Mon, Jan 02, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Germany make no secret of Euro 2012 goal

AFP, BERLIN

Germany have made no secret of their intention to win Euro 2012 in June having underlined their status last year as one of the pretenders to the title, which will be decided in Kiev on July 1.

After finishing third at the 2010 World Cup, Germany completed their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a perfect 10 wins from 10, while claiming the scalps of Brazil and the Netherlands in friendlies.

Having taken over as head coach after the 2006 World Cup, Joachim Loew has utilized the youthful talent of fleet-footed midfielders Mario Goetze, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller to inject pace into the German attack.

“This Germany team is the strongest in Europe,” said veteran striker Miroslav Klose, the oldest member of the squad at 33. “We can win the European Championships next summer without any doubt.”

However, with the start of the tournament, to be hosted by Poland and the Ukraine, still six months away, Germany’s coach has played down growing expectations.

Having traditionally been known for their highly effective soccer playing, Germany are forging a reputation for a fast-paced counterattacking game, but question marks linger over their defense.

Of the current crop of rising Germany stars, the silky skills of Marco Reus have been showcased by Borussia Moenchengladbach’s rise having only narrowly avoided relegation in May last year.

Likewise, Dortmund’s Goetze is realizing his potential and the 19-year-old ran the Germany attack in the 3-2 win over Brazil in August.

Having drawn with Italy in a friendly in February and hammered Kazakhstan 4-0 in a Euro 2012 qualifier, a weakened Germany were caught out when Australia beat them for the first time in March.

Having returned to winning ways in qualifiers, a full-strength team dazzled against Brazil with Germany taking a 2-0 lead before a penalty and late goal gave the score-line some respectability for the South Americans.

A 6-2 victory over Austria in September confirmed Germany’s Euro berth, while the draw for the finals has pitted them in Group B alongside the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.

Loew has yet to decide on a settled back four with captain Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker as first choice alongside two from Dortmund’s Mats Hummels, Bayern’s Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Schalke’s Benedikt Hoewdes.

Germany finished the year by forcing Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk to admit he was “embarrassed” by the Oranje’s 3-0 defeat in Hamburg.

In their defense, it was a Netherlands team missing Arsenal striker Robin van Persie and Tottenham midfielder Raphael van der Vaart, but Germany were without broken-collarbone victim Bastian Schweinsteiger, while Lahm was rested.

Even without Schweinsteiger, Germany were solid in midfield with Ozil and Mueller linking with Klose.

The Lazio hotshot now has 63 goals for his country in 113 appearances and is closing in on Gerd Mueller’s 37-year-old record of 68 goals in 63 games as Germany’s all-time top scorer.

Domestically, Dortmund were crowned Bundesliga champions in May, but Bayern Munich finish the year three points clear of the chasing pack in the German league.

Bayern have the potential to make at least the Champions League quarter-finals this year, having drawn Manchester United-slayers Basel in the last 16, while Leverkusen take on holders Barcelona.

After the suicide of national goalkeeper Robert Enke rocked Germany in November 2009, burnout and mental health were frequent topics last year.

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