As well as the European Championship play-off second legs, a number of international friendlies, involving nations already qualified for next summer’s tournament, took place earlier this week. Here is a summary of two of the more interesting of these fixtures, England vs Sweden, but first, Germany vs Holland.
Germany v Holland, played in Hamburg on Tuesday evening, was billed as the latest chapter in the story of a fierce national rivalry, both footballing and otherwise, stretching back to World War 2 and encompassing the 1974 World Cup, the 1988 Euro Championships and a fiery encounter at Italia 90.
The match itself however, proved to be an entirely one sided affair which failed to live up to any competitive expectations that there may have been. Germany started the game brightly, passing the ball sharply and Klose had a chance in the opening minutes, firing just wide. The hosts took the lead on 15 minutes with a clinical attacking move; Kroos with a pinpoint cross-field ball to Klose, whose perfectly weighted header down was met first-time by the on-rushing Thomas Mueller, who finished with aplomb. The Dutch never recovered, Germany made it 2-0 on 26 minutes, this time Klose finishing off another excellent attacking move with a trademark header. Mueller was involved again, this time supplying Oezil, whose early cross was perfect service for Klose. From that moment the game was effectively over, and, despite a brief Dutch effort at the beginning of the second period, it merely became a question of how many the Germans wanted to score. They made it 3-0 after 66 minutes, the trio of Oezil, Mueller and Klose combining again, this time for Oezil to score the goal of the game, finishing a sweeping move by tapping the ball into an empty net after some brilliant passing and combination play had carved Holland open.
The match, of course, was only a friendly, and the Dutch team was missing a number of first team regulars such as van Persie and Robben, however their performance was abject, lacking any cohesion and passion. Germany on the other hand, also missing key players such as Lahm and Schweinsteiger, looked very impressive, compact and calm in defence, quick and clinical in attack, particularly the three goal-scorers whose link up play was excellent. On the evidence of this encounter Holland need to improve quickly, Germany will take some beating next summer.
England went into the game against Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday evening having failed to beat their opponents for some 43 years, however, having beaten Spain three days before, they were hoping to put an end to that run.
End it they did, Gareth Barry’s header deflected in by Majstorovic, the Celtic centre-half, midway through the first period, enough to give England a 1-0 victory. Buoyed by the goal, England played well for the rest of the half, creating a number of chances, the best of which was undoubtedly Jack Rodwell’s header five minutes or so before the break. A number of England’s fringe and younger players took the opportunity to impress, Downing in particular, who created the chance for Rodwell, as part of an excellent overall contribution, and Rodwell did himself no harm whatsoever, turning in an all action performance at the heart of the midfield. The second half was a more balanced affair, with Sweden digging in, and substitutions playing their part in disrupting the flow of the match. Sweden, for their part, were ok, solid enough defensively as you would expect, but quite ineffectual going forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic again saving a thoroughly lacklustre performance for the English fans to see.
England emerge from the encounter having blooded a few of their youngsters and given game-time to those who have been on the fringes of the squad. This could be very important for next summer as there are big question marks surrounding some of the more established older guard, Rooney’s suspension, Ferdinand’s and Terry’s loss of form for example. The win will give the squad confidence, but they have a long way to go if they really want to mount a challenge at Euro 2012. Sweden were definitely playing in second gear in this match, it is difficult to gage, therefore, the danger they may pose in Poland and Ukraine. It is safe to say that they will surely be better than the evidence of Tuesday evening, but one thing is certain, if Ibrahimovic doesn’t bring his A game, Sweden will be going home early.
This piece was originally commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published 17/11/11