Warsaw (Poland): Coach Joachim Loew has said Germany has a bright future despite their Euro 2012 semi-final exit at the hands of Italy. German fans may need more convincing after the Azzurri left Germany’s European ambitions in tatters in Warsaw on Thursday as striker Mario Balotelli tore up the form book with two first-half goals to seal a 2-1 victory.
It means that by the time they go to Brazil - provided they qualify - it will be 18 years since they won a trophy — the Euro ‘96 title.
Germany’s 15-match winning run in competitive matches was halted by Italy as midfield stars such as Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger found themselves over-shadowed by Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo.
“I have to say we’ve had two great years,” said Loew. “The team has really developed well and we have won 15 games in a row. We lost against an incredibly strong Italian team, so there’s not any reason to have any doubts creep in here.”
Having hammered England and Argentina en route to finishing third at the 2010 World Cup, the script was seemingly written for Loew’s team to take the next step and confirm their status as pre-tournament favourites by winning the Kiev final.
With 57 wins, 13 draws and now 13 defeats from his 83 games in charge, Loew has an enviable record, but pressure remains on the 52-year-old to convert Germany’s undeniable potential into final success on the world stage.
While reaching the semi-finals for the fourth consecutive time at a major tournament is no mean achievement, Germany’s mission had always been to bring the Henri Delaunay trophy back to Berlin and Loew’s young team came up short when it mattered most.
Qualification for the 2014 World Cup starts in September and after six years in the job, this is arguably Loew’s last chance to land a major crown.
After convincing wins over Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece there were some positive points at Euro 2012. Borussia Dortmund-bound Marco Reus has confirmed he is one of Germany’s rising stars, while Jerome Boateng has made the right-back berth his own.
With an average age of just over 25, Germany had the youngest team of the 16 at Euro 2012, both Dortmund stars Reus and Bayern Munich’s Boateng will only be 25 at the next World Cup.
While Loew’s bold move to axe Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller and Podolski paid off in the 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, the inclusion of Toni Kroos, and the returns of Gomez and Podolski back-fired against Italy.
Potential and youth are all well and good, but the football-mad German public need to see some silverware if Loew’s reign is not to be regarded as rich on promise, short on delivery.
What the said
► For me, there won’t be many European Championships or World Cups in the future. The hurdle posed by Italy was too high. Maybe we showed them too much respect
-Miroslav Klose, Germany Striker
► They were very clever. Italy are very experienced in terms of the system they play, and it's hard to play against. They managed to score the first goal. It was a mistake to give it away
- Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany Midfielder
► I don’t celebrate second place. We should have avoided those last five minutes of sufferance. Football is a game, but when you reach the semifinals of a Euro Championship it’s not a game any more.
- Gianluigi Buffon, On the late penalty conceded by Italy
► I knew he (Antonio Cassano) would be one of our key players. He might have 50 minutes in his legs but these are 50 fantastic minutes.
- Cesare Prandelli, Italy coach
We weren’t clever enough, admits Lahm
Germany captain Philipp Lahm has admitted they were not "clever enough" after Joachim Loew's team was found wanting in their 2-1 Euro 2012 semi-final defeat to Italy. It ensured their trophy drought dating back to Euro ‘96 would last at least another two years to the 2014 World Cup should they qualify.
Germany had a faint lifeline when Mesut Ozil converted a 92nd-minute penalty after a handball by Federico Balzaretti, but it was too little, too late as the perplexed looks in the German ranks told their own tale at the final whistle.
For all their potential and the impressive attack-minded football they showed in their Euro 2012 wins over Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece, Loew's team clearly had no Plan B when things went wrong.
“The most bitter thing is that this team has so much potential for so much more,” fumed Lahm as the Germans's 15-match winning streak in competitive games was broken.
“But we weren't clever enough. If you don't show that potential at the right point in time, then you lose a game like that. It is a very, very bitter defeat”. - AFP