For the second time in just a few short months, André Schürrle was part of a German side making international football history. Though unlike on that fine summer's eve in Brazil, Germany were not the ones dancing around and celebrating on Saturday in Warsaw for it was the first time ever (in 19 tries) that Germany lost a competitive international match to Poland. And although the 2-0 final scoreline in no way, shape, or form reflected the balance of play for the entire 90 minutes, that took nothing away from the unbridled joy of the Polish players and the fervent Polish fans who created such a wonderful atmosphere hardly ever seen in internationals.
Joachim Löw was dealing with a minor injury crisis ahead of the game, leaving him without the services of Marco Reus, Mesut Özil, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, and Bastian Schweinsteiger; still, on paper the World Champions looked easy favorites. Final possession numbers and shot counts reflected expectations, but whereas Germany were often wasteful and largely aimless, Poland were ruthlessly efficient going forward and tremendously resolute in the center of defense. Torino center back Kamil Glik was the rock of Warsaw, both literally (6'3" man mountain) and figuratively (clearances, tackles, interceptions galore). His anticipation was top notch and he had surprising speed and quickness for such a big man. Needless to say, I was impressed. But we're here to talk about André Schürrle.
World Cup hero and super sub Schürrle started this one alongside three other modern attacking midfielder-forward hybrids in Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, and debutant Karim Bellarabi (the name's of Moroccan descent). Müller was ostensibly the center forward with Schürrle left, Götze central, and Bellarabi on the right wing, but it was all quite fluid, almost to the point of being ill-shaped and malformed. The four of them would flit about in a semicircle around the penalty area, but posed no actual danger to the goal. Germany finally found some purpose towards the end of the first half, coinciding with Schürrle taking a turn on the right wing, but both Müller (from a wonderful Schürrle through ball) and Bellarabi (twice) spurned their chances and the first half ended scoreless.
The second half was only a few minutes old when Poland grabbed an unlikely goal from an unlikely source (20-year-old Arkadiusz Milik) largely thanks to an unlikely error from Manuel Neuer, who was beaten to the punch on Lukasz Piszczek's cross. The goal seemed to serve its purpose and the game burst into life. Germany started playing with purpose not seen since the World Cup. Their lack of a proper center forward however was still telling and introducing further attacking hybrids like Julian Draxler, Lukas Podolski, and Max Kruse wasn't exactly remedying the situation. By the end, Löw was playing a sort of a 3-0-Kroos-6-0 but the Polish defense was still able to keep most of the play in front of themselves. On the few occasions that the visitors did break through Wojciech Szczesny stood strong.
With Germany ripe to be hit on the counter, Poland duly obliged and finished them off in the 88th minute courtesy of Sebastian Mila. Schürrle had been withdrawn ten minutes earlier in favor of Podolski, an odd move considering that after a slow start, the Chelsea man had become every German attack's fulcrum. Playing back on the left as an inverted winger, Schürrle was found repeatedly by Toni Kroos's long balls and he was creating chances both for himself and others. While Podolski did hit the bar with a sweet volley, how the ineffective Müller or the fading Bellarabi stayed on instead of Schürrle, I do not know. Regardless, it was good to see André finish on a high note, giving hope that he's ready to put his spell of bad form behind him.
Elsewhere, Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic both went 90 minutes in Serbia's 1-1 draw with Armenia, which looks like an unhappy result but which actually could have been very much worse. The hosts went ahead in the second half via a Robert Arzumanyan header, and it took Serbia until the 90th minute to find the equaliser. Zoran Tosic's goal was worth waiting for, however - a beauty of a left footed curled from atop the box that left Roman Berezovsky helpless. Ivanovic had a chance to win it in injury time, but saw his effort stopped by the keeper.
It was a bad day for Chelsea's African contingent as well. Bertrand Traoré was on the bench for Burkina Faso's Africa Cup of Nations qualifying loss to Gabon, Christian Atsu played 70 minutes as Ghana only managed a 1-1 draw against Guinea, and Kenneth Omeruo and John Obi Mikel both started for Nigeria as they continued their awful run with a 1-0 reverse in Sudan. It was 30 degrees in Khartoum for the match, but that doesn't really excuse the Super Eagles' loss. Mikel did have a goal late on, but it was ruled out for offside. The loss leaves Nigeria bottom of their qualifying group and thus it's looking more and more likely that we will not have to do without Mikel's services come the middle of January.