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|EURO 2012 Analysis: Mario Gomez strikes as Germany flounders|
Germany has embarked on its Euro 2012 adventure with a crucial 1-0 victory over Group B rivals Portugal at the compact Arena Lyiv. Although renowned for their exciting and fast-paced football, Joachim Low’s side - who lined up with the preferred 4-2-3-1 midfield-oriented system - were uncharacteristically sluggish throughout the match, seemingly having their style stunted in the centre of the park with Mesut Özil unable to distribute efficiently and accurately.
The Germans accounted for their opposition in qualifying by putting them to the sword in style, with fluent passing and clinical midfield dominance allowing them to cruise past the likes of Turkey and Belgium in their home and away fixtures.
This encounter saw another Germany, a team willing to grind out a result, a trait that may be needed once they find themselves seeping into the latter stages of the tournament.
It also once again highlighted and brought to the forefront the Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose debate, with the former coming out on top. Having been in stunning form in the lead up to the tournament with Bayern Munich after netting 26 in the Bundesliga, the attacker faced public and media pressure over his perceived inability to perform on the world stage and in important contexts.
He will surely feel that he has gone a long way to ridding his critics at least for a while after this game – after all, his decisive winner has them one from one. Regarded by some as the understudy to Klose, he has fought long and hard in his battle to be accepted as Joachim Low’s number one hitman.
With Portugal’s defence appearing apt at withstanding any pressure put on it, and with Gomez being minded by Pepe and Bruno Alves while plying away as the lone ranger up front, it appeared that his time was up, with Klose limbering up on the sidelines.
Die Mannschaft seemed out of ideas in the preceding 20 minutes leading up to the goal, and as the German media were readying themselves to cast their wrath on the Bayern Munich man, Bastian Schweinsteiger combined down the right before Sami Khedira’s cross into the Portugal 18-yard box was met by Gomez, who did enough to beat the hapless Rui Patricio. The goal takes his tally to 23 international goals and more importantly put him in the reckoning and pole position for another start in his side’s next game.
Moreover and evidently, the goal was atypical of German style, as a somewhat desperate lob into the box, combined with men having been thrown forward produced the goods; vis-à-vis being via their one touch pinpoint accurate passing. Whether this type of forward pressing will continue and/or be enough to carry them forward remains to be seen.
Although needing to lift in their next game against a shocked and wounded Dutch bull, Low’s men can go into the game knowing that their tournament will still be alive, notwithstanding the result. On the other hand, the Oranje will be seeking blood and the Germans will need to tinker in the middle of the park to get their engine revved for this next challenge in this dubbed ‘Group of Death.’