Story by Robin Popley
At ‘11’, we stated how we think Germany are now the true heirs, to Spain’s crown. However, last night truly demonstrated this statement, in every sense. Their fluid and free-moving football makes you truly appreciate how beautiful ‘the beautiful game’ is. Bastian Schweinsteiger: a true artisan of sport. Mesut Özil: an awe inspiring footballer. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, in this team of flair it is the traditional striker, Mario Gomez, who continually grabs the headlines. Why? Without a shadow of a doubt, he is one of the most talented finishers in world football. Not only currently but for the last twenty years. The Netherlands now know this too.
The Gomez show began after just 24 minutes. After great interplay between Schweinsteiger and the German front-man, the latter tucked away the ball with true prowess, sending the German fans into a frenzy and the Dutch fans, disconsolate once more.
It was to get worse for the Dutch supporters, as they witnessed Gomez – after another brilliant piece of play with Schweinsteiger – fire the ball into the top of the Netherlands goal, escalating Holland’s problems. Their fans looked utterly speechless. Their team? Utterly clueless.
To their credit, Holland came out a completely different team in the second half, pulling back a deserved goal through Arsenal’s leading goalscorer last season, Robin Van Persie. His drive into the bottom of Neuer’s net – from his weaker right foot – gave them a glimmer of hope but it was only a glimmer. Never enough though. The moment which demonstrated Holland’s current plight was the substitution of Robben. He left the field disgruntled, pulling his shirt off in front of his own support. How let down they must have felt. Full time scoreboard read: 2 – 1 to Germany.
This now means, barring a miracle, The Netherlands are going home. Ardent football fans, the world over, can only but feel for Dutch fans. Heralded as some of the best in the world, the actions of Robben et al, must leave them truly disheartened!
In the day’s other match, Portugal and Denmark served up a real cracker. Despite being overshadowed by many, this match lived up to the same heights, if not greater heights, of the two titans in Group B. Possibly the best match to date. Something the press certainly would not have predicted before kick-off.
The footballing God’s were not listening to the media moguls. Seemingly. They sprinkled a bit of class, mixed it with fighting spirit and embellished it with tension, resulting in a topsy-turvy encounter where no side had control for the whole 90.
Enter player one. Pepe. If this were a Shakespearean play, it certainly would come in 5 acts, with each player taking centre stage briefly. Keeping with the bard analogy, momentarily, and we will compare the Real Madrid defender as Robin Goodfellow (Puck). The instigator for the spectacular. His thumping header, from a corner given after a great move by his team, gave Portugal the early advantage. The man at the heart of the move which led to ‘that’ corner was Helder Postiga. Many felt he should have been dropped following a string of bad performances. However, after being shown support from his Head Coach, he went out and re-payed him by scoring what seemed ‘the winning goal’. How wrong we were.
Back to the bard symmetry and Postiga is the MacDuff of proceedings. A steady head at times of trouble. Trouble which, before this match, had only seen Portugal score one goal per game during their last 5. Unnervingly, Portugal looked good value for their lead.
Enter player three. Bendtner. The prodigal son to take a biblical analogy. Returning from the wilderness at Arsenal, like Arshavin, he looks a completely different player. The first of his two goals came just before the break, to reduce the deficit. Danes everywhere, in Lviv, were ecstatic. Portugal looked at one another. Trouble ahead?
Correct. Upon the stroke of the 80th minute, Bendtner had leveled the match, following an extremely dominant Danish 2nd half showing. Yet, in true Shakespearean fashion, enter the tragedy. Well. If you are a Dane (at least).
Varela, recently on for Chelsea’s Merieles, followed up his air-shot by thumping the ball past the helpless Stephan Anderson. The play was now complete. It’s players? In varying moods. One can almost imagine sports commentators trying to replicate Romeo and Juliet’s Prologue…
What a finish lies ahead!