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All Good Things Come to an End… Like Lukas Podolski and Germany

Lukas Podolski is congratulated by Leroy Sané and Andre Schürrle after scoring Germany’s winner against England.

There has been so much negativity around the club in recent weeks amidst the bad run of results, so I decided to take a little break from writing about the club I love more than anything in this world – Arsenal. However, the international break is upon us and we ‘neutral’ football prefer to watch the games that have connections to Arsenal, like the Germany vs England game last night. These are two countries that have had their fair share of Arsenal contingent and they also have a lot of quality players on display but the night was about a former Gunner, Lukas Podolski, that was bowing out, after 129 games for his nation in 13 great years.

It’s funny how Podolski was ignored by Poland in 2004, then 19-years-old, playing in second division FC Cologne. Poland’s manager at that time, Pawel Janas, had really harsh quotes when he deflected the Polish media campaign for Podolski to get a call up to the national team,

“As for today we have much better strikers in Poland and I don’t see a reason to call up a player just because he played one or two good matches in the Bundesliga. He’s not even a regular starter at his club.”

Poland’s loss was Germany’s gain as Rudi Voeller gave the 19-year-old his debut against Hungary, making him the first second division player since 1975 to break into the first team. From that moment, the fairy tale for young Podolski began. He featured in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 European Championships as well as the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, scoring 48 goals in 129 games before last night’s friendly with England.

Podolski had already announced after Euro 2016 that he was going to retire from international football in March 2017, so everybody prepared for yesterday because they knew it was going to be the last time they were going to see their star don the German jersey and it turned out to be a great occasion.

There was a presentation to the 2016 German Player of the Year, Mesut Ozil, ahead of the game, and the maestro had already stated that he was going to inherit Podolski’s #10 jersey after he retires. The game itself was a great spectacle with both sides giving their best to make a friendly game look competitive and I liked England’s kit, but it was only written in the stars when the game was settled by a Lukas Podolski trademark piledriver.

We have seen Podolski do that times without number in the past but the English defenders chose to afford him some free space and paid dearly for it. In the end, that proved to be the match clincher and there were a lot of emotional scenes at the end of the game as the fans, manager and players bid farewell to their favored son.

Podolski hangs international boots with one gold medal for Germany in 2014 and two bronze medals from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He also picked up a silver medal for his nation in the 2008 Euros and a bronze medal in the 2005 Confederations Cup. On an individual note, he won the Young MVP award in the 2006 World Cup and he will be very proud of all he achieved with Germany.

In a club career that has seen him play for FC Cologne, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Internazionale and Galatasaray, Podolski has announced that he will start a new adventure with Vissel Kobe in Japan at the completion of the European campaign in the summer.

I wish Podolski the very best in his future endeavors.


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Germany vs Italy: Well, That was Nerve Racking

This was tagged as one of the biggest matches in the competition as the team with the best defense faced off against the dark horses of the tournament. Germany under Joachim Low had superbly gone through four games in the competition without conceding a goal but their general play has shown a team effort, with the goals coming from all corners. Italy on the other hand, had a club feel about them, as Antonio Conte had done really well to assemble a set of fighters that fit his 3-5-2 perfectly.

In order to match his opponent, Low switched from his usual 4-2-3-1 setup to 3-5-2, as Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector (that recovered from a cold) flanked Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Benedickt Howedes. With both teams fielding the same formation, the game was on lock down as both sides played a similar type of football. As expected, the Italians were the rougher of the lot with Stefano Sturaro, Mattia de Sciglio and Marco Parolo picking up bookings in quick succession.

After over an hour of deadlock, the game opened up when Mario Gomez found Hector in behind the defense and the defender drilled a cut back that was tapped in by Ozil. A resilient Italian defenders torn to shreds by a beautiful piece of attacking football.

The goal put Germany in the driving seat but it was followed shortly by an injury picked up by Gomez. Julian Draxler came on in his stead. With Italy pressing for an equalizer, they got their rewards late when an experienced defender like Boateng made such a rookie mistake by raising his arms to defend a ball in the box, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Up stepped Leandro Bonucci to smash the penalty home.

With the game producing no winner in 90 minutes, it was time for 30 more minutes but it wasn’t enough, so the game was to be decided by the lottery of penalty shootouts.

Lorenzo Insigne started the shootout with a spot kick that sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way to give the Italians the lead. Up stepped Toni Kroos, that had a stinker in 120 minutes of football but his penalty to left corner was too much for Gianluigi Buffon to handle.

Italy’s next spot kick taker, Simone Zaza, was the freshest player on the pitch and he had just one job to do from 12 yards but he came up with this…

Thomas Mueller had the opportunity to put the Germans ahead but his tame effort was saved by Buffon. The oldest outfield player in the tournament, Andrea Barzagli, 35, was tasked with playing the third penalty for his nation and he smashed the ball to the middle, taking no chances. After Barzagli gave the Italians the advantage, our very own Ozil stepped up and clipped the post with his penalty. That was the second spot kick he was missing in the tournament.

Graziano Pelle had the chance to make it 3-1 to Italy and put the Germans under intense pressure but the nerves got to him and he side-footed his effort wide off the mark, even though Neuer kept a close eye on the ball. Draxler fired his shot in the left post and leveled the shootout at 2-2.

With only one spot kick left for both sides, Bonucci, who had scored a penalty in regulation time, faced Neuer once again but the Bayern Munich goalie made a superb save to give the advantage to Germany. It was down to the captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger, to score the goal that would send Germany to the semis but he came up with this…

With both teams exhausting their spot kicks, it was time for sudden death. Emamuele Giaccherini started the proceedings with a top drawer finish and was pegged back by Hummels that fired his effort to the right of the net. Parolo blasted his effort through the middle and the youngest player on the pitch, Kimmich, showed good composure with a superb penalty that went low to Buffon’s left corner. De Sciglio’s penalty hit the underside of the bar and crept into the net and this was followed with a good penalty from Boateng.

With both teams locked at 5-5, up stepped Matteo Darmaian that fired a goal bound shot that was saved by the legendary Neuer. This meant that Hector could make himself a national hero and end Italy’s hoodoo on Germany if he converted his spot kick and he fired a shot that went under Buffon to send Germany to the semis.

heartache for the Italians

The Germans celebrated while the Italians had to leave the tournament on the back of some brilliant team performances in the course of the competition. Conte would leave for Stamford Bridge to start a new adventure but he can look back on his experience with Juventus and Italy with some measure of pride.

As for Germany, they deserve to be where they are and the world champions would be waiting for the winner of the Iceland vs France match tonight.

It was nerve racking to say the least.


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Ozil Advances and Petr Cech Knocked Out of the Euros

The group stages is slowly creeping away from the Euros as teams continue to advance to the Round of 16.

The day began with Germany locking horns against Northern Ireland while Poland took on the disappointing Ukraine. Joachim Low made some changes to the team that shared the spoils with Poland as Joshua Kimmich replaced Benedickt Howedes in defense while Mario Gomez replaced Julian Draxler, moving Mario Gotze away from his false 9 position to a more favored attacking midfield role. In a game the Northern Irish were on the back foot from start to finish, Mesut Ozil turned up the style and had an awesome game by his amazing standards.

The German schemer made seven crosses, created six chances, fired four shots and he had an astonishing passing accuracy of 99 percent. Yes, 99 percent. Sadly, the German forwards unleashed their inner Girouds and missed a boat load of Ozil’s amazing chances.

In the other Group C game, Poland edged Ukraine out and sent them packing with a goal from Jakub Blaszczykowski, or Kuba, as he’s well known in his Dortmund days. Ex Gunner, Lukasz Fabianski, kept another clean sheet as the Ukrainians offered little or no threat from an attacking perspective.

There was excitement in the late night games as Spain played against Croatia with the right to be in the group’s leader as a potential clash against Italy awaited the loser. Then there was the Czech Republic vs Turkey game where the winner had a chance of qualification. As expected, my eyes were on the Croatia vs Spain game but I kept some tabs with the other match of the night.

The opening goal had Barcelona’s tika taka written all over it as David Silva and Cesc Fabregas split the Croatian defense open to allow Alvaro Morata tap the ball in for his third goal of the Championships. Morata was heavily linked with a move to North London but it has been confirmed that Real Madrid has activated their buy-back clause on the player’s contract, bringing him back to the Santiago Bernabeu for roughly 23 million quid.

Croatia turned up the style with a very impressive performance against the Spaniards and they got a well-deserved equalizer from Nikola Kalinic. It was an exquisite finish from a Perisic cut back. Late on, there was heartbreak for the Spanish side as they were hit on the break by Perisic and he finished the ball on David de Gea’s near post. For a quality of his immense quality, that was an aberration.

In the second game, Turkey sent the Czech Republic parking with goals from Burak Yilmaz and Ozan Tufan. The sad part about the goals were their shocking similarity as Petr Cech was beaten on his near post twice. This turned out to be his Kryptonite last season and it’s a concern seeing it happen in the national team as well.

Wish the Czech Republic out, he becomes the first Gunner to exit from the competition and his pre-season break starts early.


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