Germany took a big step towards the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Wednesday when two classy first-half strikes from Mario Gomez secured a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands, who are in serious danger of elimination.
A majestic goal in the 73rd minute from Robin van Persie gave the Netherlands a chance in the latter stages, but they looked physically spent, having been forced to chase the game after falling behind.
Joachim Loew’s Germany will qualify as group winners if they draw or win their final match against Denmark in Lviv and they are shaping up nicely for a push for a fourth European title.
The only hope the Netherlands have of progress is if they beat Portugal in Kharkiv and Germany win, opening up the opportunity to go through on goal difference.
The mathematics might not yet be clear, but what was certainly decided in the humid heat of the Metalist Stadium was that Germany, and not the Netherlands, are the real challengers to Spain’s crown.
Even though they might not yet be at their peak, Germany were still superior in all departments as the Netherlands defense was opened up, their midfield exposed defensively and there was as lack of sharpness in attack.
“It was supposed to be our night, but we ended empty-handed as we played poorly,” winger Arjen Robben’s said. “There is no cohesion between our lines, there are gaps and we are not connecting.”
However, the early indications were that the Netherlands were going to give Germany a torrid test and skipper Mark van Bommel sent Van Persie clear, but he was unable to beat ’keeper Manuel Neuer.
That chance triggered an instant reaction from Germany, with Mesut Ozil’s volley rattling the foot of the post and the ball rolling into Netherlands ’keeper Maarten Stekelenburg’s hands.
Germany grabbed the lead with a goal of genuine quality, the influential Bastian Schweinsteiger threading a pass through the Netherlands’ defense to Gomez, who elegantly turned and fired home.
The pair combined again to double the advantage, the Germany striker opting for power as he blasted diagonally across Stekelenburg.