In a tournament short on traditional centre-forwards, Germany have realised that an old-fashioned number nine is sometimes better than a modern ‘false’ one. After two disappointing games for Mario Gotze up front, Joachim Low turned to Mario Gomez for the game against Northern Ireland. Although Germany only won 1-0, it was Gomez who scored and he gave them a reference point which Gotze could never provide.
So when Germany play Lille in Slovakia on Sunday afternoon they will do so with Gomez leading the line. He may represent a slight retreat from what sometimes feels like Germany’s pursuit of futuristic football, and as a 30-year-old playing for Besiktas he is probably past his best. But he leads the line and scores goals, and there is still something to be said for that.
Although Gomez scored the winner against Northern Ireland he is in the team for more than that. Low spoke enthusiastically about how Gomez “moved, tied down two defenders and opened up space for team-mates”. With Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller in the Germany side, that is certainly an important function.
Gomez, the ultimate team man, is very happy to do that job, as long as it works for the team.
“It’s great when your work results in a goal, but once again I never think for a second about winning the Golden Boot,” Gomez said. “I just want to win the European Championship. That’s all that matters to me.”
Gomez has not always been at the heart of this Germany team but he has been on the fringes from the start. He came on in the Euro 2008 final against Spain, eight years ago, and he spoke about the cooperative team ethic that has defined Low’s side over the years. That is why he is happy to do the dirty work for the good of the group.
“We always want the best for each other in every game,” Gomez said. “Anything else wouldn’t work. I was there when we lost to Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-final. We were devastated and ended up feeling like the biggest losers of the tournament. But in 2014, you could see that each and every one of us would benefit from being world champions. Even from a distance, I saw clearly that the team has to function as a whole to win a tournament like a World Cup and that’s the way it is today.”
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