Lukas Podolski struck a brilliant winning goal to sign off his Germany career with a 1-0 win over England in a friendly on Wednesday. Podolski led the side out as captain for the first time in his last international, and he hammered the ball to the top right corner from 25 meters (yards) to win it with just over 20 minutes remaining. The 31-year-old Podolski had been honored before his 130th game for Germany and had his name chanted by fans during the match. He was also celebrated with another round of applause when he went off in the closing stages.
Only 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaeus and all-time top-scorer Miroslav Klose have played more games for Germany. England might have won the game, but lacked a clinical edge in front of goal. Gareth Southgate’s side had looked more likely to score before Podolski struck and the players should take plenty of encouragement from the performance. It was England’s first defeat in its sixth game since Euro 2016, and marked Southgate’s first game since becoming manager on a permanent basis.
Many fans dusted off their Podolski jerseys for the game, while there was a good trade in Podolski scarves outside the stadium. Cologne fans from his hometown club also wore their colors in tribute to their hero. There was a giant banner in front of the Westfalenstadion’s south stand declaring, “130 games, 48 goals, a legend. Thanks Lukas.”
“Thank you Dortmund, thank you Cologne and thank you Germany,” Podolski said for the reception. It seemed like a changing of the guard from Germany with Joshua Kimmich (22), Julian Weigl (21), Leroy Sane (21), Julian Brandt (20) and Timo Werner (21)all starting, the latter for his debut. But it was the visitors that looked sharp and Burnley defender Michael Keane might have done better on his England debut when he fired over early on.
Keane blocked a Podolski shot as the home side gradually improved, but there were groans from fans at the frequent waylaid passes and unforced errors. A mislaid pass from Kimmich set Adam Lallana racing clear. Germany `keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was relieved to see the Liverpool midfielder’s effort crash back off the far post.
Dele Alli should have put England ahead before the break but he shot straight at Ter Stegen when he only had the goalkeeper to beat. More loose play from the home side in midfield had created the opportunity.
Podolski, who had a shot blocked and had blazed over in the first half, again went close in the second before he finally claimed his 49th and last international goal for a perfect ending.