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Germany continue to grow

Germany narrowly failed to become champions of Europe for a recordfourth time, but they can have no complaints about finishing runners-upto a powerful and consistent Spain side.

Germany fell short but have continued to improve
Germany fell short but have continued to improve ©Getty Images

It has often been said that it is dangerous to write off the Germans, and although many observers might have felt inclined to do so after they were comprehensively beaten by Croatia in their second group game, the fact is that, not for the first time in a major tournament, Germany were able to overachieve and deliver the goods when it mattered. The defeat in Klagenfurt was not fatal, and they knew it. What followed were three successive victories – against Austria, Portugal, Turkey - before they met their match against Spain.

Clinical finishers
The Castrol performance statistics do not suggest that Germany would have been worthy winners of UEFA EURO 2008™. But although they drew a blank against Spain, it was the team's ability, first and foremost, to put away their chances that got them into a sixth UEFA European Championship final. They had 24 shots on target in their six matches – a relatively meagre tally - but from that they produced ten goals. It is an extraordinary conversion rate and one that puts clear distance between Germany and all of the other 15 participants in that particular classification. Whether that outstanding ratio is down to mental strength or technical ability under pressure cannot be deduced by simple statistical analysis, but whatever the reason, Germany would dearly like to bottle it and bring it out again at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa.

Step forward
Having finished third at the last World Cup, on home soil, it is fair to say that in coming second at UEFA EURO 2008™ Germany have made a positive step forward under Löw, who was promoted to the role of head coach after previously working as assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann. If there is one technical area in which Löw deserves particular credit, it is the way in which he has worked on the team's set-pieces. Free-kicks produced three of Germany's goals, and several others were sourced from wide areas, especially on the left where full-back Philipp Lahm and three-goal striker-turned-midfielder Lukas Podolski were especially productive.

Clever and pragmatic
Germany's defensive shortcomings were exposed by Croatia, Portugal and Turkey, each of whom put two goals past them, but the central unit of veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and defensive pillars Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder did well to stem the Spanish tide and concede just one goal against dominant opponents in the final. With two goals apiece, Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Ballack can also claim to have made positive contributions to the tournament. Perhaps, as the statistics show, this was not a vintage Nationalmannschaft, a team that was tactically and technically superior to the opposition. But it was certainly a clever and pragmatic side that played to its strengths and was also nerveless and clinical in front of goal. There is much for Löw and his coaching staff to build on for the future.