With Goal for Germany, Mario Gomez Vindicates Coach’s Faith
byon 06-10-2012 at 02:59 PM (914 Views)
It was the 72nd minute of a game that had grown increasingly frustrating and unproductive. Mario Gomez had labored after making an unexpected start at forward for Germany. Miroslav Klose stood at the sideline on his 34th birthday, ready to replace to him.
Then Gomez did something air max shoeshe had never done: score an important goal in a major international competition. And Germany, a three-time champion, took a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Portugal on Saturday in its opening match of the European soccer championships.
Germany avoided the mortality exposed in the Netherlands in a 1-0 defeat to Denmark in the so-called group of death. And Gomez rewarded the faith placed in him by Coach Joachim Löw, finally exorcising the embarrassment of the 2008 Euros, when he stunningly missed a sitter from three yards against Austria.
On Saturday, a cross from Sami Khedira on the right flank deflected toward Gomez, who headed the ball past the futile reach of Portugal’s goalkeeper, Rui Patricio. Gomez punched the air and raised his arms in celebration and relief. No longer would he be considered an underachiever for the national team.
Löw jumped to his feet in applause and validation of his lineup choices. Finally, Gomez had done for the German national team what he had routinely done in the Bundesliga, first for Stuttgart and since 2009 for Bayern Munich.
An inviting target at 6 feet 3 inches, Gomez delivered his 22nd goal in 51 appearances for Germany and by far the most consequential. Klose briefly went back to the bench, and Gomez nearly scored again on a sliding charge at the goal before Klose finally gave him a deserved curtain call in the 80th minute.
At the final whistle, Gomez drew hugs from his teammates and wore his warm-up jacket around his neck like a cape. After Saturday’s goal, in a bountiful season in which he scored 41 times in 52 appearances for Bayern Munich, Gomez could rightfully exult in his nickname, Super Mario.
He had forced a save in the second minute, but he skied a header over the crossbar in the 57th minute. For long stretches, Germany’s short passing and possession style seemed to lack energy and purpose. But Gomez scored in the decisive moment, and in the end that was all that mattered.
Still, many had expected Klose to start such an important match. After all, he had 63 goals in 116 previous international appearances. And Gomez had started only intermittently for Die Mannschaft. But Klose badly injured a thigh in March while playing for Lazio of Italy’s Serie A, and his convalescence has been extended.
“It was a hard road for me,” Gomez, whose father is Spanish and whose mother is German, said about being the usual understudy to Klose. “I am very happy that the coach had confidence in me. With the goal, I could pay something back. The ball was deflected and landed exactly on the front of my head. It wasn’t that difficult.”
Löw’s instinct also paid off with his other lineup decisions. Mats Hummels was steady in anticipation and positioning at center back in place of Per Mertesacker, who is also recovering from injury. And Löw stuck with Jerome Boateng at right back, despite threatening to bench him.
Boateng’s place was jeopardized by late-night carousing chronicled by the paparazzi. He was photographed with a former Playboy model and several friends early Monday, several hours before Germany flew to its training base in Poland. Löw was not amused and talked publicly of replacing him.
“He must be in a position to give it everything he has got in this tournament,” Löw had said of Boateng.
And on Saturday, he was.
Boateng was assigned to limit the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and did whatever it took, even if it meant drawing a yellow card in the 69th minute for grabbing Ronaldo by the shoulders and impeding him near midfield.
In the 18th minute, Boateng seemed mesmerized as Ronaldo stepped over the ball, right foot, left, right, and sent a pass across the goal mouth. But in the 64th minute, Boateng made an exceptional tackle with great hustle and determination. He caught up to Ronaldo in the penalty area and smothered a shot that would have been dangerous.
“Everyone knows the class of Ronaldo,” Boateng said. “You can’t shut him down completely, but we did well as a team. I think he had no more than two or three shots at goal. The criticism from the coach helped me, and the whole team stood behind me.”
Portugal had other inviting chances. Pepe hit the crossbar after a corner kick fell to his feet near halftime. Nani also pinged a shot off the crossbar in the 84th minute. Earlier, a heavy, dipping blast from Ronaldo was deflected wide by an alert Manuel Neuer.
In the end, only one player found the net. If Gomez’s spot in the lineup was unlikely, his goal was definitive.
DENMARK 1, NETHERLANDS 0 Denmark air max shoes secured the first huge surprise of Euro 2012 with its Group B victory in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Michael Krohn-Dehli scored against the run of play when he picked up a loose ball close to the penalty area in the 24th minute, left two defenders standing and shot between Maarten Stekelenburg’s legs from a tight angle.
Denmark’s goalkeeper, Stephan Andersen, made several clutch saves to secure the most important Danish victory over the Netherlands since the Euro semifinals in 1992.