Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Frankfurt between Germany and Poland is about more than the points. It’s about revenge for Germany, the chance to go atop the group, and national pride.
The reigning world champions strangely find themselves not topping their qualifying group. Even though finishing second would still see them make it through to the finals in France, finishing second is just not something that happens to the Nationalmannschaft too often.
Back on an historic night in Warsaw in October, Poland managed to beat Germany for the first time in their long history. Goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila ended Germany’s 19-match unbeaten run and saw the Germans beaten in a qualifier for the first time since 2007.
Joachim Löw’s side were unusually wasteful in front of goal. It is no exaggeration to state that they could have been 5-0 up had they taken their opportunities. This time around in Frankfurt, there can be no such profligacy.
Impressively, Germany took 148 shots in their opening six qualifying matches (24 more than any other team), of which an unmatched seven hit the woodwork. Aside from the loss in Warsaw, the Germans were also held at home by the Republic of Ireland three days after the Polish defeat.
When the two teams run out at the Commerzbank Arena, it will also bring back memories of the famous match back at the 1974 World Cup- the ‘Wasserschlacht’ (the water battle).
In what was effectively a World Cup semifinal, Poland needed to win, while a draw would suffice for Germany to meet either Brazil or Holland in the final. Torrential rain made the pitch nearly unplayable. The hosts coped with the awful conditions better and ran out 1-0 winners against a side many saw as the best in the competition. Would Poland have won on a dry pitch?
That is now the past, but a second win over their neighboring rival would certainly go some way to appeasing the pain of 1974 for the Poles.
The only new face in the German squad is that of Emre Can, but the Liverpool man will likely have to settle for a substitute role in his hometown on Friday.
Marco Reus will miss out due to a broken toe. The injury occurred in Dortmund’s match with Hertha Berlin. His place wide on the left could be taken by Andre Schürrle, although the Wolfsburg man is short of match practice. Mesut Özil is also a slight doubt due to a knee injury. Should he fail to make it, Max Kruse could step into his role.
Polish coach Adam Nawalka has a decision to make over his first-choice goalkeeper with a host of candidates vying for a place. Lukas Fabianski should hold off challenges from Artur Boruc, Wojciech Szczesny, and VfB Stuttgart’s Przemyslaw Tyton.
Bundesliga stars Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek should start, while Köln’s Pawel Olkowski should be on the bench
Germany won: 12
Poland won: 1
Last match: Poland 2 (Milik 51, Mila 88) Germany 0 (11/10/2014)
Müller has started the season in blistering form for Bayern Munich with five goals in his first three games. His ability to wander across the front line sees him pop up in the right place at the right time over and over. The Polish defence are going to have to keep an eye on his runs into the penalty area. He already has five qualifying goals from five matches and will be seeking to keep up his scoring record.
Lewandowski will certainly know his way around the German defence with his Bundesliga experience and will no doubt want to get one over on Bayern teammates Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer. The 27-year-old has an impressive record in Group D with seven goals in six matches, making him the leading scorer in all groups. One against Germany on Friday though would count for a whole lot more.
What They’re Saying
Joachim Löw: “We are one point behind Poland, and when we win that game, we go clear at the top. And we will win again when we play Scotland. In both games, we won’t overload the attack. That would be the wrong way to play these countries.
We want to have plenty of the ball and work very hard, but we cannot just charge recklessly forward. The aim of the teams in our group is to be physically strong, be tactically well-organised in defence, and their aim is to spoil our game. We have to find a way to break them down.
Last year we did not play in the style of world champions. To be honest, I actually expected a drop in performance – it was to be expected after such a big high. We know now what is at stake in our two matches with Poland and Scotland. We will win.”
Adam Nawalka: “We are in first place and are optimistic about the upcoming meeting. We’re playing the world champions in their own stadium. Germany will be favourites, but we are not afraid of the challenge.
We have more and more faith in our own abilities. We are prepared, that the Germans will attack us aggressively, but we will answer with the same.”
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