Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Fairytale end for Podolski as Germany set record

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Teammates throw Germany’s midfielder Lukas Podolski in the air after the friendly football match of Germany vs England in Dortmund, western Germany, on Marcht 22, 2017. It is Lukas Podolski’s last match with the German team. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT

Lukas Podolski admitted his Germany farewell could not have been scripted better after netting the superb winner in the 1-0 friendly win over England.

It was only fitting that the Galatasaray forward should claim his 49th goal on his 130th — and final — international appearance in Wednesday’s emotional farewell.

“The way it finished up was like in a film,” said Podolski, who smashed home the winning goal on 69 minutes, then came off to thunderous applause with six minutes left.

“Dear god, or someone else, gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight. I am proud of the last 13 years,” beamed Podolski, who will join Japan’s Vissel Kobe next season.

“It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye.”

Podolski captained the world champions to their first win over old rivals England on home soil since 1987.

The victory was also sweet for head coach Joachim Loew as it was a record seventh game without conceding a goal for Germany, a run starting since their Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to France.

It came with Loew missing first-choice players like goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Mario Gomez.

However, Gareth Southgate’s England had the better of the world champions in the first-half before Podolski’s winner.

Adam Lallana’s powerful shot hit the post with 30 minutes gone. Then Dele Alli forced Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a reflex save but it stayed goalless at the break.

Podolski turned the friendly Germany’s way with the superb winner on 69 minutes.

Andre Schuerrle laid the ball off for Podolski, whose bullet shot off his left foot gave England goalkeeper Joe Hart no chance from 25 metres out.

– Fairytale finishing –
“Normally fairytales don’t happen in football but that was one for him,” Southgate said of Podolski’s stunning goal.

“It’s an outstanding achievement in terms of the goals and caps he has.

“It was an incredible strike, but from Joe Hart’s point of view it was pretty unstoppable.”

“But the result fulfilled a purpose for us.”

Podolski made his debut in 2004 and was ever-present during Loew’s decade in charge since taking over as head coach after the 2006 World Cup.

The 31-year-old Podolski made only two replacement appearances at the 2014 World Cup, but was an important motivating presence under Loew.

“The goal was typically ‘Poldi’, but special players deserve a special farewell like this, which was great for him,” said Loew.

“We had thought of taking him off earlier, but he said during the break that he wanted to play as long as possible.”

Loew had included just three World Cup winners — Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels and Podolski — in his starting line-up.

He fielded an experimental team as striker Timo Werner, 21, made his debut.

“We were very nervous in the first half, but some of them were playing together for the first time,” added Loew.

Both Kroos and Thomas Mueller, who came off the bench, agreed that Podolski’s farewell could not have been scripted better.

“Things like that only happen in football,” said Kroos. “Against a backdrop like that came a goal like that — unbelievable.

“That wasn’t a goal they gifted to us. It was a lovely thing for Lukas.

“We showed as a team in the second half that we still have the quality, even when a few of us are missing.”

Mueller said it was a fitting end to a fitting career.

“I could not have written a better screenplay, even if it was a bit too cheesy for me as a director,” quipped Mueller.

“It wasn’t an unusual goal for him, but he should soak up the moment and enjoy it.

“Normally, a stadium is empty ten minutes after the end of a match, but this time everyone wanted to see Lukas.

“If you have played 130 internationals, you have to have had something special.”

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