This feature is a part of RETEUROSPECTIVE
National allegiance and patriotism are simple concepts for many people. They are born and bred in one country, then go on to live there throughout their lives, meaning it is unquestionably their home. However, this can be far more complex for others, as was brought to the surface when Germany faced Poland in the Euro 2008 group stages.
The game, held at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, Austria, was both teams’ first of the competition. It will have also been among the more emotionally charged ones for two German players: Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose. The pair were born in Gliwice and Opole respectively, which are both cities in southern Poland. It was the first of this pair who would be the instigator of the Eagles’ downfall in this match.
It could have easily been Klose who took the early plaudits. He was handed a brilliant chance just four minutes after kick-off when Michael Ballack played the ball in behind the Polish defence for him to run onto. With Artur Boruc the only man in front of him, Germany’s number 11 slid the ball to Mario Gómez, but his strike partner could only get a toe to it, narrowly missing the target.
Things worked out far better for Klose, and Germany, when he found himself in a similar situation in the 20th-minute. This time it was Gómez who played the talismanic striker in behind the defence. Again, he was unselfish in his play, squaring the ball to Podolski who made no mistake and put his side ahead with a simple finish. The Polish connection was immediately there to see, though, as the Bayern Munich man bowed his head rather than celebrating.
Both sides had their chances before the break, but poor attempts from Maciej Żurawski and Gómez meant that the sides went into half time with Germany 1-0 up.
Die Mannschaft weren’t necessarily at their best, but they were still forcing saves from Boruc. He denied substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger, holding onto his low drive, before acrobatically tipping Ballack’s effort over the bar.
However, there was nothing the Celtic stopper could do to prevent Podolski from scoring his and Germany’s second. The build-up to the goal was anything but convincing, as Klose completely mishit his first-time effort from Schweinsteiger’s short pass, meaning that the ball flicked up into the air. The man with the number 20 on his back epitomised his clinical nature with his strike, sending a thunderous volley past Boruc’s flailing arms and into the top corner. Again, Podolski looked emotional as he was mobbed by his teammates in white, looking to the sky.
Poland almost got themselves back into the game with seven minutes on the clock when Marek Saganowski headed Brazil-born Roger Guerreiro’s cross towards the near post. An impressive instinctive save from Jens Lehmann denied him, though, ensuring the Germans came out of their opening group game with all three points.
Remarkably, this was the first time Germany had won a game in the European Championship since they’d lifted the trophy in 1996. They had defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 after extra-time at Wembley, but then got a combined three points in 2000 and 2004. In this time they drew with Romania, Netherlands and Latvia, while suffering losses at the hands of England, Portugal and the Czechs. Adding to how strange this record is, they made the quarter-finals, were runners-up and then finished third in the World Cups held during that period.
By Danny Lewis @DannyLewis_95