In their 3-0 win over Slovakia, the world champions Germany showed that they are now the team to beat.
1. World champions perform to type.
Thanks to their highly impressive 3-0 victory over Slovakia at the last-16 stage of Euro 2016, the Nationalmannschaft are now the bookmakers’ favourites to be the last squad standing on July 10.
And quite rightly so. No other side in France boasts as much silky creativity, brilliant play between the lines, preparedness and immunity to pressure. With the likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Man of the Match Julian Draxler constantly switching roles in the final-third, the hapless Slovak defenders never had anything substantial to key into, leaving them completely at the mercy of the resultant wave upon wave of assaults.
Yet to concede a goal in the tournament Germany appear to have all the bases covered and while their record against quarter-final opponents, Italy is nightmarish – never having beaten the Azzurri in a non-friendly – the Germans have to be confident of getting that particular monkey off their back in Bordeaux on Saturday.
2. Draxler steps up
Man of the Match against Slovakia, fresh-faced Wolfsburg attacking midfielder, Julian Draxler, enjoyed a Round of 16 state of grace in Lille on Sunday, not only netting his first-ever competitive goal for Germany with a smart volley and setting up another for Mario Gomez. But also threatening every time he received the ball, unstoppable in one-on-one situations.
Long regarded in Germany as one of the most gifted players of his generation, the 22-year-old has not always been the most consistent of performers, prone to go AWOL on occasion. However, his class cannot be denied and after 22 caps for Deutschland, finally seems to have made that all-important international breakthrough.
“He was very strong in training during the week and I had a good feeling about his chances, ” declared Germany defender and ex-Schalke teammate, Benedikt Howedes. “It’s fantastic that he’s got his reward.”
3. Kimmich answer’s Löw’s prayers
Following two years of failed experiements and flux, the Germans have at long last found a right-back worthy of stepping into the shoes of former Nationalmannnschaft skipper, Philipp Lahm.
Step forward Bayern wunderkind, Joshua Kimmich. In marked contrast to the likes of Sebastian Rudy, Benedikt Howedes, Antonio Rudiger and Emre Can – all of whom have flattered to deceive in the role in the past couple of seasons – the 21-year-old looks totally in his element at the very highest level, excellent in his big tournament debut versus Northern Ireland and again showing up well in the Slovakia game.
Outstanding technically, tactically aware and brimming over with moral courage, he might lack a little physical presence, but certainly fits the Low bill as an enterprising, advanced full-back.
“When Phillipp (Lahm) retires from Bayern in two years’ time, we won’t have any worries over the succession, ” says ex-Bayern assistant-coach, Hermann Gerland. ” Then it will be Joshua’s turn. ”
4. Leverkusen seek crumbs from the Galactico table
Such credible Spanish sources as Marca and AS are suggesting that Bayern Leverkusen are in the hunt to bring in versatile young Real Madrid forward, Jese Rodriguez.
Either on a loan-deal or as part of a transfer including a buy-back clause. It would not be the first instance of Real ‘parking’ a player in the Rhineland, having loaned outstanding right-back Dani Carvajal to the BayArena outfit in 2012-13. A transaction which turned out of great benefit to all parties.
5. Wagner eyes a new soapbox
One of the Bundesliga’s most in-form strikers, Sandro Wagner of Darmstadt, appears to be headed for the exit.
The towering front-man, who last term scored 14 goals for the Lilies, was nowhere to be seen as Darmstadt reported for pre-season training and rumours are flying around of English Premier League interest, as well as a bid from Hoffenheim.
The 28-year-old does come with plenty of baggage, though. Anti-conformist andnever more than a breath away from a controversial quote, he just loves to have scribes chattering about him.
“It’s my way to exaggerate, ” once explained the former German U21 star. “