Germany close out 2011 by closing out Holland

German Football
By German Football November 16, 2011 02:27

Germany close out 2011 by closing out Holland

The German team played its last game of 2011 on Tuesday in a friendly against the Netherlands, and coach Joachim Löw can send the team home for the year with a smile on his face.

“Holland was a custom-made opponent,” Löw said in the post-game press conference. “Holland had no chance.”

The team’s 3-0 win in Hamburg was more than just a pride-boosting dressing down of the World Cup runners-up. It was a final confirmation that Löw’s Germany is running like a well-oiled machine heading into next summer’s European Championship.

Winning all of their Euro 2012 qualifiers was certainly a strong indication that things were running smoothly on the team, but nothing speaks louder than such a strong performance against a a techincally strong side like Holland.

Germany’s offense was a pleasure to behold, with early attacks strung together with crisp, clean short passes and well-selected long balls that were bound to yield goals.

The first of Gremany’s three goals came after 15 minutes on a play that couldn’t have been scripted better. Toni Kroos sent the ball across the pitch toward Klose on the right side, who quickly brought it under control and slotted it brilliantly to Thomas Müller in the middle, who put it away easily.

Klose himself took care of Germany’s second goal, with the play starting this time with Müller. His pass to Mesut Özil on the right side meant Özil had to use his weaker foot – his right – but that didn’t seem to matter. He placed a perfect cross for Klose to put away with a rocket header, making it 2-0 for Germany after just 21 minutes.

The goal for Klose was his 63rd for the German team, putting him five off the national record of 68 held by Gerd Müller since 1974.

But more important than taking another step towards the record, Klose marked his return to the national team after missing two months due to on-and-off injuries. Löw typically selects a lone striker, and Klose’s former teammate at Bayern Munich Mario Gomez – having another red-hot Bundesliga season – has laid claim to that position in recent months.

Klose quickly found his place within the team on his return, both setting up his teammates and taking chances himself. The captain’s band that he wore in place of Philipp Lahm, who was given the night off, seemed to suit him – certainly much better than it did Gomez in Germany’s 3-3 nail-biter draw with Ukraine last Friday.

The final goal for Germany could have gone to Klose, but he took a selfless, safer route and set up Özil instead. Müller passed to Özil, who then promptly dished over to Klose, who was in a one-on-one with Holland’s keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg. It was short range, though, and while Klose likely would have made the shot, he sent the ball right back to Özil, who merely had to put the final tap on the ball to send it into a wide open net.

The Dutch couldn’t find an answer for Germany’s smart playmaking up front, and their own efforts on offense fell apart before they could become truly threatening.

Germany’s defense played a role there, with a lot of the work being done by veteran Per Mertesacker. The defense wasn’t spotless, but they looked a lot better than last week, when Löw tried out a three-man back row. Back to their usual row of four, they fared much better. But, as Löw pointed out, it was the German offense that won this game.

“We played with a lot of passion and were light on our feet, which overwhelmed Holland,” he said. “The midfield and offense did especially good work, and Holland hardly came into the danger area.”

By beating Holland, Germany set themselves even further apart from the rest of the field going into 2012. They were the best team in qualifying – Spain also won all their games, but played in a smaller group – and they beat a Dutch team that won nine of their 10 qualifiers. Spain, incidentally, only managed a 2-2 draw in a friendly with Costa Rica on Tuesday.

The loss by no means indicates that the Netherlands are not a dangerous opponent for anyone who plays them at Euro 2012, but it does send a signal to any teams who might have to face Germany.

“This game doesn’t say much about us, but (it) says a lot about the strengths of the German team,” said Holland’s coach, Bert van Marwijk. “When you look at this game, you see that Germany is one of the biggest European Championship favorites.”

The tournament is more than six months down the road, but Germany has more than proven that they are a serious contender.

“There is a long time until the tournament,” said defender Dennis Aogo after the match. “But when we play like we did today against such a great team, it’s hard to shake the label of favorites.”

Germany will have one more test before the tournament gets underway in Poland and Ukraine in June – a friendly in Bremen against France at the end of February. That’s another chance to prove themselves against a European powerhouse, but Löw and his team have put in the work. Next summer when they’ve shaken off the dust in the training camp in the weeks before the tournament, they know they have what it takes to come out firing on all pistons.

That’s a thought that can allow Löw and the rest of the team to rest easy over the winter, dreaming of a fairy-tale summer in Poland and Ukraine.

German Football
By German Football November 16, 2011 02:27