Klose’s goal not enough for a victory

Lukas Podolski removed the black-red-gold Iroquois comb from his hair, Bastian Schweinsteiger put away the Germany top hat and the Vuvuzela with which he had made a lot of noise. The atmosphere at Sports School Kaiserau in Duisburg had been boisterous. The German internationals had shot a commercial – together with the German Football Association, DFB, women’s World Cup champions. The commercial should beat the drum for the women’s World Cup to take place in nine German cities from June 26-July 17. Mercedes-Benz, the main sponsor of DFB, had brought together Germany’s best male and female football players. “It’s great to get to know the other players”, said World Cup and European champion Saskia Bartusiak. “I knew them only from TV”, her team-mate Celia da Mbabi disclosed. Franz Beckenbauer was also there. He had to speak a few words to set the scene. Men and women are together in the dressing room, the men want to leave, to get on the pitch and play football. But Franz Beckenbauer acts decisively. “Not you”, he says and lets the women go first. They are allowed to leave while the men watch.

The male internationals as fans of the DFB women. Bastian Schweinsteiger (front), Mats Hummels, Thomas Mueller, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski (from left). (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

The German women’s World Cup champions, who will be striving for their third successive title since 2003 and 2007 victories, will be in the spotlight only in the summer. Currently the men’s national team are still dominating. Two days after the commercial they were meeting World Cup bronze medallists Italy. The prestigious encounter between the three-time World Cup champions and the four-time World Cup title holders took place in Dortmund. The match, watched by 60,196 spectators, ended in a 1-1 (1-0) draw between Europe’s most successful football nations.

Miroslav Klose continued on the road to achieving new records in this encounter between the Germans, currently holding third position in the world rankings, and the Italians, who plummeted to 13th position after they remained without a win at the World Cup in South Africa. The striker, second in line behind Mario Gomez with FC Bayern Munich, is striving for new best marks. The 32-year-old scored his 59th international goal (16th minute) to give Germany the lead. Thus the Polish-born attacker is just nine goals away from the record still held by Gerd Mueller. With his scoring accuracy, Klose may well break this mark, long considered unbeatable, by the end of his career. And Klose is also consistently increasing his caps tally.

Miroslav Klose scored for the 1-0 lead against Italy. It was the 59th international goal for the 32-year-old. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

He earned his 106th cap for the DFB in Dortmund. He will equal Juergen Klinsmann, in second place, with 108 caps shortly. However, in order to oust Lothar Matthaeus with his 150 caps from the top spot, Klose will have to continue playing until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – which he intends to do. And Klose did not just play because Gomez was injured. Even if the former Stuttgart striker, who scores almost every week for FC Bayern, could have played, Klose would have been national coach Joachim Loew’s first choice. “Miro is always there when it matters. I continue to support him, but I’m happy that Mario is also in a good shape”, said Loew. But the goal from his first-choice striker was not enough. Guiseppe Rossi, who had come on in the second half, beat German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 86th minute with his second shot. Consequently the DFB team failed in their attempt to revenge the bitter defeat by Italy in the 2006 World Cup semi-final (2-0) at the same stadium. The last German victory over the Italians dates back to April 1995 with a 2-0 in Zurich.

2011 no transition period for DFB men’s team

“We had worse starts to a year”, said Per Mertesacker after the entertaining, though not top-class match. Loew had forbidden a half-hearted attitude as against Argentina (1-0 defeat) in Munich at the start of 2010. In the future the DFB selection should prove their title ambitions in every match. The national coach has great plans. The friendly test against Italy was the start of a demanding mission. The offensively formulated aim is to win the fourth European title in 2012. That’s why 2011 is no transition period in which the last, seemingly formal steps to the European Championship finals in Poland and the Ukraine are taken casually. “We purposely chose tough opponents. Italy will be followed by big games against Uruguay, Brazil and the Netherlands this year”, Loew said.

Mesut Oezil (right) performed well against Italy. The star of Real Madrid and Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan) provided exciting competition. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

The match against the Italians should bring a new awakening. Up to now the DFB liked to use the years between the major tournaments for testing and experimenting. Prior to EURO 2008 Loew even wasted the last European Championship qualifier against the Czech Republic (3-0 defeat) in Munich. Since then he has recognised that no progress can be made with a reduced willingness to perform. “There was a break after the match against the Czech Republic. That held up the team’s development”, team manager Oliver Bierhoff explained.

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“This time we want to push the team on, to develop them further”, he added. Because the pitch in Dortmund resembled a swamp rather than a lawn, and consequently brought difficulties to play on, they failed to give a gala performance against the “Azzurri”.

However, the team did not disappoint either, particularly in the first half. Mesut Oezil shone now and then, his former Schalke team-mate Manuel Neuer saved so excellently that he received heartfelt congratulations from Gianluigi Buffon after the game. But with the substitutions in the second half the high level of the first period disappeared. “The rhythm was lost with the changes”, said Loew. He tried a balancing act between his aims to let a strong team play the whole match and to give upcoming players a chance to prove themselves. The friendly will soon be followed by a competitive game. A fifth victory in the fifth European Championship Group A qualifier should be achieved against Kazakhstan in Kaiserslautern on March 26.

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Gianluigi Buffon, the 2006 World Cup champion goalkeeper made his comeback after a long injury break. Afterwards he congratulated Manuel Neuer on his excellent performance. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)