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Better still to come from Germany

Published: Friday 29 June 2012, 10.48CET
Exciting to watch and with their best years still ahead of them, Germany's UEFA EURO 2012 exit came as a shock, but a team this abundently gifted can – and will – do better.
by Steffen Potter
from Warsaw

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Published: Friday 29 June 2012, 10.48CET

Better still to come from Germany

Exciting to watch and with their best years still ahead of them, Germany's UEFA EURO 2012 exit came as a shock, but a team this abundently gifted can – and will – do better.

Among the pre-tournament favourites, four straight wins propelled Germany to the semi-finals where a potent combination of slipshod defending and inefficient finishing saw them lose out to Italy. Having evolved from the gung-ho outfit of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to a more possession-oriented side, they looked like going all the way at times, but the Azzurri proved once more to be their bogey team, with Germany yet to beat Italy in eight competitive games.

In a nutshell
The only side to take a maximum nine points in the group stage, Germany coped well with a trying Group B, beating Portugal, the Netherlands and – after a bit of a scare – Denmark. The quarter-final against Greece never seemed like a game they could lose, and while Fernando Santos's side levelled after Philipp Lahm's opener, Germany put the match beyond doubt quickly, ending up as 4-2 winners. However, that tendency to leak goals proved their undoing against Italy, with sloppy defending allowing Mario Balotelli to strike twice in the first half. Germany looked better after the break, but Mesut Özil's penalty came far too late to rescue Joachim Löw's side.

High point
That second Group B game against the Netherlands was as close as Germany came to perfection. Mario Gomez struck twice against Germany's ambitious neighbours, and while the Oranje pulled one back, the outcome never seemed in doubt, with Löw's side keeping the ball until full time. Gomez's two strikes in the space of 14 minutes also symbolised the 26-year-old's status as the long-term replacement for Miroslav Klose up front. Two games into UEFA EURO 2012, Germany's hopes were never higher.

Key man
Bastian Schweinsteiger only looked to be at his very best against the Netherlands and Özil looked tired throughout, so it was Sami Khedira who became Germany's biggest influence in the centre of midfield, scoring when against Greece and setting goals the winner against Portugal. Unlikely as it may seem in retrospect, it had been suggested before the tournament that he might lose his starting place to Toni Kroos. "He has become a real leader," said Joachim Löw of the Real Madrid CF man. "He is very good, very dynamic, very present. It is good for the others that he is there."

Hope for the future
The youngest team at UEFA EURO 2012, Germany's average age has actually dipped since the 2010 World Cup finals to just 24.52. Their build-up play was breathtaking at times, and they remain an entertaining team to watch, even at their worst. Youngsters Marco Reus, Mario Götze and André Schürrle made exciting cameo showings in Poland and Ukraine, and Mats Hummels shone in central defence – despite an off night against Italy. With two more years' experience, they could be better still.

Vital statistic
8-5: In the semi-final against Italy, Germany had eight shots on target, but only scored from the penalty spot at the death. Italy had five chances and scored two. Efficiency is everything.

Final word
"We've had two great years. The team has developed very well, winning 15 [competitive] games in a row. We still played a great tournament and we have really moved forward. We won four games and lost one. We have caught up with other nations at the top of the game. There will be more chances in the future."
Joachim Löw after the Italy game

Last updated: 05/12/13 4.13CET

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