Molinaro on Euro: Germans pure class
In case you missed it, here are the highlights from Wednesday’s Euro 2012 Group B match between Germany and the Netherlands in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Mario Gomez bagged a first-half brace to guide the Germans to a 2-1 win over the Netherlands, taking firm control of the group and pushing the Dutch to the brink of elimination
What this result means
With six points from two games, Germany tops the Group of Death and is virtually assured of a spot in the knockout round. With Denmark and Portugal tied for second (three points apiece), the Netherlands remain alive but by the thinnest of threads. Failure to win their final group game against Portugal will result in their elimination, but three points might not be enough to advance.
The major storyline
This is the Germany that everybody was waiting to see.
Forget about the pedestrian Germany that squeaked out a 1-0 win over Portugal. The one that failed to dazzle and bewilder, and looked bereft of ideas.
This is the Germany that we all know and love.
Efficient in the attack, tight in defence, stout in midfield — all tied together by great technical ability and an overwhelming sense of self-belief.
The end result? A dominating performance by a German side that reaffirmed their deserved status of pre-tournament favourites, and the remarkable humbling of a Netherlands team that looks to be unravelling.
Nothing new there.
Is there a more lethal combination at this tournament than Mario Gomez and Bastian Schweinsteiger? Probably not, as the Netherlands can attest.
Even with centre back Joris Mathijsen installed back in the lineup, the Dutch defence was cruelly exposed by Gomez and Schweinsteiger. The Bayern Munich duo linked up for a pair of goals in the first half, Gomez the benefactor of some sublime service from Schweinsteiger.
In the build-up to this one, Dutch midfielder blasted the “pathetic egos” in the Dutch team, imploring his teammates to pull together. Infighting and bickering has been a longstanding issue with the Netherlands over the years.
The Oranje showed a brief glimpse of heart and character by chipping away at the Germans, with Robin van Persie scoring with 17 minutes left in regulation to make it a one-goal game.
But it was too late. There was no overturning the German advantage. There rarely is.
Mario Gomez failed to score a single goal at Euro 2008. He has three in two games at this tournament.
No team has ever recovered from a two-goal deficit at halftime to win a World Cup or European Championship match in regulation.
The Netherlands have won just three of their last nine official games.
Lukas Podolski has 99 caps for the national team, moving him above Michael Ballack for seventh place on Germany’s all-time list.
Goal of the game
Gomez’s second in the 38th minute from a tight angle was great, as was Robin van Persie’s long-range strike for the Dutch in the 73rd minute. But Gomez’s opening salvo midway the first half bordered on pure ballet. Bastian Schweinsteiger delivered a defence-splitting ball for Gomez, who took the ball on the turn between two defenders on the edge of the box and slotted it past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Save of the game
Germany nearly took a 3-0 lead just before the break when a free kick from the left flank took a deflection. But Stekelenburg quickly backtracked and tipped the ball over the crossbar to deny Germany another goal.
Has Mario Gomez now done enough with the German national team to finally silence his many critics?
How was it that Bastian Schweinsteiger had so much time to deliver a pair of decisive passes to Gomez? How can a Dutch side that includes Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel give Schweinsteiger that sort of space?
Why does Dutch manager insist on starting Robin van Persie alone up front? Why doesn’t he start van Persie in tandem with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar?
Although they are still alive, do the Dutch stand a realistic chance of advancing to the knockout round?
1) Mario Gomez: Two world-class goals and two world-class finishes. That’s all that needs to be said.
2) Bastian Schweinsteiger: The Bayern Munich star pulled the creative strings in midfield, supplying Gomez with two fantastic passes to finish off.
3) Mats Hummels: Another master-class performance from the German centre back, who lent his support to the attack with his probing forward runs.