Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil promises to step out of the shadows against Andrea Pirlo's Italy in Euro 2012 semi-final

Playmaker will always put Germany first but semi-final brings chance to state his case

Gdansk

It is, as Arsène Wenger might say, "money time". For all the intrigue of the group stages, it is generally from the quarter-finals on that the players who define tournaments properly take command.

Consider how, in the last quarter-final, Andrea Pirlo obliterated Steven Gerrard's claims to be considered among the best midfielders in the competition. The Italian and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal have been the most eye-catching players of Euro 2012.

But there can be no denying that Mesut Ozil has been just as influential. The performance level of the German No 8 escalated again in the quarter-final against Greece. Not only did he epitomise the team with his lightning runs between the lines, he generally ran the show. He has directly assisted a third of Germany's nine goals.

The fact that Ozil has not scored, though, isn't the only difference between himself and Pirlo and Ronaldo. Ozil does not have anywhere near the same cult of personality around him. Ozil, however, has come to define Germany's tournament. He drives them from within, in an understated but overwhelming manner. He sums up the true sense of the collective that exists around Germany.

"The team supported me excellently on the pitch against Greece so I could really deliver," Ozil said. "I was immensely happy to show what I can do at last. Being voted man of the match is a side issue. We just have to function as a team. That's the key."

When Ozil was asked if he was "Germany's Pirlo", the playmaker sidestepped the question.

"It's not Ozil against Italy," he said, of the semi-final. "It's Germany against Italy. Everyone works hard for each other and if we show what we can do, Italy will have a hard time. Italy have probably been the surprise package of the tournament. Even against the world champions, [Spain] they had a very good performance. They are where they belong. They are very strong, superbly organised... but if we play to our full potential we will come out winners."

Germany radiate confidence, but there is a respectful realism about them. As Ozil says: "We have the right self-confidence.

"I think we have matured both as players and human beings. We are a very young team with lots of hungry players coming through. We have won four of four games and most nations we play have huge respect for us. In the game against Greece, we showed our true colours as far as attacking football is concerned and we were the best attacking side. We've also shown we can hold our own against big football nations."

Are Germany ready to beat the biggest football nation, Spain? And does Ozil agree with recent arguments that Germany are now much better to watch than the world champions?

"Spain are obviously the favourites," he said. "They dominated against the French. But I don't want to say more about that. The Italy game is the next step and that's all we're focusing on."

Ozil allowed himself one moment of individualist indulgence.

"Generally, I'm content with my performances so far," he said. "I will demonstrate against Italy that I can put my foot on the accelerator."

 

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas