Germany had hoped to take all three points against Poland – to book their tickets for the round of 16. That this didn’t go according to plan is no catastrophe for the neutral – or Germany fan, writes DW’s Chuck Penfold.
Watching Thursday night’s game, particularly the first half, you couldn’t help but realize how well prepared the Polish team were for their more talented German opponents. For most of the first 45 minutes, the Germans took the game to the Poles, trying to find a way through a team determined to put nine men behind the ball and wait for their opportunity to strike on the counter attack.
However, Poland executed their game plan perfectly, limiting Germany to shots from distance, which failed to trouble Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. Germany also had to be alert to that counter attack that coach Joachim Löw had warned against in his final press conference prior to this match – against whom pretty much everybody agreed would be their most difficult opponent in the group stage. Poland’s attackers, led by Bayern Munich goal poacher Robert Lewandowski also tried to show their teeth, but were quickly neutralized by a German defense that included his future teammate in the Bavarian capital, Mats Hummels.
The most frustrated player on the pitch surely was Arkadiusz Milik, who really should have scored seconds after the restart, but failed to make solid contact on a free header alone in front of goal. A quarter of an hour later, he completely missed the ball when trying to take it first time in the area. Germany’s best chance came seconds later, when Mesut Özil forced a sharp push over the bar from Fabianski. What was that about missing at one end and scoring at the other? Not on this night.
The group stage of Euro 2016 has featured a lot of late goals, often enough with quality triumphing over defensive tactics – like in the case of France, who left it very late indeed to snatch victory from both of the less talented but determined and well-organized opponents that they have faced so far.
In their first game, though, Germany drew first blood within the first 20 minutes, and you had the impression that they were after a relatively early goal in this one too, but the Polish defense wasn’t having it. As the first half drew to a close, you had the sense that Germany would break through with a moment of brilliance in the second frame. They never did.
Despite having witnessed the first scoreless draw of the tournament (we all love goals!) this is a good result for the neutral fan. Coupled with Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win over Ukraine, this has left Group C wide open, with both Germany and Poland requiring a point from their final matches to ensure a berth in the round of 16.
As for the German fan, he or she can take heart from the fact that Germany also suffered a minor setback in their second Group G game in Brazil two years ago, playing to a 2-2 draw against Ghana. We all know how that tournament ended.