finish becomes the first German player since Gerd Müller to score four goals in one game as his team moves into double figures.
11-0 Podolski plays the ball out to the left of the San Marinese box to find Schneider, who plays a cute backheel to Schweinsteiger who in turn plays a lovely one-touch pass to his right and into space. There to run onto it is Hitzlsperger, who completes the move with a calm left-footed finish.
12-0 Jansen sends in an outswinging corner from the left which floats towards the centre of the box, and centre-back Manuel Friedrich rises smartly above a throng of tired and dispirited defenders to head the ball firmly into the roof of the net.
13-0 An attempted Schweinsteiger ball into the box is blocked by Alessandro Della Valle, who is perhaps slightly harshly called for handball. Simoncini dives to his right and gets the slightest of fingertips to Schneider’s spot-kick, but it is firmly struck and too well placed.
v Slovakia, Tehelné Pole, Bratislava, 11.10.2006
Podolski 13., 72., Ballack 25., Schweinsteiger 36. / Varga 58.
Team: Lehmann – Fritz, A. Friedrich, M. Friedrich, Lahm – B. Schneider (76. Odonkor), Frings, Ballack (c), Schweinsteiger (76. Trochowski) – Klose, Podolski (85. Hanke)
1-0 A Clemens Fritz throw-in from the right finds Bernd Schneider, who plays a perfectly-timed pass to send Miroslav Klose down the right. Klose almost dances past his marker and makes his way to the byline before playing a neat cutback into the box, where the fast-arriving Lukas Podolski stabs it past ‘keeper Kamil Čontofalský.
2-0 Bastian Schweinsteiger chases down the ball near the left-side corner flag, and pulls it back to Philipp Lahm who sends a nicely-weighted cross into the Slovak box. There to meet it is Michael Ballack, whose steals in front of the defence to direct a well-timed diving header to the left of the static Čontofalský.
3-0 Ballack picks up the ball on the right outside the penalty area, and works his way into space to unleash a ferocious left-footed shot. Čontofalský gets down well to parry but cannot clear the danger, and Schweinsteiger arrives to sweep the ball into the back of the net with his left foot.
3-1 A high looping Ján Kozák cross from the left into the German box sees Jens Lehmann do a Toni Schumacher-style charge and flap at thin air, and tall centre-back Stanislav Varga is able to head the ball into the empty net.
4-1 Germany stream forward through the centre, and Schweinsteiger plays a sweet defence-splitting ball to beat the offside trap and find Klose on his right. Klose unselfishly squares it past Čontofalský to Podolski, who has plenty of time to calmly tap it in with his left foot from five yards.
v Cyprus, Neo GSP Stadium, Lefkosia, 15.11.2006
Ballack 15. / Okkas 43.
Team: Hildebrand – Fritz, A. Friedrich, M. Friedrich, Lahm – Odonkor (79. Hitzlsperger), Frings, Ballack (c), Schweinsteiger – Klose, Neuville (62. Hanke)
1-0 A well thought-out free kick some twenty-five yards from the Cypriot goal sees Michael Ballack put into space, and he delivers an unerring low shot that skids to the right of the diving ‘keeper Antonis Georgallides into the left-hand corner of the net.
1-1 Cyprus make a swift break down the left through Efstathios Aloneftis, who swings a cross back towards the edge of the penalty area. There to meet it is Ioannis Okkas, who crashes a perfectly-timed volley to beat Timo Hildebrand at his near post and score his country’s first-ever goal against Germany.
v Czech Republic, Toyota Arena, Praha, 24.03.2007
Kurányi 42., 62. / Baroš 76.
Team: Lehmann – Lahm, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Jansen – B. Schneider, Frings, Ballack (c), Schweinsteiger – Kurányi, Podolski (89. Hitzlsperger)
1-0 An outswinging Torsten Frings corner from the left flies high into the centre of the Czech penalty area, where it is met superbly by a leaping Kevin Kurányi. Kurányi’s header bounces awkwardly in front of ‘keeper Petr Čech, who scrambles for the ball but cannot keep it out.
2-0 Lukas Podolski plays the ball in front of the Czech box, finding Philipp Lahm in space out on the right. Lahm’s cross is aimed towards the six-yard box, where Kurányi beats his marker to nod the ball down past Čech into the right-hand corner of the net.
2-1 A patient Czech buildup outside the German box sees Jan Polák try his luck from distance. Jens Lehmann in the German goal appears to have the shot well covered, but the ball takes a nasty deflection off Milan Baroš that leaves the keeper wrong-footed as the it passes him to his left.
v San Marino, Easy-Credit-Stadion, Nuremberg, 02.06.2007
Kurányi 45., Jansen 52., Frings pen 54., Gómez 63., 65., Fritz 67. / –
Team: Lehmann – Lahm (70. Helmes), Mertesacker, Metzelder, Jansen – Hilbert (59. Fritz), Frings, B. Schneider (c), Hitzlsperger – Klose, Kurányi (59. Gómez)
1-0 After a somewhat frustrating first half, Roberto Hilbert finds some space on the right before lofting a high ball into the San Marinese box. Kevin Kurányi is on the spot to send a well-placed looping header over ‘keeper Aldo Simoncini into the right side of the net.
2-0 An inswinging Torsten Frings corner from the left is tipped away by Simoncini, but only as far as Marcell Jansen who is lurking at the edge of the six-yard box. With the San Marinese ‘keeper grounded elsewhere, Jansen sweeps the ball through a crowd of defenders and into the back of the net.
3-0 Bernd Schneider crosses in from the right and Kurányi is all set to score only to be hauled back by defender Davide Simoncini. Simoncini gets the red card, and the penalty is well-placed to the ‘keeper’s right by Frings.
4-0 Germany win a free-kick some thirty yards from goal, and the kick is blasted on target by Frings. Simoncini manages to keep it out, but the defence is not quick enough to prevent substitute Mario Gómez from tapping in the rebound with his right foot from the edge of the six-yard box.
5-0 Schneider spots Jansen’s well-timed run down the left flank, and the full-back gets in front of his marker to cut the ball back in to the six-yard box. Gómez is reday to pounce in front of the keeper, and completes the move with a cute right-footed backheel.
6-0 After a patient buildup down the right, a neat one-two with Frings sees substitute Clemens Fritz bear down on goal and slip the ball under Simoncini with a perfectly-placed finish with the outside of his right boot.
v Slovakia, AOL Arena, Hamburg, 06.06.2007
Ďurica og 10., Hitzlsperger 43. / Metzelder og 20.
Team: Lehmann – Lahm, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Jansen – Fritz, Frings, Hitzlsperger – B. Schneider (c) (90. Rolfes) – Klose (74. Trochowski), Kurányi (65. Gómez)
1-0 Marcell Jansen picks up the ball on the left just inside the Slovak half and charges forward, outpacing two defenders before pulling the ball back into the box when he is right on the byline. Miroslav Klose is waiting to finish the move, but defender Ján Ďurica gets there first to put the ball into his own net.
1-1 Christoph Metzelder is beaten for pace down the right flank by Matej Krajčík, who cuts inside towards goal. Before Krajčík can finish the job Metzelder gets there first, beating Jens Lehmann at his near post with a toe-poke that at the other end would have been seen as a world-class finish.
2-1 Klose has possession inside the opposition box but is unable to fashion a shooting chance, and plays a pass outside to Philipp Lahm who jinks past his marker before playing the ball across the box to Thomas Hitzlsperger on the left. Hitlzsperger’s downward header is well-directed and beats Kamil Čontofalský on the bounce.
v Wales, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 08.09.2007
Klose 5., 60. / –
Team: Lehmann – A. Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Pander (46. Trochowski) – Hitzlsperger – Hilbert, Schweinsteiger, Jansen – Kurányi (73. Podolski), Klose (c) (87. Helmes)
1-0 Thomas Hitzlsperger wins the ball inside the centre circle, and releases Kevin Kurányi who cuts inside before picking out Miroslav Klose to his left. Klose takes the ball inside the eighteen-yard box before stroking it to the right of Welsh ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey with the outside of his right foot.
2-0 Hitzlsperger plays the ball out to the right, and Welsh left-back Gareth Bale’s indecision is pounced on by Roberto Hilbert. Hilbert charges inside towards the byline and chips the ball towards the unmarked Klose, who makes no mistake from the edge of the six-yard box with a firm and well-directed header.
v Republic of Ireland, Croke Park, Dublin, 13.10.2007
– / –
Team: Lehmann – A. Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Jansen – Fritz, Frings (c), Schweinsteiger (18. Rolfes), Trochowski (90. Castro) – Gómez (64. Podolski), Kurányi
v Czech Republic, Allianz Arena, München, 17.10.2007
– / Sionko 2., Matějovský 23., Plašil 63.
Team: Hildebrand – A. Friedrich, Metzelder (46. Fritz), Mertesacker, Jansen – Odonkor, Frings (c), Trochowski (46. Rolfes) – Schweinsteiger (65. Gómez) – Kurányi, Podolski
0-1 A chipped ball in the German box beats the offside trap, finding Jan Koller in space. While the entire defence are standing around like statues for the referee to blow his whistle, Koller knocks the ball back to Libor Sionko who calmly slots it past the advancing Timo Hildebrand.
0-2 Petr Čech’s long punt upfield finds Koller, who beats Per Mertesacker in the air and glances it onto Marek Matějovský just outside the German penalty area. Matějovský veers out to the right and rides a couple of weak challenges from Torsten Frings and Christoph Metzelder before cutting back inside to slot the ball across Hildebrand and into the low left-hand corner of the net.
0-3 A perfectly-flighted pass from Daniel Pudil out on the left is collected just outside the German penalty area by Jaroslav Plašil, who shows great close control with his right foot before avoiding the half-hearted challenge of Arne Friedrich and stroking the ball past the diving Hildebrand with his left.
v Cyprus, AWD-Arena, Hannover, 17.11.2007
Fritz 2., Klose 20., Podolski 53., Hitzlsperger 82. / –
Team: Lehmann – A. Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm – Hitzlsperger – Fritz (77. Hilbert), Podolski – Trochowski (66. Borowski) – Gómez (73. Hanke), Klose (c)
1-0 When the ball flies out towards the left corner flag Lukas Podolski looks to be chasing a lost cause, but he turns and beats two opponents before cutting inside parallel to the byline and playing the ball back into the box. Goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides tips the ball away, but only as far as Clemens Fritz who sends it into the back of the net with a spectacular diving header.
2-0 Germany break at pace down the left through Podolski, who finds Philipp Lahm on the overlap. Lahm’s cross is flicked across the box by Mario Gómez to Fritz, who cuts the ball back to the unmarked Miroslav Klose. With the goal at his mercy, Klose calmly slots it home.
3-0 Thomas Hitzlsperger picks out Gómez on the right with a great ball that splits the Cypriot defence, and some great interplay between Gómez and Klose sets up Podolski, who with a perfectly-timed run steals in front of his marker on the edge of the six-yard box to guide the ball past Georgallides at the near post.
4-0 Substitute Roberto Hilbert shows some great skill before spreading the ball out to the left for Podolski, who makes a terrific charge between two defenders before playing a perfectly-timed cutback for Hitlzsperger who simply cannot miss from two yards out.
v Wales, Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, 21.11.2007
– / –
Team: Lehmann – Castro (56. Hilbert), Metzelder, Mertesacker, Lahm – Fritz, Borowski, Hitzlsperger (46. Rolfes), Podolski – Gómez (71. Neuville), Klose (c)
Final Group Standings
|Czech Republic (Q)||12||9||2||1||27||5||+22||29|
|Republic of Ireland||12||4||5||3||17||14||+3||17|
Other results: Czech Republic 2-1 Wales; Slovakia 6-1 Cyprus; Slovakia 0-3 Czech Republic; Wales 1-5 Slovakia; Czech Republic 7-0 San Marino; Cyprus 5-2 Republic of Ireland; Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic; Wales 3-1 Cyprus; Republic of Ireland 5-0 San Marino; San Marino 1-2 Republic of Ireland; Republic of Ireland 1-0 Wales; Cyprus 1-3 Slovakia; Czech Republic 1-0 Cyprus; Republic of Ireland 1-0 Slovakia; Wales 3-0 San Marino; Wales 0-0 Czech Republic; San Marino 0-1 Cyprus; San Marino 0-3 Czech Republic; Slovakia 2-2 Republic of Ireland; Slovakia 2-5 Wales; Cyprus 3-0 San Marino; Czech Republic 1-0 Republic of Ireland; Slovakia 7-0 San Marino; Cyprus 3-1 Wales; San Marino 1-2 Wales; Republic of Ireland 1-1 Cyprus; Wales 2-2 Republic of Ireland; Czech Republic 3-1 Slovakia; Cyprus 0-2 Czech Republic; San Marino 0-5 Slovakia.
Goals Summary: Podolski (8), Klose (5), Hitzlsperger (4), Ballack, Schweinsteiger, Kurányi (3), Fritz, Gómez (2), M. Friedrich, Frings, Jansen, Schneider (1), own goals (1). Total 35.