Euro 2008 – Podolski double downs Poland
A brace from Lukas Podolski gave Germany a 2-0 Euro 2008 Group B opening win against local rivals and the country of his birth, Poland.
The Bayern Munich striker moved to Germany as a toddler and his muted celebrations reflected his origins.
Fittingly, both goals were set up by Miroslav Klose, his Bayern team-mate and another naturalised German of Polish birth.
The first, on 20 minutes, saw Klose unselfishly lay the ball on a plate to Podolski after a superb through-ball by Mario Gomez.
The second was an unintentional assist after he mis-hit a shot into the path of the former Cologne striker.
Germany had just too much quality for the Poles, who endeavoured but lacked a cutting edge up front that was given away by the listing of Maciej Zurawski in the starting line-up.
It made the decision to leave qualification goal-hero Radoslaw Matusiak at home look like a bad one, while the impact of Brazilian-born forward Roger at half-time showed that there were more suitable options in the squad.
It could have been so different – Poland had a great chance to open the scoring in the first minute when Lehmann dropped a high ball in the area.
They also should have levelled 15 minutes after Podolski’s opener when Zurawski dragged his finish wide after Wojciech Lobodzinski got the better of the hesitant full-back Marcel Jansen and put the perfect low cross in for the Poland captain.
Poland played well enough for the second half hour of the match, and Legia Warsaw winger-forward Roger – who was only given a Polish passport weeks before the tournament after less than two years in the country – caused lots of problems for Germany’s slightly shaky defence by switching flanks and running at the full-backs after his half-time entry.
He almost scored just before the hour with a cross-shot from the left, while Racing Santander striker Ebi Smolarek was given a tough offside call when he raced through to score soon afterwards.
But Germany always looked like they could step up a gear, content to sit back and hit the Poles on the break, and when their adversaries tired later on Joachim Loew’s men were able to pick them apart at will.
Michael Ballack – who had a solid if unspectacular game in a deeper role than he performs at Chelsea – forced a quite superb save from Celtic shot-stopper Artur Boruc, while substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger should have picked Klose out when put through on the right.
They got the all-important second goal when, on 72 minutes, a comedy of errors by Poland’s defence culminated in Steaua Bucharest full-back Pawel Golanski handing the ball to Schweinsteiger, who set it up for Klose to shank into Podolski’s path.
Poland almost got one back with seven minutes remaining after Roger again caused problems, drilling in a dangerous cross from the right this time, although Lehmann’s reflexes were equal to the cross and the subsequent ricochet.
After Croatia’s 1-0 victory over Austria earlier in the day, the win put Germany top of Group B on goal difference.
A winner of Germany against Croatia on Thursday will be guaranteed a quarter final place, while Poland and Austria have to win when they face each other to have any chance of progressing to the knock-out phase.