Wednesday 26 July 2017

Germany fired up to ignite Euro push against Poles

Germany head coach Joachim Lowe
Germany head coach Joachim Lowe

John Fallon

At the tail-end of a build-up that began with public support for refugees emigrating from war zones, the German squad are aware victory over Group D leaders Poland will unify the country's football folk feeling bereft by an underwhelming year.

Joachim Low's side were supposed to follow up their World Cup triumph 14 months ago by coasting towards their eleventh straight European Championships but the journey has proved hazardous and there's some credibility to be restored before an expectant 50,000 crowd in Frankfurt.

Whilst Germany may be within one point of the trailblazers, they're the only nation of the four challengers including Scotland and Ireland to have gotten their two 'bankers' against Gibraltar out of the way.

Warning signs were apparent during their opener against Scotland in Dortmund a year ago this week, as Thomas Muller's double steered them to a most economical 2-1 over Scotland.

Stumbles along the way include a first competitive defeat to Poland in Warsaw last October and the sloppy draw against Ireland four days later when an uncharacteristic late lapse in Gelsenkirchen allowed John O'Shea gain heroic status across Europe.


The fact Low's team enjoyed over two-thirds possession in each game without scoring more than once over 180 minutes highlighted their deficiency.

The successful tactic at the World Cup of operating a false number nine, without an outright striker, had run its course.

"Emotionally and physically, it was difficult for our players after winning the World Cup," Low revealed yesterday.

"We had plenty of problems. Although we are used to leading the group from the start, this is a different campaign. A lot of our players missed the early part of the qualifiers through injury but are available now for this tough test."

Failure to reach France is still considered inconceivable and return of injured duo Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger having missed much of the campaign adds weight to the belief Germany are armed with sufficient quality to secure a top-two finish.

Whether they do so ahead of Poland depends on sealing victory tonight. Similarly to Wales and Gareth Bale, Adam Nawalka's outfit have shown they are more than just Robert Lewandowski as the Bayern Munich striker wasn't amongst the scorers in the five goals against Germany, Scotland and Ireland so far in the campaign.

The Poland captain will still be the visiting player with most attention devoted to him by Germany tonight, though they'd be wise to consider the threat posed by Arek Milik operating just behind his captain in attack.

"Germany look at us differently now," Lewandowski notes. "I don't think they will swarm all over us from the start of the match as they know we could hit them on the counter-attack.

"Certainly the perception of the Polish national team has changed in recent times. It reflects that we are a team that beat the world champions and lead the group and are on course to reach the European Championships. We must not lose focus at this stage in the run-in."

GERMANY (Probable) - Neuer; Rudy, Boateng, Hummels, Durm; Schweinsteiger, Kroos; Müller, Götze, Ozil; Schürrle.

POLAND (Probable) - Fabianski; Piszczek, Szukala, Glik, Jedrzejczyk; Krychowiak, Maczynski; Grosicki, Milik, Peszko; Lewandowski.

Germany v Poland,

Live, ITV 4, 7.45

Irish Independent

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