Gomez, Van Persie highlight contrasts of fortunes
One moment, Mario Gomez was ready to be replaced. One match later, his European Championship tally for Germany stands at three goals.
In the other dugout, despite one failure after another, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk had complete faith that Robin van Persie could turn his team's fortunes around. Van Persie did score a late goal, but the Dutch are still on the brink of elimination after Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Germany in Group B.
Even after his winner against Portugal, Gomez was criticized for his sometimes wooden style.
There will be no more such criticism after he displayed the kind of ball skills usually associated with Van Persie to settle the biggest game of the group stage at Euro 2012.
''Mario scored two goals from two chances. It shows his class,'' Germany coach Joachim Loew said. ''He got the winner against Portugal. He is doing his job.''
Gomez's two sterling first-half goals brought Germany to the brink of the quarterfinals, needing only a draw with Denmark on Sunday to advance.
Van Persie's struggles in front of goal are a big part of the reason why the 2010 World Cup finalists are bottom of their group with zero points.
When Van Marwijk sent on the Bundesliga's top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to add more pressure up front, it helped some. But it was not enough.
''They scored on the chances they created,'' said Huntelaar when asked what made the difference between the two rivals in a tense match.
''Two great goals,'' added midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.
The Dutch finally scored just after Gomez had left the pitch, to be replaced by veteran Miroslav Klose in the 72nd minute.
For a tall striker at 1.89 meters, Gomez was always going to be a threat in the air. This time though, he proved to be just as good with his feet.
For both his goals, Gomez proved he can dazzle with the best. On his first strike, he took the ball with his back to goal, pirouetted around to put the ball on his other foot and drove home.
For the second, he set up a one-two with Bastian Schweinsteiger, raced through the defense and finished from a tight angle.
At the other end, Van Persie made a promising start, but volleyed his first chance weakly into the hands of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. A few minutes later, his strike from 16 meters went well wide.
After halftime, Van Marwijk moved him to the left wing, and finally unleashed an eager Huntelaar through the center.
Yet, the first Dutch chance fell to Van Persie in the 58th minute and this time, he finally connected well from 15 meters out. By that time he seemed jinxed though, and Neuer came through with a lightning diving save.
In a desperate move with 20 minutes to go, Van Marwijk went for a 4-2-4 tactic with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben on the wings and Van Persie and Huntelaar at the center.
But by that time, Gomez's work was done and Germany's victory was secured.