Another year, another tournament behind us. Well, for Germany anyways. Against Italy, die Nationalmannschaft suffered their third semi final exit in their last four major tournaments, throwing supporters everywhere into a deep trance of self pity and frustration. To many, Germany’s exit summed up another premature exit but alongside that disappointment are also several positives to take away.
Using kicker’s trusted rating scale of 1 – 6 (1 being the best, 6 the worst) here is the Bundesliga Fanatic’s EURO 2012 Report Card for Joachim Löw’s players and what some of the lessons are to take away from their performances:
Manuel Neuer – 2 – If it wasn’t for Neuer, Germany would never have won their opener against Portugal and missed out on the momentum they built following the game. Neuer’s last minute heroics in that game preserved Germany’s lead and subsequent win, paving the way for a perfect record in the group phase for the first time in Germany’s history. Throughout the tournament he provided Germany’s high back line with the security blanket they needed, playing like a sweeper when needed and making saves look routine. Neuer was definitely one of Germany’s biggest positives in Poland and Ukraine.
Philipp Lahm – 3.5– The captain was unusually quiet by his high standards but not necessarily through fault of his own. He played a more cautious defensive role in the group stage and had his best performance in the quarter final against Greece in which he also scored one of the better goals of the tournament. Unfortunately he was one of Germany’s big disappointments in the semi final where the team could really have benefited from his leadership. He was partially to blame for Italy’s second goal and got lost in the rush to chase the game.
Holger Badstuber – 3.5 – After a much improved season at club level Badstuber took his form into the EUROs with a fairly consistent performance throughout the tournament. He was perhaps a bit overzealous in his challenges and a little unsure of himself at some moments but overall he did quite well considering he and Hummels very seldom played together leading up to the tournament as well as the fact that Germany play such a risky style of football.
Mats Hummels – 2 – Another one of Germany’s bright spots and one of the better defenders at the EUROs. Hummels was thrown into the fray after Mertesacker struggled to recover fully from an earlier injury and against Löw’s better judgement proved why he belongs in the starting line up. His great anticipation, reading of the game, aerial dominance and ability to play the ball out of the back helped Germany outplay sides like Portugal and the Netherlands. He provided great cover to Jerome Boateng and held his own against the likes of Ronaldo and Van Persie.
Jerome Boateng – 3 – Boateng had a strong opening to the tournament. He did brilliantly to nullify Cristiano Ronaldo’s threat in their opener and followed it up with an admirable performance against Sneijder and Afellay in the second game. His performance dropped in the knockout stages but considering he remains a center back filling in at right back he had a reasonably satisfying tournament. His athleticism helped him keep up with Ronaldo but his susceptibility to errors in judgment cost Germany against Greece and Italy. If anything, Boateng’s erratic performances further highlighted the need for a natural right back.
Lars Bender – 2 – Bender was Löw’s jack of all trades. Against Portugal and the Netherlands he came on to secure the result and against Denmark he was asked to fill in for Boateng at right back. In all cases, Bender deputized brilliantly. His tremendous workrate and positional discipline made him the ideal player to bring on to close out a game and against Denmark he proved that no matter what position he plays in, he delivers. After not being called up at all in qualifying, Löw will no doubt keep Bender in the team from now and should even consider using him in central midfield as an alternative to Schweinsteiger and Khedira.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – 4 – Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all. After an unforgettable performance in South Africa two years ago Schweinsteiger became the heartbeat of Löw’s team but numerous injuries throughout the season left him unfit going into Poland and Ukraine and it showed in his performances. Passed fit to play Schweinsteiger admitted that his ankle still bothered him after the Greece game and his forgettable performance against Italy was one of the biggest reasons for Germany’s difficulties. It is no wonder that Schweinsteiger then felt this was a season to forget for him. Still, his performance against the Netherlands was one of the finest individual performances by a German player at the EUROs. Unfortunately it was an isolated incident for him.
Sami Khedira – 1.5 – By far Germany’s best performer and unsung hero throughout the tournament. The Real Madrid player was also one of Germany’s only bright spots in their otherwise disappointing performance against Italy. Khedira’s development in the last two years has been a true blessing for the national team and could not have come at a better time considering Schweinsteiger’s fitness issues. In a team where many of the players mentality and leadership was questioned, Khedira led by example and really drove the team forward. In Poland and the Ukraine, Khedira finally stepped out of Schweinsteiger’s shadow.
Toni Kroos – 3.5 – There is a bit of a question mark surrounding Kroos’ role in the team. In the group stage Löw used him to keep possession and kill off the game but against Italy he wanted him to shadow Pirlo while adding adding an additional retention element in the middle of the pitch. In both cases Kroos was either unconvincing or somewhat ineffective. Now, that isn’t a criticism of his ability but the uncertain nature of his role confused the quality of his performances and the teams’. The question then becomes whether or not Löw used him correctly.
Lukas Podolski – 5.5 – Simply put, it was a forgettable tournament for Podolski. He celebrated a personal highlight by collecting his 100th cap against Denmark and scoring on the occasion but Podolski has gone from one of Germany’s best just four years ago to consistent disappointment since the World Cup. Not only is Podolski out of sync with the quicker more creative style of play but his end product is sorely suffering as well, having scored only 3 goals in his 18 games since South Africa. With better alternatives on the bench and several of those outperforming him the pressure was on the Arsenal bound player to prove he belonged in the starting line up. Unfortunately for him and the team, he came up short.
Mesut Özil – 2.5 – There are those who will undoubtedly look at Özil’s performance and expect more but considering Germany’s defensive approach in the group stage and the precarious tactical circumstances of the semi final and it’s easy to see how a player of Özil’s qualities might have failed to live up to his high standards. The Greece game provided the perfect circumstance under which Özil thrives but in a more defensive approach (group stage) with players that don’t necessarily optimize Özil’s game, he found it hard to play at his peak. That said, he was still Germany’s lone spark of creativity and even amidst the complications his genius peeked through although one can’t help but think what he could have been had the circumstances been different.
Thomas Müller – 3.5 – Similar to Özil, Müller had an uncharacteristically anonymous tournament by his standards. Tasked with defending first and attacking later against the Netherlands and Portugal, Müller’s game was somewhat subdued and limited in his natural inclination to roam in and around the box. Müller’s natural game was therefore compromised for the defensive security of the team and for the most part it worked. Unfortunately Müller was never able to get into the groove after that and was rested against Greece and then surprisingly benched against Italy, a game that could have used his erraticism and unpredictability.
Mario Götze – / – Many thought Götze would be Germany’s or the tournament’s breakout young player but an injury sustained halfway through the season delayed his recuperation and the hierarchy of the squad his chance for playing time. With Podolski’s influence in the squad seemingly waning Götze will no doubt feature after the tournament. The question is how and where Löw will use him but with Götze’s talents the coach is spoiled for choice.
Mario Gomez – 3 – Rarely has a German national team player in recent times been more divisive than Mario Gomez. Strikers like Gomez are being used less and less in international football, making his selection a double edged sword. On one hand his instinct for goals are second to none and he displayed that marvelously against Portugal and the Netherlands where he enjoyed the space and the service. On the other, his limitations from a strict technical perspective hold the team back against defensively organized sides. His reliance on the service around him can also lessen his effectiveness on the pitch as was the case against Italy but all things considered Gomez did well for himself with the opportunities presented to him.
Miroslav Klose – 3 – Unlike Gomez, Klose has suited Germany’s system perfectly over the years but his age is beginning to show. Löw left him out in the group stage without much of a problem bar a few cameo appearances at the end. His performance against Greece though showed that with him on the pitch the other players benefit tremendously, particularly Özil, making his exclusion in the semi final a questionable decision by Löw. He showed in the second half that he still has much to contribute after the team’s game improved considerably after Gomez had been taken out.
Marco Reus – 2 – Reus is like a stick of dynamite when put on the pitch. Löw did not use him in the group stage but could have benefitted from integrating him in the team a bit earlier. The pace, willingness to take players on and constant mobility shown against Greece was a perfect remedy to Germany’s more cautious slow paced performance in the group stage, making him the ideal choice to play against Italy. Löw decision to leave him out may prove to be his worst of the tournament but if one thing is certain it is that Reus is here to stay.
Andre Schürrle – 3 – Schürrle too had limited playing time at the EUROs and only featured in the quarterfinal against Greece. He did exactly what the team needed from him in the first half, was bold, took on players and had shots at goal. He fizzled a bit in the second and admittedly made some poor decisions but his impact was another breath of fresh air to what had come before, particularly in contrast to the disappointing Podolski. For the time being, Schürrle will probably continue to be used off the bench but there is no reason why he couldn’t make that left wing spot his own in the months to come.
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