Germany confident of Euro success after vintage year
HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew is confident his team have not peaked too soon before Euro 2012 after trouncing the Netherlands 3-0 in an international friendly on Tuesday, capping a superb year with nine victories against a single defeat.
With their sights set on winning a first title for 16 years, Germany overwhelmed the 2010 World Cup runners-up and contender for next year's finals with a quick-passing, attacking style that evoked memories of Dutch 'Total Football' in the 1970s.
"A lot can happen in the next half year," Loew warned after watching his team beat Netherlands for the first time since 1996 to finish 2011 with nine wins and three draws against a lone 2-1 loss to Australia.
"If we had to play the Euro tomorrow we'd be in excellent shape," Loew said after his team, ranked third by FIFA, crushed the world's second ranked side in front of a sell-out crowd of 51,500 on a frosty night in the port city of Hamburg.
"This good run we've had isn't uncanny for me at all," he told a news conference, referring to an 18-month streak that has included wins over England (4-1), Argentina (4-0), Brazil (3-2) and now Netherlands.
"We've worked for years to get to this level and our goal was to improve a bit every year," he said of his team's fast-paced style similar to that of World and European champions Spain.
Germany also won all 10 of their Euro 2012 qualifiers to ease into the tournament being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
"The developments from 2010 have been very good," he added after the win that Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild called "the most beautiful victory of 2011".
Loew said: "I'm very pleased with the consistency we've been able to build up."
Germany, winners of three World Cups and three European championships, were once regarded as "tournament specialists" after they often seemed to peak at just the right moment following mediocre results in the run-up to major events.
But after taking third place at the last two World Cups and losing to Spain in the Euro 2008 final, Germany are more intent than ever to win a first title since Euro 96 in England.
"Two or three years ago we couldn't always win the big matches," Loew said. "But now we've achieved that. I'm very pleased that we're consistently able to come up with this high level of performance."
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said he was impressed with how quickly Germany shifted from converting a Dutch attack into a scoring chance at the other end.
"They were so fast," he said. "They're playing super right now. I'd say Germany is a top favourite (for Euro 2012) along with Spain.
"They've got so much potential. They've got so many good players. Even if you look over at their bench, they have so many creative players sitting there."
Van Marwijk said his team might have had a better chance against Germany if first-choice forwards Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart had not been missing through injury.
He said Netherlands, along with England, Italy and Portugal were also contenders. "We're also among the favourites if we go there without a lot of injured players," he said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Wagner; Editing by John O'Brien)
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