Mario Gomez may be making the headlines for Germany, but Bastian Schweinsteiger says it is defensive lessons learned from FC Barcelona and Spain that have laid the platform.
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While Mario Gomez's three goals in Poland and Ukraine have grabbed the headlines, influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger admits the squad's focus remains at the back.
Until Robin van Persie pulled one back for the Netherlands 17 minutes from time last night, Germany were the only side at UEFA EURO 2012 yet to concede. Schweinsteiger said on Thursday that keeping clean sheets had always been an aim for Joachim Löw's men, even when they were plundering 34 goals in ten qualifiers.
"The teams that defend well in this tournament will go far. In many situations when you are attacking, you already have to start thinking about what happens once the ball is lost. As a defensive player, you already have to watch the opposing attackers and ask yourself what could happen when the ball is lost."
The 27-year-old draws inspiration from Spain, a team that won all their knockout matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup 1-0. "If you look at the ideal example, Barcelona or Spain, you can see how good their defenders are at setting up, even while they still have possession. That is perfect defending." Indeed, it is not about parking the bus; it is about staying one step ahead of your opponent.
A veteran of four major international tournaments, Schweinsteiger says the current side profited from their own experiences of South Africa two years ago. Many players now have tournament experience. "We are a bit more mature now. Yesterday, with the hot weather, we rested while we had possession. We played simple, clever passes and managed to get in front of goal. Maybe in future matches we can better showcase our style."
Schweinsteiger was hampered by injury throughout 2011/12, and even now he admits he has to hold back in training. If a less than fully fit Schweinsteiger can produce two world-class assists like he did against the Netherlands, then Löw cannot wait for the midfield dynamo to hit peak fitness, saying: "Schweinsteiger still has small room for improvement, but he played a great match. With every game he is getting better and his presence on the pitch is huge."
While Schweinsteiger knows Sunday's Group B opponents Denmark will probably sit deep and be difficult to play against, his review of the past few years augurs well for what's to come. "We've had lots of success in the past. Our bad games were mostly in friendlies. We were there when it counted. That's important in football today".