Euro 2012: Mario Gomez to lead attack for Germans
One of the defining moments in the Germany career of Mario Gomez
was a spectacular miss at the 2008 European Championship – hardly a
recommendation for a striker.
Gomez, incredibly, managed to miss an empty net from one meter
(yard), shooting high over the crossbar in a match against co-host
Austria that Germany needed to win to advance.
It did, thanks to a free kick goal from captain Michael Ballack.
The team reached the final, and lost to Spain 1-0.
In the four years since then, Ballack has been forced off the
team and Gomez has matured into the Bundesliga’s top domestic
striker and now may be his time to finally come through for
Gomez chased away some demons from the past by returning to
Vienna and scoring twice in Germany’s 2-1 win over Austria in
qualifying for this year’s tournament.
At club level, Gomez has always had more success than in the
national team, where for long he has played second fiddle to
Miroslav Klose, preferred by Germany coach Joachim Loew.
Gomez, whose father is Spanish and mother is German and who is a
Barcelona fan, set a German record by averaging 0.52 goals a match
in three seasons for Stuttgart that included a Bundesliga
He had a difficult start in Bayern Munich under coach Louis van
Gaal and nearly left the club but settled down to become the club’s
He scored 28 goals in the 2010-11 Bundesliga season as Bayern
finished third. He has 26 this season, notched 12 to help Bayern
reach the Champions League final and has 41 goals in 49 matches in
all competitions this season. And he scored the last-minute goal
that gave Bayern a 2-1 home win over Real Madrid in the Champions
National team manager Oliver Bierhoff said the player who most
impressed him during the season was Gomez.
”As a (former) striker, I am pleased that he’s shaken off
setbacks and scored so many goals,” Bierhoff said.
Gomez is tall and sometimes looks deceptively awkward in his
movements, something he has in common with Bierhoff, a former
Germany striker who scored the decisive goal that gave the country
its last title at the 1996 European Championship.
With Germany seemingly always right up there in FIFA rankings,
it’s easy to overlook the fact that it has not won anything since
then. It was third in the last two World Cups and runner-up to
Spain at Euro 2008.
But Germany was the first team to qualify for the tournament in
Poland and Ukraine and won all 10 qualifying matches. Gomez
contributed six goals in that campaign.
Gomez has 21 goals in 50 games for Germany and he finally could
be the starting striker at a major tournament. Loew prefers a
one-striker system and that spot usually goes to Klose, who has 63
goals in 114 games for Germany.
But Klose, who is now with Italian club Lazio, has not played
since March after tearing a muscle in his thigh and is in a race
against time to get fit.
That could be Gomez’s opportunity. Loew says he is not sure if
Klose will be ready already for the opening match against
Publicly at least, Gomez gives the impression of being more
Germanic cool and efficient than the emotional extrovert of the
southern type. He speaks little of his private life, although he
has a passion for tennis and beach volleyball.
”I don’t want to talk about my strengths and weaknesses,”
Gomez said. ”I’ll let the public discuss that.”