Nobody can stop Germany's Fab Five
No other nation will rival Germany's front five at the Euros
(Toni Kroos 24, Mario Goetze 45, Jonas Hector 59, Mesut Oezil 75-pen)
(Stephan El Shaarawy 83)
Germany paid the perfect tribute to the late Johan Cruyff.
The Dutch artist always believed in out-scoring the opposition.
Neat and tidy defences had their uses but, as long as the emphasis on attack ensured a superior goal tally, then victory usually took care of itself.
Joachim Loew's defence took a couple of tentative steps in the right direction against Italy at the Allianz Arena in Munich yesterday morning (Singapore time), with Mats Hummels recovering to marshal a back three, but it didn't really matter.
Die Mannschaft were devastating in the final third, killing off the contest like a callous vet putting down a litter of puppies.
In truth, Antonio Conte's confused C-team were closer to three-legged donkeys than cuddly canines, but the startling efficiency with which Germany's lumberjacks chopped down their opponents must concern rivals.
There will not be a forward line at Euro 2016 that comes close to rivalling this attack.
Loew's 3-4-3 formation allowed Germany to match Italy's identical structure man for man.
In truth, it was a shocking mismatch. But the tactical tweak allowed Loew to top-load his forward line, play to his side's overwhelming strengths and defeat Italy for the first time in 21 years.
The move, borne out of necessity to cover the injury crisis in defence, came with an attractive bonus feature.
With support out wide from Jonas Hector and Sebastian Rudy, Germany's forward five eviscerated the Italians.
When Toni Kroos, Mesut Oezil, Julian Draxler, Mario Goetze and the extraordinary Thomas Mueller combine in such captivating fashion, it's hard not to conclude that they're a little hard done by.
Had their names been romanticised with softer Spanish vowels rather than hard German consonants, they might be compared favourably to the Catalans churned out at Barcelona's magician-making academies.
Even Pep Guardiola has yet to be fully convinced.
From the outside looking in, Goetze comes across as an inspirational protege for Loew and an irritable itch that Guardiola can't scratch.
The cheeky wunderkind danced past Argentina in the World Cup final, but his charms have been lost on a manager who has built a career on championing creative, pocket dynamos.
Goetze has never been a regular at Bayern Munich under Guardiola.
A niggling groin certainly hasn't helped. He's played 53 minutes for Bayern since picking up the injury on Oct 8, but Guardiola was never particularly enamoured with the 23-year-old in the first place.
Goetze's reliability was questioned, which is interesting because consistency and efficiency remain the basic benchmarks for German coaches and two in particular make no secret of their admiration.
Loew gave Goetze game time in both the England and Italy matches and the forward is an integral part of his Euro 2016 plans, while Juergen Klopp wants him at Liverpool.
Based on yesterday morning's performance alone, if Klopp brings Goetze to Anfield, he deserves the freedom of Liverpool and the eternal gratitude of the English Premier League.
Goetze's headed goal was neatly taken, nipping between Matteo Darmian and Alessandro Florenzi, Italy's Tweedle dee and Tweedle Dum, but the backheel was something else.
The backheel sent Draxler on his way down the left to set up Hector for Germany's third goal.
And its effortless execution evoked warm memories of the World Cup winners two years ago, when they pick-pocketed the Brazilians and stole their samba.
It was football played for fun, for kicks, for its own sake and Goetze encapsulates the very best of Germany's refreshing approach to counter-attacking football.
But then, Goetze had an unstoppable advantage. He had Mueller.
Honestly, with every dominant performance, the Bayern Munich master swaggers towards myth. His two assists were flawless, as expected. He reads the game in the way that Stephen Hawking reads stars. He sees things we'll never see.
And the armband only elevates him further. Captain Mueller celebrated his 50th cap with a peerless display. And he's just 26.
He could still get better. So could 26-year-old Kroos and Draxler, still only 22. At 27, Oezil is the elder statesman, but clearly enjoys the company of colleagues on the same wavelength.
At Arsenal, he's lumbered with misfits rarely in the same postcode.
On another night, in another team, any one of the fabulous five would have collected Man-of-the-Match honours.
They left the Italians flailing around like boiling spaghetti.
But they are in the same side and carefully calibrated for Euro 2016.
If that doesn't have Germany's rivals reaching for a change of underwear, then they're really not paying attention.
And someone at Liverpool should be reaching for the chequebook.
Mario got zing
Germany attacking midfielder Mario Goetze's goal and overall performance against Italy will hopefully boost his confidence as he struggles for playing time at Bayern Munich, coach Joachim Loew said.
The 23-year-old (above) has been largely overlooked by Bayern coach Pep Guardiola since returning from a five-month injury break last month, with speculation over a possible move back to Borussia Dortmund gaining traction in recent weeks.
"Mario earned this (performance) himself," Loew said.
"I can understand why he may be playing less at Bayern at the moment because they have a great squad and he was injured for a long time.
"But Mario has worked hard in the past weeks, he did individual training sessions to get back to his best and I hope the game today gave him the self-confidence he needs for the coming weeks."
Goetze, who scored Germany's winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, has never held down a regular starting spot under Guardiola despite his big-money move from Dortmund in 2013.
Loew has kept faith with Goetze, however, and the gifted player paid him back by heading in Germany's second goal and then helping set up their third with a jaw-dropping flick that eventually saw Jonas Hector score.
"It was important for me to play again," Goetze said.
"I am very happy to have been on the pitch and it is just great to feel that my coach is trusting me. This means a lot for me at the moment." - Reuters.
Clever play, stout defence, good attack
JOACHIM LOEW’S DAY: The Germany coach (above) has much to celebrate, not so for his Italian counterpart Antonio Conte (below). PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP
Germany did three things right, according to coach Joachim Loew, and that earned them a crushing 4-1 win over Italy in a friendly yesterday morning (Singapore time).
"We played clever, defended well and attacked well. It was a good game from us tonight," Loew told Germany's ARD television.
The three factors also propelled them to their first win over Italy in 21 years.
After throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 against England last Saturday in their earlier friendly, the Germans ran out convincing winners.
"We've not had something like this against Italy for a long time. All of our players fulfilled their jobs really well," Loew said.
"We were beating England 2-0 and we just lacked that concentration to go the distance and we were taught a lesson.
"Tonight, we wanted to show we can concentrate for the full game and be disciplined and we did that."
What went wrong for Italy?
Coach Antonio Conte said tiredness had taken its toll on his team, who were a shadow of the side that had Spain on the ropes for long periods in a 1-1 draw last week.
"If you want to play with rhythm and intensity, you've got to have it in your legs and, clearly, some of the players paid for the efforts of Thursday," Conte told RAI television.
"I said before that we needed these big tests to evaluate things and test ourselves.
"Certainly, we were up against the best and we've seen that. We worked and gave all we could and now we'll make our evaluations.
"We knew we had a gap over certain sides that we have to bridge and now let's see the season come to an end and I'll pick the best players available." - Wire Services.