Germany Have Clicked Into Tournament Mode
The really impressive performances in this tournament have been few and far between, but there was something about this controlled, intelligent display from Germany which screamed out that ultimately, for all of Euro 2016’s shocks and stares, it will be them who walk off with the glory again.
This, remember, was a Slovakia side which drew 0-0 with England and were unfortunate not to take something from Wales, both of whom are more than likely to be in the tournament’s last eight along with the Germans come tomorrow evening.
Yet they never got a look-in here.
Germany were excellent from start to finish, keeping Slovakia at an arm’s length and ensuring that the only views they got of Manuel Neuer’s goal came from a long way away.
They weren’t dismantled, just dismissed. They had no business being on the same pitch as the team in white and black.
Italy and Spain are next, and Germany will expect to beat them too, and rightly so.
They are the tournament favourites, and there’s a growing sense that it’ll be them who are revelling in victory in two weeks’ time.
Julian Draxler’s Educated Evolution Continues
It must be a fantastic feeling to be a young German footballer, with all of those around you in the squad able to offer the advice and guidance of world champions.
Julian Draxler is one of those world champions, of course, but after being a peripheral figure in Brazil two years ago, here he is now taking centre stage in the side in place of the struggling Mario Gotze.
The Wolfsburg man was terrific. A slicing, surging figure on the German left who ran Slovakia right-back Peter Pekarik ragged, with the Hertha Berlin man left complaining of twisted blood by the time Joachim Low took pity on him and substituted Draxler with 18 minutes remaining.
The 22-year-old is quite clearly learning on the job, going from a young, promising player to one of Germany’s main men in the generation to follow the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller.
The multi-million move to a European superpower is next, and that will surely end up coming soon.
Martin Skrtel Is An Angry Man In Need Of A Change
From the very first knockings of Slovakia’s opener against Wales – when he maniacally clattered his way around the pitch, knocking over anything and everything he could find, including Jonny Williams’ head at one point – Martin Skrtel has looked like an angry man at this tournament.
At his best – and his best probably came in the limited, fairly simplified football that Liverpool played under Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish – Skrtel could look a decent defender, one that was required to do the simple things well. Kick, pass, head it clear, repeat.
But he has now become a liability.
In giving away the penalty here he showcased everything that he has become, enfeebled and unable to deal with powerful forwards like Germany’s Mario Gomez.
He’s departed this tournament and will depart Liverpool in the coming weeks, with bids apparently on the table from Turkey and Italy.
It is to be hoped that he rediscovers some sort of form, because – whilst not bad enough to be considered amongst the worst players of the tournament – he might well earn a landslide victory for the title of the angriest.
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