There is no denying the immense talent of Mario Gomez.
One look at the six-foot-two hulking 26-year-old German forward should tell you that.
Yet for all his prowess during the last several years in the Bundesliga - 55 goals in the last two years with FC Bayern Munich and 24 for Stuttgart in 2008-09 - questions regarding Gomez's ability to finish off scoring opportunities in the biggest international tournaments persist.
Gomez, who holds both German and Spanish citizenship, made his debut on the national team in 2007. He impressed coach Joachim Low enough to garner a spot on Germany's Euro 2008 squad. Unfortunately, he failed to produce a goal, and nearly cost his squad a spot in the knock-out round following several near-misses against Austria in the final match of the group stage.
Germany would advance to the final against Spain, but Gomez was relegated to the bench for the most part.
The 2010 World Cup was also a disappointment for Gomez. While Germany flourished early in the tournament, Gomez's playing time was limited, replacing starters like Mesut Ozil and Miroslav Klose in a substitute role.More agony
This year's Champions League appeared to be Gomez's coming out party. He was dominant in the lead up to Bayern Munich's run, including a hat trick against Serie A club Napoli, only to miss several chances against Real Madrid - although he did score - in the semifinal and again during Bayern Munich's agonizing loss to Chelsea in the final.
"A man who has become synonymous with glorious misses in massive games isn't exactly the man you want to be channeling your offensive hopes," CBCSports.ca's Ben Rycroft wrote in his 10 difference makers
prior to Euro 2012.
Of course, Gomez did give a glimpse into his potential when he scored six goals in as many Euro qualifying games.
Was this just a tease, enough to set up German fans for further heartbreak?
To this point, the answer is an emphatic no.Dominant start
Gomez, replacing the aging Klose in the starting lineup, has been one of the most offensively dominant forces in the tournament.
Through two games he's tied with Russia's Alan Dzagoev as the tournament's leading scorer with three goals. More importantly, he's netted both game winners against Portugal (1-0) and the Netherlands (2-1).
"Strikers have a small window of opportunity in their early-to-mid part of their career when they find the right balance of physical strength, technical ability and on-field intuition - Gomez is hitting that period right now," explains Rycroft.
"He is starting to see the lines of attack, getting into the holes in a defence before they develop and using a physical speed that makes him very difficult to contain. It doesn't hurt that he has that nose for the net that every great striker has."
Those qualities were never more evident against the Netherlands on Wednesday
On the first goal, Gomez found a soft spot between the Dutch defence, handled a tough pass from teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger with deft control, and whistled a shot by goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
His second equal was nearly as impressive, taking another Schweinsteiger lead pass on the right side before firing a shot over Stekelenburg along the far post.
Prior to the tournament, the Germans were placed on equal footing with Spain and Holland in part because of the deadly combination of Ozil and Schweinsteiger.
To this point Gomez has taken the spotlight all to himself, becoming one of the biggest stories of Euro 2012.
Can he keep it going when it matters most?
German fans can only hope.
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