Germany 1-1 Finland: Podolski Salvages Draw For Germans
A late Lukas Podolski goal erased Jonatan Johansson’s early strike, saving German blushes in Hamburg.
Before today’s match, Germany coach Joachim Loew promised to experiment with his lineup, and did not let us down. For the first time in his tenure as coach, Loew sent out his team in a 4-3-3 formation. Up front, Jeronimo Cacau earned his first competitive start alongside Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez.
In the early play, Germany’s width was used to great effect, especially on the left side. Finland were well organized at the back, however, and did a good job to prevent their opponents from setting up any good attacking moves.
Finland opted to counterattack, but it took 11 minutes for the Finns to create their first attacking opportunity. Their patience was rewarded with an excellent goal. Roni Porokara took on Andreas Beck on the left flank and dribbled into free space. His pinpoint cross found Roman Eremenkobut the Dynamo Kyiv midfielder was only able to weakly head on to Jonatan Johansson. Inches from goal, but with Heiko Westermann hopelessly stranded, Johansson was able to collect and fire into the net.
After the opening goal, Finland were emboldened, and were more willing to come out of their own half. Germany were poor with their passing, and the Finns were an equal match in midfield. Neither team was particularly creative, although there was little need for the Finns to score.
By contrast, Germany should have had more urgency, but were fresh out of ideas. Instead of playmaking, the Germans resorted to complacent, lateral passing and poorly-placed crosses. As the half came to a close, fans at the HSH-Nordbank Arena jeered their team in unison.
At the half, Loew brought on Christian Gentner for the previously anonymous Thomas Hitzlsperger. Additionally, Mesut Oezil was substituted in for Michael Ballack, who before the game was expected to feature only for 45 minutes.
Without a true midfield anchor, Germany were perilously exposed in front of the back four, and Finland were quick to exploit the hosts’ weakness. Four minutes into the half, Rene Adler pulled the ball out of his goal again, but the referee signaled offside. After Adler parried a long-ranged shot from Eremenko, Jari Litmanen struck in the rebound from an illegal position.
The addition of Oezil seemed to breathe new life into the German team. A natural playmaker, Oezil’s touch was far better than that which his team-mates exhibited in the first half, and the rest of the German team followed suit.
The rest of the team, that is, except Mario Gomez. Even as his team-mates began to play dangerous crosses, the Bayern striker either headed the ball 10-20 yards off target, or ‘shouldered’ the ball. He was finally replaced by Miroslav Klose with 13 minutes to go.
Ultimately, even Oezil’s addition was not enough to erase Germany’s poor luck in finishing. Seconds before Gomez’s substitution, a cross fell to Oezil at the back post. After collecting, the Werder starlet fired over the bar from six yards out.
Despite being offensively silent over the second half, the Finns played excellent football. A combination of good organisation and superb foresight foiled German plans before they could develop. The Finns constantly invaded their hosts’ passing lanes and rarely set a foot wrong.
Perhaps the Finns’ only error came in the 84th minute, and should have resulted in an equaliser. After a failed headed clearance, Klose nodded towards goal, but Jussi Jaaskelainen made an excellent save at full stretch. Seconds later, Oezil flashed a long-ranged shot inches wide, with the goalkeeper helpless to save.
In the 90th minute, at long last, the Germans equalised, and in a fitting manner. After Jaaskelainen parried a Heiko Westermann shot, Oezil crossed from the left to the far post. The ball deflected off Klose’s shoulder, and fell to Podolski, who scuffed a shot that trickled into the net. It may have been somewhat fortunate, but it was well-earned.
Shortly after, the final whistle blew. Germany end their campaign atop Group Four with 26 points, whereas Finland finish third, with 18.