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Polish-born Podolski´s brace ends Germany´s 12-year wait

SoccerNews in Bundesliga, European Championships 8 Jun 2008


Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski ended Germany's 12-year wait for a European Championship win on Sunday with two goals as his side's Euro 2008 campaign began with a 2-0 win over Poland.

Having turned 23 last Wednesday, Podolski combined with Germany's other Polish-born forward Miroslav Klose for his first goal on 20 minutes and followed up with an unstoppable volley on 72 minutes.

After Group B rivals Croatia had earlier got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over co-hosts Austria in Vienna, the result puts the Germans top of their group.

The last time Germany had won a European Championship game was way back in June 30 1996 when they beat the Czech Republic to win Euro 1996 at London's Wembley Stadium.

There had been some controversy last Wednesday when Polish tabloid Super Express printed a mocked up picture of Poland coach Leo Beenhakker holding the severed heads of opposite number Joachim Loew and Germany captain Michael Ballack.

Both sides had played down any problem, but 140 German fans were arrested here in the city centre on Sunday, although well-behaved fans in the stadium lent their passionate support.

The Poles were making their European Championship debut, but are still yet to beat Germany in 16 meetings between the sides since 1933 with the Germans now claiming 12 wins with four draws between the neighbours.

Beenhakker had opted for five in midfield with Euzebiusz Smolarek as the lone striker up front for Poland.

Loew had gone for a traditional 4-4-2 formation, keeping midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger – a star of the 2006 World Cup – on the bench until half-time playing Podolski behind the two German strikers.

The move paid off as Podolski gave Germany an extra attacking option supporting front men Miroslav Klose, the top scorer at the last World Cup, who was partnering VfB Stuttgart hot-shot Mario Gomez up front.

After both sides squandered early chances, the trio combined to give Germany the break through they craved on 20 minutes.

Gomez flicked the ball over the defence for Klose to draw the goalkeeper before giving his Bayern Munich team-mate Podolski a simple tap in on 20 minutes past Poland's Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Poland's best chance of the first half – and ultimately the game – came when midfielder Wojciech Lobodzinski put in a superb pass, but Maciej Zurawski pulled his shot wide.

Polish striker Smolarek picked up the first booking on 40 minutes when he tripped Per Mertsacker.

During the half-time break, Beenhakker swapped his captain Maciej Zurawski for Brazilian-born Roger Guerreiro, but he made little impact and Lobodzinski earned Poland's second yellow card on 64 minutes for tripping Podolski.

Germany were dominating by this stage and when the ball fell to Podolski on 72 minutes he drove his shot into the top corner of the net to give his side some breathing space.

German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann produced a string of saves as Poland applied some late pressure, but his defence held.

The result means Group B's two unbeaten sides will meet Thursday when Germany return here to face Croatia.


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