A lot has been said about the quality of this Germany squad, how it’s overflowing with talent and is constantly on the brink of success. There were many who tipped them to tilt the balance of international football away from Spain this summer, myself included, but it was not to be. Many have suggested that the final step is not being taken because of the man in charge and this week has done a great deal to support that. Joachim Loew is seemingly growing impatient with both the lack of success and maybe even himself but it’s important to remember how relative that success is. Germany qualified for Euro 2012 without dropping a point and did the same in the group stages of the tournament itself. Despite this winning feeling, they are in danger of becoming one that is habitually failing at the pivotal stage of international tournaments. I can’t help but feel that it is indeed the man at the helm of this marvellous side that is holding them back.
Loew’s impatience seems to be spreading, in a rather unprecedented manner for this group. Marcel Schmelzer has received a great deal of criticism for his poor positioning and although it’s certainly not misplaced, its manner is maybe ill-advised. Mesut Oezil has had his own issues at Real Madrid and has had his role in the national side questioned, something aided by Mario Goetze’s return to form. Mats Hummels has looked a shadow of his former self so far this season for Borussia Dortmund, but injury prevented him from rectifying that against Ireland, the in-form Per Mertesacker his replacement. This is hardly the calm setting that Loew is used to during his time in charge of the national squad and hardly seems the right step towards making his side a truly great one.
Some may argue they were just being patient in the opening half an hour but for me, Germany approached the gamed in the same manner as they did in the Faroe Islands qualifier. A touch arrogant maybe, but also a touch lazy, lacking in concentration when they most needed it. The advantage of great sides is that they can depend on fantastic players to deliver even when the collective is lacking inspiration. Marco Reus is certainly that man. He showed pure instinct for his first goal, firing into the top corner from close range before brutally drilling his second home from just inside the box. Lukas Podolski knows that he has well and truly been replaced on the left hand side, but the Arsenal man has more than one eye on that striking spot.
Despite Reus’s magic, Germany were a little sloppy. Schweinsteiger looked to be more aware of the armband than he needed to be, Khedira was more unsettled than normal and Klose was struggling to get into the game. Loew must be praised though, as he recognised this and brought on Kroos for Khedira in holding midfield, the Bayern midfielder’s best position. Kroos’s breathed life into the team, and more importantly into Schweinsteiger. After Oezil dispatched a clear penalty with ease, the captain fed a wonderful ball through to Miroslav Klose who rounded the goalkeeper and finished superbly from the angle. The substitute Kroos then smashed in a volley from the edge of the area and Germany had scored three goals in six minutes. Crisis? Who said that?
Germany have threatened to make a habit of doing just enough to win games. The game against Ireland initially seemed to be heading down that path but then a burst of life in the second half proved Germany can go through the gears in fairly spectacular fashion. As much as they did press for more after their six-minute spell in the second half, it was a gentle, almost pitiful press, knowing full well the result had been decided after Oezil’s penalty. Kroos was a man possessed though, and curled in a beautiful sixth to add gloss to a scoreline ruined only by a stoppage time header from Andrew Keogh, one that Manuel Neuer certainly will be annoyed at. This time it really was more than a job done, it was one enjoyed and what a pleasure it was to finally see one from this team.
Ireland: Westwood – Coleman, O’Shea, O’Dea, S. Ward – Andrews, McCarthy, Fahey (Long 52′) – McGeady (Keogh 69′) – Walters, Cox (Brady 84′)
Germany: Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – T. Müller, Özil, Reus (Podolski 66′) – Klose (Schürrle 72′)
Goals: 0-1 Reus (32′), 0-2 Reus (40′), 0-3 Ozil (pen 55′), 0-4 Klose (58′), 0-5 Kroos (61′), 0-6 Kroos (83′), 1-6 Keogh (90+2′)
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