In their opening game of Euro 2012, Germany laboured to a barely-deserved 1-0 win against Portugal. It was a tight match decided by a clinical finish from Mario Gomez, who was a surprise starter over the more experienced Miroslav Klose.
Despite his winner, sceptics remained adamant that he was the wrong choice, amongst them former Germany and Bayern Munich star Mehmet Scholl who criticised Gomez for his lack of team-work and an overall lackadaisical attitude.
“If Gomez did more work off the ball he would get a lot more chances and score a lot more goals. A striker today has to work more and help his teammates," roared Scholl.
The 2001 Champions League winner even went on to add that, so limited was his movement, he expected Gomez to develop bedsores during his time on the pitch. Gomez responded by defending a style of play that had been so successful at club level over the years.
|"If Gomez did more work off the ball he would score more. A striker has to help his team-mates. At times I was worried he'd get bedsores"
- Mehmet Scholl on Gomez after the Portugal game
|"Mario was always a fighter. He laid on the ground so often & now he's stood up again. He has good confidence after this great season he had"
- Joachim Low hails Gomez after Netherlands double
Scholl might have to reconsider his statement after Gomez’s match-winning display against Netherlands. His two goals not only took his team one step closer to the quarterfinals, but in a manner that most were clamoring for since he made his international debut.
Not only were his finishes clinical, but his movement and link up with teammates were reminiscent of Klose at his best.
The touch and turn he took on the first goal to escape his markers was world class and more comparable to a Mesut Ozil, rather than a player accused of developing bedsores.
On the second, Gomez cleverly lured Joris Mathijsen out of the centre before quickly turning back in and receiving a pass from Bastian Schweinsteiger, which he buried from a very difficult angle.
Finishing aside, Gomez also worked tirelessly throughout the game to track back and defend. He won more challenges than most players on the pitch and effectively pressed from the front, and all that with less touches of the ball than any starter on the field.
When substituted for Klose in the final 20 minutes, Gomez was afforded a standing ovation and rightfully so.
Speaking after the match, his coach Joachim Low said: "Mario was always a fighter. He has laid on the ground so often and now he has stood up again. He has good confidence after this great season he had."
It may just have been his best performance yet in a Germany shirt and one that will win over even his staunchest detractors.