DFB team conclude World Cup year in Sweden

The German national team will conclude a successful year on November 17, when the German Football Association, DFB, team will meet Sweden in a friendly match at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg. This match will be the last of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ year in which they recorded twelve victories, one draw and three 1-0 defeats. “We have a brilliant record. This makes me content. It is sensational what the team achieved in the past few months”, said national coach Joachim Loew on the evening of October 12 when his team had successfully finished their last competitive match of the year. The 50-year-old referred back to the time after the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ when he mentioned the “past few months“. After returning from South Africa with the bronze medal the German national team continued to impress during the first section of the qualification for the 2012 UEFA European Championship™.

By defeating Kazakhstan 3-0 (1-0) in Astana, four days after a 3-0 victory over Turkey in the top match in Berlin, the DFB team achieved their fourth win in the fourth match. The long journey to Kazakhstan, over 6,000 flying kilometres and four hours time difference had paid off. The encounter on October 12 at Astana Arena started at the unusual kick-off time of 23:00 hrs, but the German players were wide awake on the artificial grass in the indoor stadium.

Thomas Mueller congratulates Mesut Oezil (left) to his goal against Turkey. The German-born player of Turkish parents performed brilliantly during the 3-0 victory in Berlin. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

The European qualification will continue with the second leg against Kazakhstan in Kaiserslautern on March 25, 2011. But beforehand a real classic encounter has been scheduled in Dortmund: Germany will play four-time FIFA World Cup™ champions Italy in a friendly on February 9, a repeat of the 2006 World Cup™ semi-final which the German team lost 2-0 after extra time on the same pitch.

Only the Netherlands started as well as Germany

The observation Philipp Lahm threw at team manager Oliver Bierhoff in the locker room in Atana, was not meant seriously. “You can now look for accommodation for the European Championship”, the captain said. Bierhoff had already had a few thoughts during the “witching hour”. “We shall take it easy and will look at a few hotels this year. We favour Poland as our headquarters”, he disclosed. The logistics for the UEFA European Championship™ finals, staged by Poland and the Ukraine on June 8-July 12, 2012, should be another of his organisational successes.

Following the World Cup finals, the German national team recorded 13-1 goals in four matches against Belgium (1-0), Azerbaijan (6-1), Turkey and Kazakhstan and showed no fatigue after the great act of strength in South Africa. The support from former national coach Berti Vogts, who with Azerbaijan surprisingly won the prestigious regional encounter against “big brother” Turkey 1-0 on October 12, made the victory in Astana late at night even more valuable. Germany now have an advantage of six points over their allegedly strongest rivals Turkey in Group A. “We have a very comfortable advantage, but we still have to win a few games”, said Loew as he attempted to curb the euphoria.

There are six further matches to be played in the upcoming year, among them both games against second-placed Austria. The large points advantage will ease the task, now draws in the away matches will be sufficient to successfully conclude the UEFA European Championship™ qualification. Only 2010 FIFA World Cup™ runners-up Netherlands started as well as the Loew team.  World Cup champions Spain and Norway (three matches each) also have not yet dropped a point. All other teams are plagued by problems.

Miro Klose in Gerd Muller’s tracks

“We are particularly pleased that our strikers such as Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez have scored after being often criticised. They gained self-confidence with their goals”, Bierhoff said. This wasn’t true for Klose, who scored six of the 13 qualifying goals. He suffered a muscle injury and couldn’t play with FC Bayern.  But the fact is that contrary to his form with Bayern Munich, the 32-year-old scores almost as he pleases in the national team. Two goals against Turkey, one against Kazakhstan increased the record of Polish-born Klose to 58 goals in the DFB shirt. The striker has earned 105 caps and is on the road to indeed equal Gerd Muller’s international goal record of 68. However,  the former “Bomber of the Nation” achieved his record in only 62 international matches.

Miroslav Klose scored his 58th goal for the German national team during the 3-0 win over Kazakhstan in Astana. He is now just ten goals away from Gerd Muller’s record. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

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Klose might not play against Sweden, as is the case with other regular players also. For Loew intends to use the last match of the year as a real test. The national coach wants to present new faces in Gothenburg.  Andre Schuerrle, Lewis Holtby (both of Mainz), Kevin Großkreutz and perhaps Mario Goetze (both of Dortmund), Marco Reus (Moenchengladbach), and the defenders Mats Hummels (Dortmund) and Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke) may hope to be called up. The problem position of left defender cannot be improved by this, however. Heiko Westermann (Hamburg) who made many mistakes against Turkey and Kazakhstan, is not seen as a long-time solution.  Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Loew’s first choice for this position, is a midfielder rather than a defender, and in addition is often injured.

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Mainz players Andre Schuerrle (left) and Lewis Holtby – here during the 4-1 win of the German U21 team against Ukraine – are candidates for Loew’s national A team. (Photo: Rauchensteiner/Augenklick)

Diego Contento (Bayern), Marcel Schmelzer (Dortmund), Marcel Schaefer (Wolfsburg) or Jerome Boateng (Manchester City) could be alternatives for this weak point. Despite all his success – Loew hasn’t yet found his perfect team.