Road to the Finals
Germany were the first team to qualify for the tournament when they drew 0-0 with Ireland on 13th October 2007. However, their successful campaign ended on a flat note as they let the Czech Republic claim the top spot. But they will not be overly concerned, as the team with the record amount of European appearances make yet another bid for glory.
The campaign got off to a good start with a 1-0 home win against Ireland, and then went into ridiculous territory with their 13-0 away win against San Marino, which was the biggest ever win in the European Championship.
The goals kept coming with a solid 4-1 win against Slovakia in October, but then the team hit a glitch when they could only manage a surprise 1-1 draw against Cyprus the following month, with Yiannakis Okkas cancelling out Michael Ballack’s earlier goal.
But the campaign got going again in 2007 with a 2-1 away win against main rivals the Czech Republic. This gave the squad a boost, and results kept getting better with three straight victories over San Marino, Slovakia and Wales.
Their next match was against Ireland and, although they were held to a 0-0 draw, it marked their qualification to the finals as the first team to book their place, with three games left to play.
Whether they then took one eye off the campaign is uncertain, but four days later they immediately fell to their worst result of the competition when they lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic, a result which saw their opponents join them in the finals of the tournament. After the match they were booed off the pitch, the fans clearly unhappy with this sudden loss of form.
After this, a 4-0 win against Cyprus meant they were still on course to top the group, but a 0-0 draw against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in their final game meant that it would be the Czechs who would go through as group winners.
Since then, they have played in two friendlies, beating both the hosts of the tournament, Switzerland and Austria, 3-0 and 4-0 respectively, giving them added confidence going into the finals.
The German team have enjoyed a mixed run of form in their last two European Championship appearances, failing to make it past the group stage in both, and not managing to win a single game in their last six group games. However, their recent success in the 2006 World Cup, and their strong recent performances, will see them going into the tournament with the clear intention of going a long way.
Löw, known by the German fans as ‘Jogi’, immediately earned himself an extension to his contract when the team became the first to join Austria and Switzerland at the European Championships.
He has long been a part of the national team, having been the assistant coach throughout the World Cup in 2006. Previous manager Jürgen Klinsmann claimed that he had “always been much more than an assistant coach”, and therefore it was no surprise that he should take the helm.
He also enjoyed a successful playing career, playing for a number of teams in the Bundesliga, but swiftly making his way into coaching when he hung up his boots in 1995. His first post came at VfB Stuttgart, with whom he won the 1997 German Cup and reached the final of the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, losing in the end to Chelsea. He has also managed a number of other teams, including Turkish side Fenerbahçe.
Well known for his interesting and inventive training methods, he will be hoping to use these to take Germany all the way in the competition, building on their success at the 2006 World Cup, but this time without the home advantage.
Ones to watch
Michael Ballack – midfielder
The Chelsea midfielder has been a crucial factor of the German squad in recent years, as well as their inspirational captain. Making his debut in 1999, he has always been one of their key players, and became captain following EURO 2004.The three-time German Player of the Year has the unique talent of being able to play in both an attacking and defensive capacity, and is skilled with both his right and his left foot. He was a consistent performer for the side throughout qualification, scoring three goals in the process, and more are certain to come when the competition gets going.
Miroslav Klose – striker
Klose is the goal-scoring machine for the German side, and will be the key to their offensive capabilities following the kick off of the tournament. He managed to score seven goals during qualifying, and has scored 16 goals overall in other competitions for his club Bayern Munich. Although Lukas Podolski scored more goals than him during qualifying, his experience and skills on the pitch go beyond scoring goals, and he will be fundamental to their success at the tournament. He proved his firepower at the 2006 World Cup, where he scored five goals to win the Golden Boot, and he and the German team will be hoping that he can repeat the feat at the upcoming tournament.
Jens Lehmann – goalkeeper
Although he has not been getting regular first-team action for Arsenal this season, Lehmann still remains a formidable barrier in the mouth of the goal, and team mate Michael Ballack has recently given his backing to the giant keeper to be the number one choice during the tournament. His record speaks for itself, having been a member of the national squad since 1998. Having then overtaken Oliver Kahn as the number one choice for the 2006 squad, he made some crucial saves and some fine performances to justify the choice, most notably his penalty saves in the shoot-out with Argentina. With hints that he may be considering retiring after the tournament, he will surely be keen to go out with some solid performances behind him.
Although favourites to win the group, Germany’s recent records in European Championships may go against them. Croatia and Poland will both be tough teams to beat, especially as they are on top form right now, and it is going to be a close group.
There were concerns earlier in the year as the team were hit by a number of injuries, but they now go into the tournament at near to full strength, which will provide them with a definite boost and will increase their chances.
They have such a phenomenal record in international competitions that they can never be written off, and as favourites to life the trophy they will certainly be expected to go far.
Current FIFA ranking: 5