This article was originally published on SchwarzUndWeiss.co.uk.
History would be made in Warsaw as the recently-crowned world Champions took on Poland in Warsaw, but not in the way anyone had expected. Lukas Podolski wouldn’t return to the land of his birth would score a hat-trick and take his international tally to fifty goals, debutant Karim Bellarabi wouldn’t crown a solid first showing with a winning goal, and the Nationalmannschaft wouldn’t manage to extend their unbeaten record.
Instead, they would fall to an arguably unlucky but not wholly undeserved defeat against a solid if not overly spectacular Polish side at the same ground where they had suffered their last competitive defeat: that infamous Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy.
The injury problems would continue for Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw, and with many of the key figures missing from the squad the team would have a strange and unfamiliar look about it. Winger Marco Reus would still be unavailable, while defender Benedikt Höwedes and playmaker Mesut Özil would also miss out through injury. The established central defensive partnership ofJérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels would be joined by relative new boys Erik Durm and Antonio Rüdiger, while in the defensive midfield Toni Kroos and Christoph Kramer would join forces again.
A more recognisable attacking midfield would see André Schürrle line up alongside Mario Götze and Bayer 04 Leverkusen new boy Bellarabi, with Thomas Müller playing a roving role up front. Despite the unfamiliar look most German supporters would be confident, particularly against an unfashionable Polish side carrying the baggage of eighteen games without a win against their more powerful neighbours.
Facts and Stats
This would be the nineteenth meeting between Germany and Poland, with Germany winning twelve of the previous eighteen with six draws. In competitive matches the Nationalmannschaft would come into the game with a 4-2-0 record, with the last meaningful encounter taking place at Euro 2008 in Klagenfurt. In the most recent game a German B side would be held to a dour goalless draw in Hamburg, and in 2011 in Warsaw the Germans’ unbeaten record would hold by the thread with Cacau’s injury time equaliser in Gdańsk.
Unbeaten in any qualifying match since a 3-0 dead-rubber defeat in Munich to the Czech Republic in October 2007 – a total of thirty-three matches – Jogi Löw’s side would also be looking to extend their record in competitive internationals to nineteen, with the record stretching back to that 2-1 semi-final defeat against old rivals Italy at Euro 2012.
Jogi Löw’s side would dominate proceedings in what was a fairly one-sided first-half, but for all their possession and intricate passing moves in the middle third they would be unable to make the most the few chances that would come their way. Bellarabi would send a low left-footed effort narrowly wide from a tight angle and create an even better opportunity that would end up safely in the hands of Polish ‘keeper Wojciech Szczęsny, but apart from that it would essentially be a case of huffing and puffing with no real threat to the Polish house.
The second half would begin in much the same way and the Nationalmannschaft would pick up where they had left off before the break, but from almost nothing the home crowd would be on their feet. An innocuous looking ball into the box was only half-cleared by Erik Durm, and his Dortmund team mate Łukasz Piszczek would send in a looping cross towards Arkadiusz Milik. In a moment that would remind many older German fans of Toni Schumacher’s air-waft in the World Cup final in 1986, Manuel Neuer would completely mistime his attempt to clear, missing the ball completely as Milik guided his header into the empty net.
The shock of going behind would stir the visitors into action, but for everything they threw forward the Polish defence would find a reply. As in the 2011 friendly Szczęsny would turn out an accomplished performance, back up by a solid defensive line with the standout performance coming from tall Torino centre-back Kamil Glik.
Even when the defenders failed the woodwork would come to Poland’s aid, and when Lukas Podoski’s otherwise perfect volley crashed against the crossbar I think we all knew that it was just going to be one of those nights. With just two minutes remaining a strong run into the box by the excellent Robert Lewandowski would set up substitute Sebastian Mila for an easy finish, and one of Polish football’s great moments – at least since their great days of the 1970s – would be sealed.
Conclusions and Ratings
Against Scotland, Germany would dominate possession and create more than enough opportunities to win the game comfortably, but would just about scrape over the line. Followers of the team would express some worry at the team’s lack of sharpness in front of goal and inability to convert possession and opportunities into goals, but this would largely be put aside on account of the post-summer malaise, personnel issues and the continuing hangover from the success in Brazil.
In Warsaw, their luck would run out. In terms of possession and opportunities things would be much the same as they had been in Dortmund, but this time their inability to find the back of the net would cost them as Poland produced two sucker punches from their handful of chances. While the result was something of a freak given the statistics, there was something inevitable about it. It is true to say that the World Cup party is well and over now.
Germany are of course not alone among the bigger footballing nations that have been caught out this week, and this may be due to the 24-team final tournament providing the lesser teams with something bigger to aim at. The defeat in Poland was of course a shock, but then so was Spain’s 2-1 defeat in Slovakia and the Iceland’s 2-0 victory over a Netherlands side that would like Germany boss the possession but fail to convert this into something more tangible.
The truth is that none of these teams are pushovers, and reputation alone is not enough to guarantee three points. One is hoping that Jogi Löw’s side react in the best possible way and turn on the power in Gelsenkirchen against the Republic of Ireland, but the return game in Dublin, the trip to Scotland and even the journey to Georgia could present possible banana skins on the road to France 2016.
By his high standards, a poor game. Had little to do as usual, but was way too late off his line to deal with the first Polish goal. Could do little about the second, but by that time the damage had been done. The ‘keeper would apologise after the match for his gaffe, and sometimes a performance like this can be a good thing.
A solid enough performance from the youngster without being massively spectacular. Not massively convincing, but did venture forward well at times down the right flank. Replaced with seven minutes left by Max Kruse as the coach looked to salvage the game.
A patchy performance from the man who was arguably man of the match in the World Cup final. Solid for the most part, but guilty of losing Polish goalscorer Milik at the crucial moment.
The pick of the back four despite his recent injury problems. Produced some noteworthy challenges, and looked assured in the middle of a back four that is still very much a work in progress.
A nightmare for the Borussia Mönchengladbach man as Löw’s troubles at left back continue. Was unable to clear the danger in the move that would lead to the first Polish goal, and was easily muscled off the ball by Robert Lewandowski for the second.
Excellent physicality and movement, but not much more than that. Lacked ideas at times, and would contribute to the overall stodginess in midfield. Injured after a challenge from Lewandoski, and was replaced after seventy-one minutes by Julian Draxler.
Accomplished in his passing and distribution and would have the figures to prove it, but in truth not much more than that. Was largely anonymous going forward and was largely disappointing with his delivery of free-kicks and corners.
The 73rd man to make his debut under Jogi Löw would have a decent game, and can probably put his spurning of two first half chances down to nerves. Looked sharp down the right flank and far more confident in the second half, and will look to build on this performance to stake a genuine claim for a regular starting place.
Looked sharp at times only to disappear for short spells. Came close to scoring in the second half and combined well with those around him, but not the greatest individual showing in what was not the greatest team performance.
Showed that he is capable of moments of magic with a lovely reverse pass to almost set Müller up in the first half, but the Chelsea man would spend most of the time running around with no real purpose and was wasteful at times. Replaced by Lukas Podolski with thirteen minutes remaining.
Was his usual self early on, but faded away somewhat. Had a couple of decent half-chances in the first half, but like Schürrle would spend a lot of the second running around aimlessly. One of his poorest showings in the Nationaltrikot for a while.
having recovered from the flu the Schalke 04 youngster would come on for Kramer with just under twenty minutes remaining. Almost immediately produced a stunning effort that was deflected wide, but was largely anonymous after that.
Replaced Schürrle after seventy-seven minutes, and almost scored a spectacular equaliser with a volley that crashed against the crossbar.
Came on for right-back Rüdiger as the coach took his last roll of the dice, but wouldn’t really have the chance to do much.
Bild Ratings: Neuer (5), Rüdiger (4), Boateng (5), Hummels (4), Durm (6), Kramer (4), Kroos (3), Bellarabi (3), Götze (4), Schürrle (5), Müller (5). Substitutes (until 75 minutes): Draxler (4)
Kicker Ratings: Neuer (4), Rüdiger (3), Boateng (3.5), Hummels (3.5), Durm (5), Kramer (3), Kroos (3), Bellarabi (2.5), Götze (3), Schürrle (4.5), Müller (4.5)
My Ratings: Neuer (5), Rüdiger (3.5), Boateng (4), Hummels (3), Durm (6), Kramer (4), Kroos (3.5), Bellarabi (2), Götze (3), Schürrle (4), Müller (5). Substitutes: Draxler (4)
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