Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Germany regains its swagger with another victory over Poland

Germany regains its swagger with another victory over Poland

Remember that old German swagger at the European Championship? The backheels, the little triangles of passes and the strutting style that knew they were on their way to victory and probably toward another title?
It's back.
It took a goal to get it going. And another one to get it back again after Poland threatened to hit back in the second half. But Germany's 2-0 victory ended the team's 12-year wait since its last in the European tournament and swept away any lingering thoughts that they have lost the winning habit.
Unless Joachim Loew's team loses its way in other Group B games against Croatia and co-host Austria, then that fourth European title may be on its way home.
German teams are renowned for getting stronger as the tournament goes on, and the bookmakers who made them 4-1 favorites before the tournament may well be proved right. Within minutes of the final whistle, those odds were cut to 7-2.
The last time these two teams met in a competitive match, Germany scraped in with an injury-time winner in a 1-0 victory on home turf against 10 men. That was at the 2006 World Cup and the Germans made it to the semifinals.
It has been a different story at the Euros. Combining their results at the last two championships in 2000 and 2004, the record is three losses and three draws, which meant first round elimination each time. So un-German.
In terms of head-to-head matchups, Germany couldn't have asked for an easier opponent. Poland had not beaten Germany in 15 meetings, losing 11 times. Make that 12 now after Lukas Podolski, coincidentally born in Poland but now a naturalized German, scored both goals, one in each half.
But Germany's recent form in a championship considered tougher to win than the World Cup put an edge on this game and the thousands of Polish fans who made it to the Woerthersee Stadium in a small city not far from the border with Slovenia made sure that the Germans would not feel at home.
When Oliver Bierhoff stood by the side of the field watching the German players warm up, it was easy to recall he was the last player to score when his nation won a European Championship game. That was back in 1996 at Wembley. Now he wears a suit, has long retired and is the team's general manager, passing information rather than footballs.
The early signs were that the Germans' 12-year wait for a Euro victory might have to go a little longer when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and defender Per Mertesacker got into a mixup dealing with a routine low cross. Happily for them, this was Poland they were facing, not Italy, France, Argentina or Brazil, and no one was there to punish them.
When Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose set up Mario Gomez in front of the Poland goal, the players on the German bench were out of their seats with their arms raised to celebrate. But Gomez failed to get a strong enough touch and they returned with embarrassed looks on their faces while Klose and Gomez glared at each other.
The 30,000 fans were jammed into the tight, little stadium, specially built for this championship, and that raised the noise level to near deafening proportions. Although the two main banks of German and Polish fans were kept at two corners of the stadium, they were dangerously mixed up elsewhere.
"Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland," sang the Poland fans, hoping for the chance to push the three-time European champions closer to a third first-round elimination in a row.
They were soon silenced.
Gomez skillfully flicked the ball to Klose, who squared it to Podolski to tap into an empty net with the Poland goalkeeper off his line. The players were off the bench cheering again and there were no embarrassed faces this time.
Then came the strutting, the one-touch flashes of skill so familiar from German teams who are ahead. Ballack, whose form for Chelsea was outstanding in the final months of the season, came more into the game maneuvering his team forward with the minimum of effort and more goals could have followed before halftime.
But they didn't and Poland shrugged the Germans off their stride with some inventive midfield play in the second half. But the Poles had little to offer in front of goal and it was no surprise that a second goal would come to put the game effectively out of sight.
Podolski's volley did it in the 72nd minute and back came the swagger.
He wasn't part of it, however. Playing against his former countrymen, Podolski cut short the celebrations each time he scored and, once the game was over, walked around the field with little fuss and wearing the No. 18 shirt of one of his Polish opponents, Mariusz Lewandowski.
"My dad and uncle and relatives from Poland were there in the stands. They're going home tonight, so that's why I went there (to the stands)," Podolski said. "I didn't celebrate very much because I was born in Poland, I have a big family there, and you have to have some respect for the land."
Germany now plays Croatia in the same stadium on Thursday. Maybe then Podolski's fun will really start.


Updated : 2021-04-23 05:31 GMT+08:00