Lukas Podolski: Polish horsepower under a German hood
On Wednesday evening, Lukas Podolski received the ball on the edge of the box, he turned and rifled a shot straight into the top corner, perfectly epitomising his international career.
Podolski has achieved almost everything at international level, most importantly winning a World Cup in 2014, something even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been unable to get their hands on.
However, this was all made possible due to the national team the 31-year-old picked. That decision was arguably made for him when after several good performances, the Polish boss Pawel Janas in 2003 opted to leave him out of the Polish squads, even when Podolski was still eligible to play for Poland.
Podolski once said he dreamed of playing for the country that he was born in, but they did not ask, and he had gone past the point of change. Therefore, he chose to represent Germany at international level.
He was once asked by a Polish journalist what it would feel like when he would be representing Germany in his native land, he replied saying, “There are two hearts beating inside me.” This clearly shows he had not forgotten the country where he was born, despite spending most of his life in Germany and choosing to represent them.
Janas’s decision has proved to be a poor one in the long run. If he had chosen to include Podolski in his squad, even if he didn’t play him, it may have persuaded him to join the Polish national team. But their hesitancy to call him up due to his age meant Germany jumped at the opportunity, and Podolski earned his first cap as a 19-year-old in 2004.
Low emphasised the 31-year-old’s importance in Germany’s success as leading up to his last game: “He is a unique specimen, no one can really replace him,” Low said. “For me it will be a beautiful moment but a sad one because he was one of the greatest players ever to come out of Germany.”
This perfectly demonstrates how poor the decision to leave him out of the squad was by Janas in 2003, as he has gone on to become an important figure in a successful national team.
In 2006, in Germany, he repaid them for their decision to call him up, scoring three goals and winning young player of the tournament, an incredible feat at just 21. Podolski was playing as though he was an experienced player, which made what he was doing at the World Cup in 2006 so much more impressive.
Podolski was going through a hard time at Bayern Munich, but Joachim Low still decided to take him to the European Championships in 2008. Three goals once again from him, with two coming against the country he was born in, further increased his status as a national hero in Germany.
With his performances, he also gained himself a place in the European Championships team of the tournament.
Podolski has always been considered inconsistent and has often been criticised for going missing in games. However, on average, he contributed to a goal every 109 minutes (goals or assists) for Arsenal, the third best for the club in Premier League history behind the greats Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry.
This is a fantastic ratio, even in club football, where a lot of people have criticised him for being very underwhelming in comparison to his performances for Germany.
Podolski once again went to a FIFA World Cup in 2010, where his side finished third once again like the 2006 tournament. He scored two goals in this tournament and operated mainly on the left wing, where it first became more of a frequent position for the German.
He also went on to play magnificently at Euro 2012, scoring three goals and assisting three, continuing his form for the national side. His team were unable to make the final once again but Podolski was creating an incredible international career for himself, gaining an enormous number of caps along the way.
“We won't be able to find a like-for-like replacement for Poldi,” said Toni Kroos at the 2014 World Cup. “We just don't have anyone else like him.” These quotes from a top player like Kroos demonstrate how important Podolski was, both on and off the pitch for the international side.
Overall, Podolsk’s international career and goal record have been quite outstanding. However, this is not his only attribute, his smile, happiness and endearment towards fans has earned himself enormous credibility. This is all even though there was some controversy over the country he chose to play for, further illustrating how well he has done to win over fans around the world.
His goal against England perfectly ended a fantastic international career in the spotlight.