Archive for the ‘German National Team’ Category

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. and commemorate the celebrations that originated in Plymouth in 1621, I figured it would be an ideal time to give thanks to something near and dear to my heart … ‘Die Mannschaft’, the German Men’s National Soccer Team. The popularity and on-the-pitch success of Joachim Loew’s men is at an unprecedented high and if current form is an indicator of future performance than the country’s #3 world FIFA ranking is probably on the low side.

Here is Germany’s ‘tale of the tape’ for 2011:

  • 13 national team international matches-6 Euro 2012 Qualifiers, 7 Friendlies
  • 9 wins, 3 ties, 1 loss
  • Perfect Euro 2012 qualifying campaign: 10 games, 10 wins, 30 points, 34 goals scored, 7 conceded (21 goals scored in 2011)
  • Five starters scored 5 or more goals including Mario Gomez (6), Miroslav Klose (5), Thomas Mueller (5), Mesut Oezil (5) and Andre Schuerrle (5)
  • Youngest Germany team in modern history
  • Miroslav Klose, 2nd on international goal list to Gerd Mueller, celebrates 100th cap with 2 goals in Kaiserslautern (March 26)
  • Friendly victories over Brazil (3:2), The Netherlands (3:0) and Uruguay (2:1)

Beyond the outstanding on-the-field results,what made Die Mannschaft particularly lethal in 2011 and heading into Poland And Ukraine (Euro 2012) next June is the roster depth at each position and overall youth. There’s a running joke routinely thrown in the face of new job applicants (especially in Germany where the average age of out of school employees is 25+) that calls for a 20-year-old job candidate with 10 years of work experience. This reminds of the German youth movement, players like Goetze (19), Schuerrle (21), Toni Kroos (21), Thomas Mueller (21), Mats Hummels (22) and Oezil (23) are babies but have all played for many years and gathered more than their share of high-profile, international match experience.

Speaking of the young guns as well as the ‘tribe elders’, here are some individual accolades I deemed appropriate for 2011:

Schuerrle celebrates his first goal for Die Mannschaft vs. Uruguay

Newcomer of the year: Andre Schuerrle. Last year he played at Mainz, this year’s he’s secured a lucrative deal with Leverkusen, and with 5 goals (all in 2011) in 11 national team appearances he’s one of the young guns shooting for Euro 2012 glory.

Comeback player of the year: Mario Gomez for finally finding the back of the net as a member of the national team and swaying German public opinion about his value as Germany’s star.

Oezil and his Real teammates celebrate

Bonefide superstar: Mesut Oezil is a stud. Propelled into the international spotlight with a solid world cup performance in South Africa, his Real Madrid debut in 2010 was nothing  short of spectacular. He led Spanish La Liga in goal assists last year and has become Mourinho’s MVP with his ability to satisfy Cristiano Ronaldo’s insatiable appetite for goals.

The 75+ CAPS Club: Piere Mertesacker (79), Lukas Podolski (95), Miro Klose (113), Philip Lahm (85) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (90) are German’s tribe elders and by far the most experienced of the bunch. While Klose might still make it to Brazil in 2014, the others have at least 3 or 4 more major international tournaments in them.

“Seems like he’s been there forever” award: Manuel Neuer has only collect 25 caps as Germany’s #1 in goal but ever since he replaced Rene Adler before South Africa, the humble Bayern keeper has settled in as the calm and collected ‘back-stop’ of Die Mannschaft. Considering many goalies play well into their 30s, Neuer has at least another decade of history making in front of him.

Razzie recipient (award for ‘worst’ performance): Michael Ballack is settling into his supporting role for Bayer Leverkusen, but his exit from the German team was anything but graceful. Hexed with a major pre-worldcup injury, he never recovered to represent Deutschland and feuded loudly and often with DFB (German Soccer Federation) officials about his dismissal.

“Don’t quit your day job’ award: Philip Lahm for authoring a ‘tell all’ book on various managers of the national team forcing a public apology and debate over his worthiness as German captain.

“Clicking on all cylinders” award: German Youth academies for nurturing supreme soccer talent and re-vitalizing and re-juvenating German soccer from the amateur ranks to the national side.

“Would hate to have your job” award: Paul the Octopus, the famous German cephalopod mollusc known world-wide for its ability to predict all victors of the 2010 World Cup. Although Paul is no longer in the prediction business (in fact, he ended up as a tasty fried side dish some time ago), he has inspired a new generation of savvy octopuses that will no doubt be  thrust into the Euro 2012 spotlight when it comes to next summer’s wagers and predictions.

The German Fussball ladies huddle up pre-game

“Show them how it’s done” award: German Women’s National team and their gracious early exit from the 2011 World Cup as well as their overall tasteful and humane handling of the Birgit Prinz saga.

November 11, 2011 means different things to different people. To some, it signifies the Cosmic Portal Transit Date (hop aboard the train of ‘life’s true happiness’), others observe it as World Day of Interconnectedness (at 11AM be nice to and ‘connect’ with anyone and everyone), while others celebrate Nigel Tufnel Day, the fictional rocker from the world’s loudest band Spinal Tap, who loves to turn his amps up to 11 when he needs that “extra push over the cliff.”

To me, November 11 means two things; a great excuse for a delicious roasted goose dinner to celebrate The Feast of St. Martin (aka St. Martin’s day) and the chance to witness some of the most intriguing football fixtures spanning international friendlies, EURO2012 play-off qualifiers and 2014 World Cup (WC) qualifiers. Since this is a football and not a food blog, I’ll focus on the 11 matches, teams and players bound to make an impact on this historic day. If you are keeping count, Friday will feature 4 Euro qualifiers,  13 international friendlies, and a whopping 35 WC qualifiers played across 4 continents.

[11] Colombia vs. Venezuela (WC2014 qualifier): Colombian football has always intrigued me and I have always rooted for the traditional underdogs who’s last WC appearance dates back to 1998.

  1.  While the likes of Higuita and Valderrama are long gone, new phenoms include forwards such as Radamel Falcao and  Hugo Rodallega. Speaking of underdogs, Venezuela has never qualified for a world cup, and until its 2011 Copa America semi-final finish, has never finished better than 5th in any tournament. With a recent WC-qualifier win over the mighty Argentinians, this match should prove wide open, but in the end Venezuela will come up short by 1:2.

    Bad hair was a trademark of this Colombian football legend


[10] Republic of Ireland: ‘The luck of the Irish’ EURO2012 play-off draw saw the team from the Emerald Isle paired up against Estonia, by far the easiest (at least on paper) of the four play-off match-ups. After being cheated out of a World Cup South Africa spot based on Thierry Henry’s now infamous ‘hand of god’,  the footballing world is ready to see Ireland return to the world stage. With the Euro Championship in 1988 being their only appearance, colorful coach Giovanni Trapattoni and captain Robbie Keane are determined to a new page to the history books. I predict a 3:1 goal spread on aggregate across the two Estonia matches on the 11th and 15th.

[9] France vs. USA:  As U.S. soccer historian and avid soccer film collector Dave Wasser pointed out to me, the last encounter of these two was 1979, a 3:0 cake walk for France. Honestly, I don’t know if the U.S. is any better off than 32 years ago but at least ESPN2 found it worthy enough to broadcast. With all cynicism aside, it will be interesting to see how Juergen Klinsmann preps his men for the battle over frog legs. Thanks to Dave, here are a few clips from the 1979 encounter.

Keane is still Ireland's 'King of the World'

[8] Robbie Keane: The Irish National Team captain has made a recent move to LA but is still considered the ‘difference maker’ for The Boys in Green and their top international goal scorer with 51. With the LA Galaxy’s November 20th MLS Cup Final approaching, Keane will have to log more than 10,000 miles to compete in both Euro playoffs and the MLS match over the next 9 days. We’ll see how much juice is left in the tank by the time 2oth rolls around.

[7] Turkey vs. Croatia: I thought Turkey would have a much easier go of it in qualifying for EURO2012. While they did not stand much of a chance to top their qualifying group vs. the Germans, the talent-heavy side led by the iconic Dutch master Guus Hiddick has looked very ordinary and now faces Croatia in the 2 game play-off. Turkey might be the home side for the first leg match, but without Nuri Sahin they could well find themselves dominated by Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric. Also look for some fireworks from Croatian and Bayern striker Olic as he looks to rebound from a slew of nagging injuries. I see Turkey finally getting its act together and claiming the EURO spot with a 2:1 aggregate victory over Croatia.

Klinsman scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for his country

[6] Juergen Klinsmann: I love this guy; love what he achieved as a player, love how he resurrected German soccer and made the entire country look like heroes in 2006, love that he made Jogi Loew a household name (well almost) and love the fact we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the US since his national team coaching appointment.I realize he’s already under fire for not winning much as U.S. coach thus far, but let’s look at France as the turning point. He’s taking his time, taking chances and believing in talented youth, much like he did with David Odonkor in 2006 when he shocked German football ‘experts’ with the speedsters’ world cup squad nomination. Go Klinsi go and take 4 points from the next two matches with France and Slovenia

[5] England vs. Spain: I am skipping ahead to Saturday’s clash of the Titans but would be remiss if I did not mention this classic match-up (12:15pm Eastern, Live on Fox Soccer) and the bragging rights a stake. While this might just be another friendly on paper, the two camps are taking matter seriously with England skipper Fabio Capello truly taking one for the team by missing his youngest son’s wedding also scheduled for Saturday. On the footballing side, I see England struggling to keep up with Spain’s high-powered offense and second to none team play. Spain 2, England 0.

Phillip Lahm sport's his country's new EURO2012 Home kit

[4] Ukraine vs. Germany: Germany can break its curse of loosing end-of-the-year international match by upending Ukraine in Kiev tonight (live on ESPN3.com at 2:45PM Eastern).  While this will be a cold, maybe even close to zero degree affair, and stars like Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Neuer and Klose are inactive, ‘Die Mannschaft’ surely realizes the symbolism of playing in Kiev’s newly renovated Olympic Stadium and host of next summer’s EURo Final on July 1 (233 days and counting). Other match notables include Jogi Loew’s decision to feature the Oezil Goetze midfield duo (a first) and the DFB (German Soccer Federation) will unveil Germany’s EURO2012 kit.

[3] Mario Goetze: “Wir sind Deutschland” (we are German). Jung, dynamisch und erfolgreich (young, dynamic and succesful).” Dortmund’s Super Mario 2.0 is all that is good with German football … the domestic leagues are gaining international respect and pulling in record revenues; the German’farm system’ is sophisticated and extremely well-funded and ‘harvesting’ one bumper crop after the next (Mueller-Boateng-Reuss-Schuerle-Kroos-Pedersen-Goetze …); and the national team is winning (record EURO qualifying stats, solid friendly victory over Brazil this summer).

[2] Luka Modric: The Croatian midfielder and Spurs star was the most talked about English Premier League transfer that did not happen during the July-August transfer window. Modrić was heavily pursued by cross-town rivals, Chelsea who made an offer of £40 million ( £25 more than they paid for him) which was later rejected. He is a midfield marvel and was once dubbed the ‘Croatian Cruyff’ and at 26 has yet to reach his full superstar potential.

[1] Bosnia vs. Portugal: Bosnia-Herzegovina has a score to settle with Portugal after the Iberians edged the Balkan nation to a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after winning the WC qualification play-offs. While Portugal boasts the more impressive roster led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Pepe, Bosnia’s 25 year old striker Edin Dzeko is currently in cracking form with Manchester City so maybe he can single handily carry his squad to Ukraine & Poland. I think this will be the upset match-up and Bosnia will outlast Portugal 3:2 on aggregate after the return leg on November 15th.

Portugal celebrates after securing a 2010 World Cup birth in a tense play-off with Bosnia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, to all the players and teams today competing for glory, pride, respect or honor, channel your inner Nigel Tufnel and remember to turn your amps up to 11 (on11.11) when that “extra push over the cliff” is required.

Kevin-Prince Boateng has undoubtedly earned his bad boy image over the years regardless of his spiffy threads

Ask professional footballer Boateng about his match performance on Sunday, October 23rd and you will get two wildly conflicting answers …  AC Milan attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng scored 3 goals in 14 minutes to lead a second half comeback from 0-3 down. Boateng scored the fastest Serie A hat-trick in 10 years (since former French International David Trezeguet did so in 10-minutes for Juventus back in 2001). And, teammate Mario Yepes grabbed a late winner as AC Milan came back from 3-0 down for a sensational 4-3 victory at Lecce Sunday. Check out this short clip of all 7 goals from the AC/Lecce match including Boateng’s killer strikes

While his brother was scoring a 14-minute hat trick for AC Milan, Jerome fought his way to a red card and early exit vs. Hannover

1900 kilometers North, in Hannover, Germany,  Kevin’s younger brother Jerome, a central defender for Bayern Munich and member of the German National Team, was shown a red card and ejected in the 28th minute of Bayern’s match vs. Hannover. Boateng lost his cool and pushed one of the Hannover players leading to a sideline melee and straight red card. A several-match suspension might follow as well.

The most recent Boateng newsflash is just the latest in what has turned into nothing short of a ‘True Hollywood Story’ especially after Kevin (who wears Prince on the back of his jersey) single-handedly removed Michael Ballack from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (and as it turns out from the German squad for good!). The 2010 FA Cup Final set the stage when Boateng’s lowly Portsmouth squad faced off against league champs Chelsea in the Wembley finale. Just before half-time, Boateng swooped in and delivered a bone crunching (in this case right ankle twisting) tackle on Ballack forcing his early exit from the match as well as his medical withdrawal from South Africa. To make things stranger, Kevin had years before plead his allegiance to his native Ghana while his brother favored wearing a Germany jersey for ‘Die Mannschaft’. Of course, the press had a field day declaring that  Boateng had fouled Ballack on purpose in order to keep him out of the German lineup and more importantly out of the Germany vs. Ghana first round match. In hindsight, Boateng did Germany a huge favor and a Ballack-less squad played aggressive, fast and team-focused football ending up with a 3rd place world cup medal.  While both Boatengs faced off in the aforementioned Germany Ghana world cup game, their relationship has severely cooled since the dynamic duo played together for Hertha Berlin several years ago.

We want you ... to remember us like this: happy and united in Berlin (circa 2006)

Miroslav Klose, discarded by Hollywood FC (Bayern Muenchen) and released transfer fee-free past July, found a welcoming home in Roma and S.S. Lazio, the ‘other Italian 1st division (Serie A) team in the nation’s capital. The 33-year-old Polish born German who has set all sorts of scoring records with the German National Team, has enjoyed the move south due in large part to something very simple … he’s playing soccer regularly … and doing it very well. Since joining Lazio, Klose has scored 6 times in Serie A and Europa League games including match winners two weeks in a row. The latest, Sunday’s 93rd minute thriller against arch rivals AS Roma in front of rabid Lazio supporters at the Stadio Olimpico, marked for me Klose’s homecoming to Italian football and the beginning of another chapter in the series “German Footballers kick ass in Italy” … molto impressionante! I say homecoming, because to me, Klose has been a wanderer, looking for respect, ever since he ‘sold out’ and left Bremen for Bayern after the 2006/7 Bundesliga campaign. His saving grace … consistently dominant performances for Germany at all international competitions.

Out of this world, like the sign says ... Klose again displays extraterrestrial abilities with his ice cold winner to secure Lazio's victory over arch-rival Roma on Sunday

So Sunday, the world stage was set for the 167th edition of the  Derby della Capitale, the local derby between Rome’s major teams Roma and Lazio. Considered to be the fiercest rivalry in the country and one of the greatest and hotly contested capital derbies in Europe, the game and Miro Klose did not disappoint. A bit of background – since November 1953, all matches have been played in Stadio Olimpico, the 72,000+ capacity home pitch of both Lazio and Roma, and in total the two rivals have battled 167 times, 135 of those in Serie A competition. While Roma has tallied 17 more victories including the last 5 since December 2009, Sunday’s Lazio home performance and last-minute heroics put an end to that streak. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, a thrilling video clip is worth a million … here’s Miro’s goal and the ensuing mayhem.

 

Football is about passion and inspiration and Klose’s latest performance fueled my tank on both accounts. If you don’t ‘buy it’ from me, take the Lazio faithful’s word for it … Ole Ole Ole Kloseee

 

I am back to blogging and posting fun and hopeful interesting football/soccer stuff on the site so you can again get used to lots of fresh content … all leading up to UEFA’s EURO 2012 competition next summer in Poland and Ukraine

As of the end of play on Sunday, July 3rd, we have reached the halfway mark of games played (16) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. Judging by various factors – stadium attendance; TV ratings; host country hospitality; player reactions and enthusiasm; quality of football played; and media interest – the 2011 Women’s World Cup will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression, even before the world cup championship trophy is hoisted in Frankfurt on July 17th.

While there are too many highlights to mention, here are our top 5 winners & losers 8 days in:

Winners (Starting 11)

Japanese Women’s Team: The Nippon warriors have not only captured the hearts of football fans around the globe, but also brought their ‘A’ game to the tournament. They currently sit atop Group B with the most goals scored, including a hat-trick by captain Homare Sawa vs. Mexico.

Genoveva Anonman: The 22-year old Equatorial Guinea midfielder wasted no time making headlines in Germany with 10 shots on goal vs. Norway and 2 goals scored in the last match against Australia.  While her gender may have been questioned pre-WWC, her heart and commitment to her team are unshakable. While many have been put-off by her arrogant, in your face style, I have found her outlook refreshing.

TV Ratings: More than 90% of all WWC tickets have been sold, public opinion of women’s soccer in Germany and worldwide are at an all time high, and TV ratings in the host country are unprecedented.  While 18 million Germans tuned in for Germany’s opener against Canada, more than 16.6 watched the Nigeria match, accounting for 50+% of all TV viewers last Thursday. More stats can be viewed here.

Cecilia Okoyino Da Mbabi: Cecilia is quickly becoming a household name in Germany although pronouncing her name is no easy feat. The German midfielder scored the 2nd goal in her country’s victory against Canada, securing her slot as one of the starting 11.  In addition to her obvious footballing skills, she is another sport poster child of the German ‘multikulti’, multi-cultural generation with foreign parents but a German passport. Nonetheless, her French mother will root for her daughter and teammates when Germany faces France next.

HERoics: As part of its 2011 Women’s World Cup coverage, ESPN aired a series of six soccer documentaries made by women, about women. The 10 minute short films profile WWC players Marta (Brazil), Kelly Smith (England), and Lisa De Vanna (Australia); and highlight unique stories about a group of grandmothers and senior citizens on a football team in Jerez, Spain; a woman referee in the Republic of Congo who earned accolades from FIFA while working through the stress of abuse from fans; and a probation officer who uses soccer to steer troubled teens away from gangs in a Central California town.

Losers (On the bench)

Birgit Prinz: Here’s another case of an aging German soccer star unwilling to see (or acknowledge) the writing on the wall. In what could turn into ‘Ballack, part two’, the German’s captain has been playing very poorly and acting worse off-the field (in reaction to her early substitutions). Time will tell how this turns out, but since the ego/psyche damage has obviously been done, I say bench the star and give U-20 World Champion Alexandra Popp her shot.

Gaal Gyoengyi: She is the Hungarian referee that missed the obvious handball (non-call) during the Australia-Equatorial Guinea match. Want more musings on this ultimate bad call and day 8 WWC action? Check out The All White kit blog women’s soccer blog.

Sepp Blatter: Not only did German WWC organizing committee members have to plead with fans to not boo the man at the Opening Ceremonies, the press was also instructed to not ask questions about the ongoing FIFA bribery allegations. In fact, FIFA was so worried about the boo birds coming out to greet Blatter, that the decision was made to not have him officially ‘open’ the tournament from the field. He was seen ‘hiding’ in the stands.

Nigerian WWC Team: Their on-field performance this world cup has been nothing short of dismal and their sportsmanship and aggressive tackling has raised eyebrows (for the wrong reasons). Just like the men’s team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the women are ‘3 and out’ and will be flying home undoubtedly disappointed. We are somewhat surprised by the team’s poor performance since the Nigerian U-20 team had a phenomenal showing at last year’s U-20 world cup and only lost to Germany in the final.

Anheuser-Busch: The beer giant proves once again that selling a lot of beer to a lot of people has nothing to do with making good beer. Case in point, A-B’s continued sponsorship (as the sole beer vendor) of the FIFA World Cup including this year’s WWC. I first began rioting about this when I was subjected to lukewarm Budweiser peddled at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and consequently forced to stand in very long German beer lines (1 beer stand per venue) at the stadiums. More rants and perspective on this can be read here.

With 8 games played and game 2 group matches starting Thursday, what is the initial take-away from the big Germany summer party that is the FIFA WWC 2011?

We expected (and hoped for) … record attendance; renewed interest in the women’s game; an extremely hospitable Germany; and host cities and venues par excellence.

We did not expect … 16 teams that are so closely matched-only one game had a 2 goal differential (USA vs. North Korea); hot weather that has left many players cramping up and gasping for 2nd half air; 38 shots on goal in the Norway vs. Equatorial Guinea match with one lonely goal (scored in the 84th minute by Norway); and, the North Korean National team blaming their loss to the U.S. on lightning

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading A LOT of football-related blogs, listening to countless podcasts and participating in the football conversation via twitter. My mission … figure out what sites I fancy, recommend, and others to stay away from, so I can give my readers the best blog experience when they happen upon this site. One of the sites I really dig, as much for the idea as the content, is FootballSpeak. According to the stated mission, FootballSpeak is the face of a new football blogging revolution; a place where writers are also editors who read and rate every article on the site. “Here we believe that every fan has interesting football stories to tell …” I wholeheartedly agree and immediately jumped on the ‘please write for us’ bandwagon when they reached out about contributing prior to their ‘Go-Live’ this week.

You can check out my article: “Auf Wiedersehen: German National Team Ends the Ballack Era” on the site and also rate and comment on the content or any of the posted pieces (one-time registration (username/password) is required). Stay tuned for more …