Germany’s forward reshuffle works like a dream

Germany coach Joachim Loew’s bold gamble to reshuffle his entire

forward line against Greece paid off in a big way.

Two of the three new men up front scored in the Germans’ 4-2 win

in the European Championship quarterfinals and one of them, the

34-year-old Miroslav Klose, showed why he still remains a strong

rival to Mario Gomez as the team’s main striker.

Wingers Marco Reus and Andre Schuerrle tormented the Greek

defense with their darting runs on the flanks, with Reus especially

exposing the Greeks on the right before capping a bright display

with a spectacular fourth goal that flew in off the crossbar.

”Today was a day of change. I had the plan in my head for some

time,” Loew said. ”It’s not that I was unhappy with the previous

lineup, but I wanted some fresh wind. I wanted to make us more

unpredictable.”

What Loew was not happy about was that the news of the reshuffle

had been leaked to German newspapers in the afternoon, he said,

probably by players’ agents. The news clearly didn’t reach Greece’s

defenders, who were run ragged in Gdansk.

Loew started Gomez in the three group matches and the Bayern

Munich striker scored three goals to secure wins against Portugal

and the Netherlands.

However, he was ineffective against Denmark in the final group

game and gave way to Klose against the Greeks.

”Of course, I was stunned that I am not playing,” Gomez said.

”But the coach explained it and it’s not a problem. I am curious

what will happen in the next game.”

He isn’t the only one. Indeed, with six forwards at his

disposal, Loew’s attacking options for next Thursday’s semifinal

against either England or Italy are incredible.

Klose, who had come off the bench for Gomez in every group game,

was slow to find his form and fitness after playing little for

Lazio this season because of hamstring and back problems.

Loew kept stressing, however, that Klose was making excellent

progress and he demonstrated that by scoring Germany’s third goal

to break Greece’s spirit and raise his international total to 64 in

120 games – four goals short of Gerd Mueller’s national record.

”My family was in the stadium and I was very happy about it,”

said Klose, who was born in Poland.

”I was very pleased to be playing from the start. Our bench is

very, very strong. That’s a quality of our team.”

While Gomez is a classical penalty-box finisher, Klose is faster

and combines better with playmaker Mesut Oezil in the one-touch

passing game Loew likes his team to play.

Klose’s movement opened a lot of space for his teammates while

the addition of Reus, 23, and Schuerrle, 21, gave Germany more

speed that left the Greek defense out on its feet.

Showing Germany’s depth in attack, Loew left out Lukas Podolski,

who made his 100th appearance for Germany earlier in the tournament

– and scored one goal – and Thomas Mueller, who won the Golden Boot

at the 2010 World Cup.

And Reus took his opportunity, showing why he is considered one

of the brightest German prospects after scoring 18 goals in

Borussia Moenchengladbach’s march to a Champions League spot for

next season.

”First game, first goal, it was great. At 1-1, our control had

slipped. So it was great to come back. We kept attacking and the

goals finally came,” said Reus, who is moving from

Moenchengladbach to Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund next

season.

Schuerrle had an outstanding season for Mainz before moving to

Bayer Leverkusen, where he stayed somewhat below expectations in

the first year there.

But his pace on the left was evident from the start against

Greece and he could threaten Podolski’s spot on the left.

With a record seventh semifinal appearance, the Germans are two

wins away from clinching a record fourth European title. It has now

won 15 consecutive competitions matches, another record.