Podolski signs off in style

Lukas Podolski celebrating his 49th and final goal for Die Mannschaft. Podolski ends a glittering career for Germany, having won the 2014 World Cup.
Lukas Podolski celebrating his 49th and final goal for Die Mannschaft. Podolski ends a glittering career for Germany, having won the 2014 World Cup.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

German international retires on a high note with the winner against old enemy England

DORTMUND (Germany) • Lukas Podolski admitted his Germany farewell could not have been scripted better after netting the superb winner in the 1-0 friendly win over England.

It was only fitting that the Galatasaray forward should claim his 49th goal on his 130th - and final - international appearance in Wednesday's emotional farewell.

"The way it finished up was like in a film," said Podolski, who smashed home the winning goal on 69 minutes from 25m out, then came off to thunderous applause with six minutes left in the match.

"Dear god, or someone else, gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight. I am proud of the last 13 years," beamed the 31-year-old, who will join Japan's Vissel Kobe next season. "It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye."

He captained the reigning world champions to their first win over old rivals England on home soil since 1987.

The victory was also sweet for head coach Joachim Low as it was a record seventh game without conceding a goal for Germany, a run that started after their Euro 2016 semi-final defeat by France.

It came with Low missing first-choice players like goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Mario Gomez.

However, England had the better of Germany in the first half before Podolski's winner. And England manager Gareth Southgate was encouraged by the performance of his team in a new 3-4-3 system, saying he could take a lot of confidence going into Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley.

Adam Lallana's powerful shot hit the post with 30 minutes gone. Dele Alli forced Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a save but it was goalless at the break.

"It is never nice to lose and I am not someone who is overly pleased in defeat but I have to be really pleased with the way my players have played individually and in terms of the tactical system," Southgate said after his first game as permanent England boss.

"The way that worked and their ability to adapt quickly was excellent and, until the goal, I thought we were the better side.

"I am very pleased with what we learned, the manner of the performance and the only bit we missed was the finish. We should have had the game won but I am very pleased with what we did."

He picked out Michael Keane for praise on a night when the Burnley defender played as one of three centre-halves.

"Michael had an excellent debut. He has played for the under-21s at full-back and centre-back so the system was going to suit him, no problem," added Southgate.

His decision to try a new formation was made six weeks ago, he said, partly because he felt it would suit Alli and Lallana.

"Dele and Adam, and also Jesse Lingard, are fantastic at finding space between the opposition's midfield and defence. They cover a phenomenal distance, which allows you to get pressure on the opposition," he said.

"I think it is very exciting for what we can do moving forward."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Podolski signs off in style'. Print Edition | Subscribe