By Rob Dore
When Joachim Loew decided to leave out Mario Gomez (26), Thomas Mueller (22) and Lukas Podolski (27) for Germany’s quarter-final with Greece, the general opinion was that he was taking an unnecessary risk. The Greeks had shown themselves to be resilient in the group stages and as comparisons were being made with the Euro 2004 winning side, the stage was set for things to blow up in Loew’s over-confident face.
They didn’t. Instead Germany put in their most convincing performance of the tournament so far, orchestrated by Mesut Ozil (23) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (27) in midfield.
So good was their attacking performance that Gomez, Mueller and Podolski will be worrying about getting back in the team.
Ozil will have no such concerns and the Real Madrid midfielder is now confidently talking up Germany’s chances of winning Euro 2012.
“If we play to our potential, we will beat the Italians…Italy are very strong, they are superbly organised but if we play as we can, we will win….We are here to win the European title and I am convinced we can do it,” he said.
Currently Germany are the 7/4 second favourites behind defending champions Spain at 13/8. With Del Bosque’s side starting to look tired and not having a striker he feels confident in, Ozil has every reason to believe Germany can win their fourth European Football Championship.
It would certainly cap an excellent season for Ozil, having played a key roll in Real Madrid’s winning the La Liga crown. Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen the headlines at the Bernabeu but Ozil’s 17 assists and four goals this season mark him as a key contributor to their success. He doesn’t score too often, though eight goals in 37 international games from a midfielder is not to be sniffed at, but he will be a key component in Germany’s attack against the well-organised and resilient Italians.
Germany’s record against the Azzuri is unusually poor, losing 14, drawing nine and winning just seven of their 30 meetings. This is a very different Germany though and if they show the same energy and determination against Italy as they did against Greece, then Ozil will be right to have one eye on Sunday’s final.