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Germany vs England: Five things we learned as retiring Lukas Podolski gets his fairy-tale finish

The Independent logo The Independent 23-03-2017 Luke Brown

© Provided by Independent Print Limited Lukas Podolski's sensational long-range strike helped Germany beat England 1-0 in an international friendly in Dortmund.

Podolski, captaining Germany on his 130th and final international appearance, broke the deadlock with a thumping finish from distance.

Adam Lallana went closest for England before the break, hitting the post with a low strike, and Dele Alli wasted a good one-on-one chance by thumping his shot into Marc-Andre Ter-Stegen.

Here are five things we learned from Germany's narrow win: 

Southgate gets his tactics right

<span style="font-size:13px;">Southgate's bold 3-4-2-1 formation worked well (Getty)</span> © Provided by Independent Print Limited Southgate's bold 3-4-2-1 formation worked well (Getty)

On the surface, it was a bold move for Gareth Southgate to implement a brand new formation in his first match in permanent charge of England, and against such storied opposition, too. England don’t have a long history of playing three at the back, which has only just began to be adopted in the Premier League.

But in reality, it was a sensible, pragmatic decision from Southgate. Nearly half of his starting line-up play the system at club level, including the captain, Gary Cahill, and England’s best player, Dele Alli. His team looked solid in defence and the front three all interlinked well – even if Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand started a little too tentatively. Overall, the performance was an encouraging one despite defeat. 

Podolski signs off with a bang

Germany's Lukas Podolski celebrates scoring his goal against England. © Reuters Germany's Lukas Podolski celebrates scoring his goal against England.

The danger-signs had been there all evening. Podolski only had one thing on his mind throughout this match: signing off with a screamer. And twice in the first-half he had found himself with enough space to shift the ball onto his favoured left-foot only to see his long-range strikes deflected clear, first by Michael Keane, then by Gary Cahill.

But the script was simply too good to be ignored. With 20 minutes left and with the score still locked at 0-0, substitute André Schürrle nudged the ball into Podolski’s path, around 30-yards from goal. Germany’s captain required no invitation to shoot. Taking only one touch to ominously move the ball to his left, he unleashed an absolutely unstoppable strike past Joe Hart

It was Podolski’s 49th international goal on his 130th appearance for the German national side, and the fairy-tale finish he had been dreaming of. 

England didn't miss Rooney

<span style="font-size:13px;">Alli is more dynamic than Rooney going forward (Bongarts/Getty)</span> © Provided by Independent Print Limited Alli is more dynamic than Rooney going forward (Bongarts/Getty)

Germany’s captain was at the heart of their every attack in the early stages of this match; England’s was sat at home with his feet up. It was a brave decision by Southgate not to name Rooney in his squad and, on this evidence, it was the right one.

It is difficult to see where Rooney fits into a 3-4-2-1 formation. He lacks the pace of Vardy in the lone striker role, the trickery of either Alli or Lallana in attacking midfield and arguably the physicality of the likes of Jake Livermore and Eric Dier in the middle of the park.

Unfashionable players impress

<span style="font-size:13px;">Burnley's Keane impressed in the friendly (AFP/Getty)</span> © Provided by Independent Print Limited Burnley's Keane impressed in the friendly (AFP/Getty)

West Brom’s Jake Livermore and Burnley’s Michael Keane might not necessarily be the most exciting stars currently plying their trade in the Premier League, but they are solid, dependable options and both put in highly encouraging performances here.

Keane, playing in an unfamiliar system, looked confident at the back alongside Cahill and Smalling and even offered a threat going forward, twice lofting promising through-balls into the path of Dele Alli. And Livermore slotted into England’s midfield well, setting the tone with a crunching tackle within the first five minutes.

Both may have faded a little as the game went on, but ultimately the pair can be proud of their performances. And Southgate deserves significant credit for picking players on form, rather than reputation.

An unconvincing display from Hart

<span style="font-size:13px;">City exile Hart returned for England (Getty)</span> © Provided by Independent Print Limited City exile Hart returned for England (Getty)

When Pep Guardiola told Joe Hart he needed to be better with the ball at his feet, he probably didn’t have this in mind. Five minutes before half-time Hart was almost embarrassed by German debutant Timo Werner, taking too long on the ball from a back-pass and forced to resort to an impromptu Cruyff-turn to get himself out of trouble.

He had no chance with Podolski’s late goal but made a hash of a deflected corner in the second-half, punching the ball directly into the path of Julian Brandt. With his recent performances for Torino equally erratic, it will be interesting to see whether Southgate keeps him as his number one throughout the World Cup qualification campaign.

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