German football took another blow once more as Italy lived up to their tag as Germany’s curse. Joachim Loew’s team selection almost gave an indication of fear or too much respect. His selection could have turned out to be a tactical masterstroke had it served its purpose- or at-least what I think it was meant to serve.
Toni Kroos was placed in the line-up in a spot where he has been perpetually ineffective for Bayern this season. This was perhaps meant to cover for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s lack of fitness considering he is a fantastic defensive midfielder.
What really stood out in this tournament was Loew’s ability to take risks. Questions will be asked about the absence of Marco Reus, Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose and the presence of the man who was supposed to be reborn in this tournament, Mario Gomez in the starting line-up.
Instead, another Mario fit for the hype took all the plaudits almost proving his agent, who predicted a hat-trick for his employer, right. It was the back-line’s frailty that saw Germany go out. Holger Badstuber and Philipp Lahm had nights to forget. After another trophy-less campaign, one must ask questions about how far Germany can progress in future tournaments.
There was no element of luck really as far as Italy is concerned. Wins as merited as this one are rare to see in today’s game. Even Manuel Neuer applauded Balotelli’s second strike. Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Philipp Lahm had a game they will not forget in a while.
Here are some other thoughts:
Thomas Mueller and semi-finals:
Mueller has often been a victim of selection in Semi-finals. He saw the Bayern- Real semi from the bench mostly and this one as well. He was suspended for the 2010 semi between Germany and Spain, where Germany played much better than they did today really. The one he did play was between Bayern and Lyon in 2010 and Bayern won that one outright.
You just don’t beat Gianluigi Buffon:
The best keeper in the world- Casillas? Neuer? Hart?- Nah- Buffon! He also has an amazing streak of luck- much better than that of Neuer who conceded some freak goals in his Schalke career including one which bounced off of his back.
Joachim Loew finally got his decisions wrong:
The line-up that finished the match except with Jerome Boateng in and Kroos out should have started the match. Germany’s attack was much better in the second half than in the first- also down to Miro Klose’s efforts which Gomez didn’t supply. Gomez shouldn’t think the world of himself yet- he can when he has the industry of Miro Klose. And starting Lukas Podolski was just a pretty poor decision considering he wasn’t able to do much for the defence today either.
Italy was wasteful:
They could have scored five or six really and Germany could have been for an embarrassing exit. A 1-2 score-line is much more respectable than it could have been. This is Germany’s second loss in eight European Championship semi-finals.
So, the final instead of being a repeat of the one in 2008 will be a repeat of the 2008 quarter-final. So, how much better is Germany than England really?- England defended stoically and took the Italians to penalties. Germany conceded two goals they should never have- and yes, one of them was from a header. By this point, one could right a book about headers, German back-fours and Neuer.
As far as Germany is concerned, one has to ask whether the emergence of a figure like that of Lothar Matthaus or Stefan Effenberg is required. In 2002, Germany went to the world cup final thanks to Oliver Kahn’s barking and Michael Ballack’s brilliance. Again, Ballack and his support pulled them up to the 2008 final- None of those teams are anywhere near as good as today’s one.
Germany does play eye-catching football even though, today, they reverted to route one football by trying to get crosses continuously into the box. Italy though has played some of the best football of the tournament. German players failed to learn from their mistakes. The Bayern München players especially failed to learn from failures past. And this time- none of them are taking a medal home.
And so, we can officially welcome (or reaffirm what we already knew) the new bridesmaid of football - Germany. If anything, this is a label they truly truly deserve after another exit at the closing stages.