‘Super Mario’ pushes Oranje to the brink of elimination
Germany 2- 1 Netherlands
Mario Gomez (1-0); Mario Gomez (2-0); Robin Van Persie (2-1)
Considered the most mouth-watering contest in the group stages by many did not live up to the expectations. There was only one team in the contest and apart for a few minutes in the second half the result was never in doubt. Bert Van Marwjik surprisingly started with nearly the same team and the same formation which had lost to Denmark in the previous match. The now fit Joris Mathjisen came into the defence in place of Ron Vlaar which was expected. Rafel Van der Vaart and Klas Jan-Huntelaar were surprising omissions from the starting line-up. The manager seemed to have faith in the team which created a lot but finished nothing in their last match. Joachim Loew did not change his team and went with the same team and formation. He may have been tempted to change a few players in the mid-field and forward line but wanted to stick with a winning team. Germans lacked their usual panache in the last match which has become synonymous with the current team. This match would give a real indication of their tournament winning credentials.
Netherlands made the better start in a very warm evening at Kharkiv in front of nearly 38,000 spectators. Mathjisen hit a through ball which reached a stretching Van Persie who could only turn into the hands of Manuel Neuer in the 7th minute. In the 11th minute Arjen Robben made a sharp run through the centre passed a ball to Van Persie on the right side of the box, but his right footed shot went well wide of the opposition goal. In between the two Dutch chances the Germans had shown their intent when an exquisite volley by Mesut Ozil crashed against the post in the 8th minute. Netherlands was having a lot of possession but Germany was looking incisive on the break. In the 24th minute Ozil received a ball on the right flank. Nigel de Jong was tracking him. The other Dutch defensive midfielder Marc Van Bommel was marking the run of Sami Khedira. This left Bastien Schweinsteiger with a lot of space in the middle when Ozil passed the ball to him. He threaded a superb pass which was collected by Mario Gomez with his back to the Dutch goal. He received the ball and turned with a pirouette all in a single movement which left him with an easy finish past the helpless Dutch keeper Stekelenburg. Robben attempted a shot from the right which was easily saved by Neuer. The Dutch attacks were being snuffed out by the brilliant play by the German back line that pressed and marked magnificently. Robben tried his typical runs through the right wing but was beautifully stopped time and again by the German captain Philipp Lahm. Germans were finding a lot of joy through the right wing where Thomas Muller was giving the inexperienced Dutch left back Jetro Willems a torrid time. Muller nearly found Gomez with a cross in the 30th minute. In the 37th minute Germany should have gone further ahead when an unmarked Holger Badstuber found himself at the end of an Ozil free-kick. His header from close range was saved brilliantly by Stekelenburg. The very next minute the Germans were two ahead. It was the same combination with Schweinsteiger from a central area passing to Gomez on the right side of the Dutch box. He opened his body and hit a swerving left footer past the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper. It could have been worse for the Dutch if Stekelenburg had not saved a deflected free kick on the stroke of the half-time whistle.
Van Marwjik rang in the changes at the start of the second half with Van der Vaart and Huntelaar coming in for Van Bommel and a very poor Ibrahim Afelley. Netherlands were dominating possession 58-42 at this point but it was not very constructive with respect to chances in the opposition box. It was Germany who came close to scoring again in the 52nd minute when Mats Hummels ran through the centre of the Dutch defence and took a shot which was saved by the goalkeeper. The rebound fell to him and he hit another shot on target as but the goalkeeper thwarted him again. The Dutch midfield play had improved but they were still not creating any chances. In the 58th Robben, who had switched to left wing managed to find Van Persie on the edge of the German penalty area with a pull-back pass. Van Persie’s snap shot to the right of Neuer forced him to a great save. Netherlands was starting to find some potency to their play in the opposition third. Sneijder and Robben both had good chances which they put wide in the 62nd and 69th minute respectively. Sneijder looked to have scored in the 71st minute when he took a shot from the left of the German penalty area with Neuer beaten. Jerome Boateng flung his body on the way to make a great block. Germany brought in Miroslav Klose for Gomez in the 72nd minute. In the 73rd minute Van Persie managed to turn Hummels in the middle of the German half and ran on through the centre and took a great right footer which beat Neuer to his left before nestling into the back of the net. The Dutch were back in the contest. The Germans were tiring in the extreme heat. However they took control of possession and did not allow the Dutch much further leeway for the rest of the match.
Germany deserved to win as they were the superior side who created better chances and looked more incisive in their play. Loew’s confidence in his team especially the Bayern Munich contingent paid dividends as their superior team play and understanding managed to overcome the Dutch. Jerome Boateng picked up a second yellow card and will miss the next match against Denmark. Loew may have to play Lars Bender at right back. He can also move Lahm into right back and play Marcel Schmelzer at left back. Germany can still be eliminated if the results go against them in the last round of matches. However looking into their two matches especially the second one they will start favourites for the win against Denmark. Netherlands still have a slim chance of qualification and will have to win with a big margin against Portugal and hope that Germany defeat Denmark. Van Marwjik will have to look into his tactics. He should start with two strikers in Van Persie and Huntelaar although the latter did not have any constructive contribution during his time on the field. Van Persie seems to getting back his touch which bodes well for them. The defensive midfielders will have to play better as they were ruthlessly exposed by a very fluid and flexible German midfield. Hope is still there to qualify a however slim one. The Group of Death has lived up to its billing and it is all to play for going into the last round of matches.
Germany: Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller (Lars Bender 90+2), Mesult Ozil (Toni Kroos 81), Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez (Miroslav Klose 72)
Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory Van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Jetro Willems, Nigel de Jong, Mark Van Bommel (Rafael Van der Vaart 45), Arjen Robben (Dirk Kuyt 83), Wesley Sneijder, Ibrahim Afellay (Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 45), Robin Van Persie.
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)
Venue: Metalist Stadium.
“With this victory I think we’ve opened the door to the quarter-finals. It’s now in our hands”-Joachim Loew German Manager
“The situation is that we still have a chance to go through and when you have a chance you have to believe”-Bert Van Marwjik Netherlands Manager.