MUNICH: Mario Goetze scored on his international comeback to help Germany beat Italy for the first time in more than 20 years, a 4-1 drubbing in their friendly on Tuesday. Goetze, who had only played 53 minutes for Bayern Munich since a groin injury sustained against Ireland on Oct. 8, headed Germany’s second goal before the break after Toni Kroos opened the scoring. Goetze was also involved in the third before the hour-mark, setting Julian Draxler free to cross for Jonas Hector’s first international goal.
“I’m so happy. For me it was simply important to be able to play again after such a long injury, simply to be able to do what’s fun for me. Then to score as well,” Goetze said. Mesut Ozil made it 4-0 in the 75th with a penalty conceded by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Substitute Stephan El Shaarawy scored Italy’s consolation goal in the 83rd with a strike from distance. It was Germany’s first win over Italy at the eighth attempt since a 2-0 victory on June 21, 1995. “We did it well. All the players fulfilled their duties well, played with a lot of discipline,”
Germany coach Joachim Loew said. Following the 3-2 defeat to England in Berlin on Saturday – Germany’s second consecutive loss after losing to France in November – Loew opted for a back-three of Mats Hummels, Antonio Ruediger and Shkodran Mustafi, with Hector and Sebastian Rudy supporting on either flank. “We trained with the formation a little bit yesterday,” Kroos said. “We wanted to come out of a more compact defense. This was a game that we wanted to win, in which we perhaps wanted to make up for something.” Thomas Mueller captained the side for the first time on his 70th appearance. Regular captain Bastian Schweinsteiger suffered a partial ligament tear in his knee in training last week and faces a race against time to be fit for the European Championship.
Italy rarely threatened reserve goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen though he looked jittery on the rare occasions he was called into action. Ter Stegen was filling in for Manuel Neuer, who had complained of a stomach bug a day after his 30th birthday celebrations on Sunday. Just as he did against England, Kroos broke the deadlock by slotting a precise effort inside the post, his 24th-minute strike giving Buffon little chance. With the fans sending a Mexican wave around the stadium, Mueller crossed for Goetze to direct the ball inside the right post, leaving Buffon rooted to the spot.
“It’s always worth supporting Mario Goetze because he can do things that others can’t,” Loew had said in the buildup. Goetze said Loew’s confidence had given him a huge boost. Riccardo Montolivo went close after the break as Italy emerged with new intent but any hopes of a comeback were dashed in the 59th, when Goetze set Draxler free and the Wolfsburg playmaker pulled the ball back for Hector to score on his 12th appearance. Simone Zaza shot over in response but then Buffon brought down Rudy and Ozil ended the contest. “It’s no fun to lose this way.
That’s the first thing. But we said we wanted to be better and to measure the gap between us and Germany. Some players paid the price for the physical effort against Spain,” Italy coach Antonio Conte said, referring to last Thursday’s 1-1 draw in Udine, Italy with the European champions. “Germany are world champions. I think they deserved it today, without a doubt,” Conte said. “When they got their chances they used them. We had a few chances but we were inexperienced.” Conte said there was no need for panic or for wholesale changes ahead of Euro 2016. “I can’t accuse the guys of anything. They tried everything, gave everything… I don’t know what I can change six weeks before naming the squad,” said Conte, who is stepping down after the tournament. Leonardo Bonucci was stretchered off after Hector’s goal and Conte said the Juventus defender had a “muscle problem.” Loew names his initial squad for Euro 2016 on May 17. Security was tight ahead of the game with around 800 police officers on duty. Sniffer dogs checked around the stadium for explosives, bags were searched and bodychecks were conducted. The defeat to England was Germany’s first since the 2-0 loss to France in Paris on Nov 13, when attacks outside the stadium and across the city killed 130 people. The game against the Netherlands in Hannover four days later was called off due to the threat of an attack. — AP