Number two in the FIFA ranking were no match for number three on Tuesday night. The prestige derby between arch-rivals Germany and Holland ended in a disconcerting 3-0 defeat for the guests, their heaviest loss in 15 years.
It was a cold, bleak autumn evening in Hamburg, with the temperature just above freezing point. Luckily, the 51,500 capacity crowd were warmed by the quality of play on the pitch.
The fireworks started right in the opening minute when Germany captain Miroslav Klose aimed just wide of the post from close range. Wearing his "Hannibal Hunter"-mask, Holland hitman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar responded in kind just two minutes later. Both sides pushed forward, with Germany the more athletic side, showing more precision and speed in their passing, and Holland playing a more complex and physical game.
After 15 minutes, the hosts took the lead after slicing through the shaky Dutch defence. A Klose cross from the right reached unmarked Thomas Müller, who deftly fired home from just outside the six-yard area. Not much later, another deadly counter-attack produced the second goal, with Klose (yes, him again) heading in an Özil cross.
Time for Germany coach Joachim Löw to relax and lean against the boarding. He saw Holland trying in vain to pick up the pieces by keeping possession, he observed how his own team "showed much better organization and more discipline than the Dutch" as he would say after the match. And he watched how the crowd kept themselves warm with the Mexican wave.
Technically and tactically superior
It was pretty much the same story in the second half: younger, fitter and more talented, Die Mannschaft allowed the men in orange to pass the ball around in their own half. When the Dutch came too close, Germany had its double defence line firmly in place.
In the meantime, the hosts waited for the opportunity to launch yet another rapier counter. And that opportunity came, in the shape of a dazzling one-two cutting straight through the Holland centre-backs. Again Klose and Özil were involved, with the latter getting his name on the scoresheet. The home crowd were euphoric: “Oh, wie bist du schön! – Oh, how beautiful you are!,” they sang.
The Dutch contingent – some 2,200 strong – kept unusually quiet. They had witnessed an unexpectedly weak Holland team, who in this form doesn’t deserve to be ranked among the top favourites for next year’s European Championship title. Germany, on the other hand, certainly does.
"The result is painful," Holland coach Bert van Marwijk said, congratulating his opponents on a "well-deserved victory." "They have more potential than us," he added. "I'm not looking for excuses, but of course we were missing our most creative players."
Van Marwijk said he was "glad that it had happened now" and not during the Euro 2012 tournament. Let's hope for Holland that Germany doesn't get drawn in the same group.
1-Maarten Stekelenburg (GK); 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga; 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Edson Braafheid; 6-Mark van Bommel (c); 7-Dirk Kuyt; 8-Kevin Strootman; 9-Klaas-Jan Huntelaar; 10-Wesley Sneijder; 11-Ryan Babel
1-Manuel Neuer; 4-Dennis Aogo;; 6-Sami Khedira; 8-Mesut Özil; 10-Lukas Podolski; 11-Miroslav Krose; 13-Thomas Muller;14-Holger Badstuber; 17-Per Mertesacker; 18-Toni Kroos; 20-Jerome Boateng;