Gomez double leaves Netherlands facing elimination
Mario Gomez left the Netherlands on the brink of elimination from the European Championship, scoring both goals in Germany's 2-1 win Wednesday over one of its historic rivals.
Gomez scored both in the first half of one of the most anticipated showdowns of the tournament.
Robin van Persie pulled one back for the Netherlands in the second half but the defeat leaves the 2010 World Cup runner-up dangerously close to going home.
"Early on we had decent chances but the German goals came out of nowhere," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "We defended badly. Our offence and defence did not connect.
"Germany really has an excellent team. It has power, creativity and scoring."
Germany, a three-time European champion, has six points from two wins but is still not sure of advancing from Group B, where three teams could end up with six points. Earlier, Portugal beat Denmark 3-2.
"We've taken a major step and opened the door to the quarterfinals," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "Now we have our destiny in our own hands against Denmark."
The Netherlands, along with Germany considered one of the favourites but drawn into a tough group, now has lost both group games and needs to beat Portugal to have a hope. Germany will need only a draw against Denmark to win the group.
"The time just wouldn't pass, it remained standing [at the end of match]," said Gomez, who also scored the only goal in Germany's opening 1-0 win over Portugal. "They were pressing. It was close until the end but with Manuel Neuer in goal we can be a bit more relaxed.
"The expectations were great from our team even before the tournament and we've won six points against two classy teams, but it's a long way to the final."
Gomez put Germany ahead in the 24th minute after collecting a pass from Bastian Schweinsteiger at the edge of the penalty area and turning between two Dutch defenders, who were betting on an offside call. But Gregory van der Wiel failed to move forward quickly enough and Gomez had a simple task in slotting past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Stekelenburg made a stunning reflex save to stop Holger Badstuber's header from a free kick cross from Mesut Oezil from point-blank range in the 37th, but one minute later he was beaten again.
Gomez and Schweinsteiger outplayed the Dutch defence with two simple moves. Gomez passed to the ball to Schweinsteiger, who immediately played it into space for Gomez and the striker slotted inside the far post for his third goal of the tournament.
"We knew that they had problems in their central defence and that's where the goals came from," Loew said.
Gomez was expected to be only a backup for Miroslav Klose, but he has finally broken through in his third major tournament.
He went off in the 72nd minute and was replaced by Klose — but one minute later Van Persie finally found the target for the Dutch, driving home from the edge of the box in the 74th.
Despite a sweltering evening with the temperature at 29 degrees C (84 degrees F) at kickoff, both teams went into the match at high pace and Van Persie missed a couple of early chances.
"It was an intense game, very close. It was very difficult to play at a high pace in very hot weather," Loew said. "We managed to take their forwards mostly out of the game. We should have secured the win with a third goal in the second half. I felt they were tiring."
Gomez displayed clinical finishing when it mattered and the Dutch appeared shell-shocked as they went in for the halftime break.
By then, the German fans at the Metalist Stadium were already singing, "Aufwiedersehen, aufwiedersehen," -- the bye-bye chant of scorn for the Dutch team and its orange-clad fans.
"The beginning was good but it was not good enough," said Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel, who had a poor game and was substituted at halftime. "We had imagined all of this very differently."
The Dutch were more enterprising at the start of the second half after adding a second striker, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. But even the later insertion of a fourth Dutch striker, Dirk Kuyt, did not produce the equalizer.