Saturday, 19 September 2015

Euro 2016 qualifier: Germany’s Thomas Müller piles pain on Scotland

Thomas Müller celebrates with team-mates after scoring his first goal for Germany against Scotland. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Monday 7 September 2015 21.44 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 8 September 201508.57 BST

There should be no shame attached to Gordon Strachan’s Scotland side, which does not contain a single world-class player, being defeated by a team featuring 11 of them. The frustration in Strachan’s camp must be that an attitude so prevalent against Germany here was conspicuous by its absence three days earlier in Georgia.

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Germany, inspired by Thomas Müller, were worthy winners from an occasionally breathless encounter. It is a matter of when, not if, Joachim Löw’s World Cup winners will qualify for Euro 2016. They remain a joy to watch.

Scotland’s hopes now lie in the play-off route, a matter not aided by the Republic of Ireland’s defeat of Georgia. The Irish have their destiny in their own hands.

Still, Strachan was at his most emphatic yet when the dust had settled on Monday night. Meetings with Poland and Gibraltar will round off the Scottish campaign.

“We are still in this, trust me,” said the Scotland manager. “If we play like that with the same determination and get a wee bit of luck, there is absolutely no doubt about it.

“I can’t wait to get them back together to go for it again over the next two games. I’m really proud of them. They are disappointed in there but they should be proud of themselves. I can feel within their disappointment they know they gave it a good shot. Someone said to me that we didn’t attack them much tonight. Well, go and ask Brazil how they got on against them.”

Löw cut a contented figure. “It was anything but easy,” he said. “Scotland put men behind the ball, used long balls and were hoping for dead-ball situations in front of our box. We didn’t allow the Scots any chances from open play. It was a fully deserved win.”

Scotland’s team bus arrived at Hampden just an hour before kick-off; a multi-vehicle accident had triggered teatime chaos on Scotland’s main motorway.

The nature of the German opener was as much a cause for home frustration as the fact that it arrived at all. Müller, hardly an unknown protagonist in this movie, was allowed to stroll towards the penalty area without anything remotely resembling close attention. His 18-yard shot was not particularly well hit, but a deflection played a part in deceiving the helpless David Marshall.

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Just when Scotland would have been forgiven an expectation of the worst, salvation arrived. A terrific Shaun Maloney free-kick, from near the corner of the German penalty area, worried Manuel Neuer to the extent that he could only parry the ball straight against the legs of his team-mate Mats Hummels. Neither German player could prevent the subsequent and inevitable own-goal.

Scottish eagerness may have played its part in Germany edging back in front. Emre Can was afforded far too much space to shoot at Marshall when meeting a cross from the left. Marshall’s stop reached the head of Müller, who nodded home via the left post. Goalkeeping traditionalists will bemoan the direction of Marshall’s save but the generosity bestowed on Can was the bigger crime. Müller had his eighth goal in this group.

Were Scotland suitably chastised? Far from it. They rounded off the first half with the game’s fourth goal. Maloney was again involved, with his poor corner only partially cleared by the Germans. James McArthur, one of three Scotland changes from Tbilisi, returned the ball with side-footed interest. Neuer would again have been unhappy with his role, with the custodian apparently confused by the abundance of bodies in front of him.

Germany had the ball in the net within five minutes of the restart, only for the offside flag to deny them a goal for the second time of the evening. It was the correct decision; Mario Götze had drifted a yard to the wrong side of Scotland’s last defender.Strachan’s half-time decision surrounded whether to stick or twist. Before the game Scotland’s manager had spoken of his desire to garner a point. Strachan cannot have banked on such a pulsating affair or, surely, defensive raggedness at either end.

The harsh critique would be to point to Scottish failure to heed a warning. In reality they were undone by a wonderful piece of play, befitting Germany’s status.

Müller’s movement was superb as he collected a pass from Can before an exchange or three with Ilkay Gündogan. The Borussia Dortmund player justified his inclusion with a crisp finish.

The more learned among the Scottish support applauded the goal and rightly so. Gündogan’s strike was the precursor to Germany’s finest spell, thought Alan Hutton again raised Scottish hopes with a shot which flew narrowly wide of Neuer’s upright. Generally, though, Germany were keeping the Scots at arms’ length.

Götze should have settled matters five minutes from time but blazed over. Marshall entered the opposition penalty area for a corner in the dying seconds but there was to be no dramatic intervention. If truth be told, it would not have been deserved.


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