Slick Scholl sets shining example

Alex Hayes sees Paul Scholes put in the shade by his near namesake
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It was the day of the S. S for soaked, S for sad and, ultimately, S for solemn. But it was also the day for the S of Scholl. Germany's Mehmet was outstanding throughout and his performance eclipsed that of his counterpart, England's S, Paul Scholes.

It was the day of the S. S for soaked, S for sad and, ultimately, S for solemn. But it was also the day for the S of Scholl. Germany's Mehmet was outstanding throughout and his performance eclipsed that of his counterpart, England's S, Paul Scholes.

Scholl originally had the choice between playing for Turkey or Germany but, after his Turkish father abandoned him and his mother, he decided to adopt the name of his father-in-law and represent his adopted country. Throughout his career, he has had to be resolute and enterprising. In the five years since he joined Bayern Munich from Karlsruhe, the 29-year-old has had to fight for a regular place.

If that was not enough, Scholl has also had to contend with the ever-changing demands of his managers, at club and international level. Like Scholes, Scholl has been moved from pillar to post for the benefit of his teams. Left midfield, right midfield, central midfield, in the hole and up front, both men have played the lot.

As natural attacking players, both are more suited to and comfortable in advanced roles. Yesterday, their wishes seemed to be answered. They started in similar positions, operating behind the attack. The inclusion of Gareth Southgate in the holding midfield position was supposed to give the England No 8 the freedom he thrives on. Equally, though, the attack-minded Germany manager, Rudi Völler, encouraged his little dynamo to push forward at will.

In the first half, the tactics worked in Scholl's favour. This was, of course, due in large part to Germany's total domination of the opening 45 minutes. Such was their control, particularly in midfield, that Scholl was able to concentrate solely on going forward. Conversely, Scholes was restricted almost entirely to defensive duties. Only once, four minutes into the match, did the Manchester United man make any telling impact. Collecting the ball on the edge of the Germany penalty box, he twisted and turned before delivering a left-footed cross into the area. The centre lacked any real pace, though, and was easily cut out by the visitors' defence.

That was that. Scholes spent the rest of the half having to patrol in front of his own area. Defence has never been his strongest point and it showed again. It was his foul on Michael Ballack that led to Dietmar Hamann's smart free-kick and Germany's goal. Scholes cannot be blamed for failing to fulfil a task which he is clearly not suited to, but the more the first half wore on, the worse his performance became.

Not so Scholl. From his first touch of the game - when he brought down a high ball with an exquisite touch before laying it off to Sebastian Deisler, whose cross-cum-shot drifted harmlessly wide - to his last, Scholl was a constant threat to England. His clever positional play and tireless runs caused the England rear-guard problems. More than anything else, however, it his his ability to pop up in different places every few minutes, which makes him most dangerous. And he is not bad from set-pieces, either. Following another clumsy challenge from Scholes on Ballack after 32 minutes, Scholl stepped up to take the ensuing free-kick. On target and well-directed, it lacked only pace and fell invitingly into Seaman's hands.

The early part of the second half promised to be a different story, as Kevin Keegan - 18 months and now a further 45 poor minutes - into his tenure, deployed a 3-5-2 formation after the break. Suddenly, Scholes found himself not only in his favoured central midfield berth, but also flanked by two other red shirts. With Nick Barmby on his left and David Beckham on his right, Scholes was no longer isolated. Nor was the 26-year-old pinned back in defence. England abandoned the long-ball ploy, used Scholes as the pivot for their attacks, and looked far sharper.

But it was Scholl and, ultimately, Germany who had the last word. His mazy run seven minutes into the second half, when he raced down the left flank before shooting powerfully across the face of goal, perfectly summed up his performance. Calm, controlled and purposeful. This was Scholl's, not Scholes', day.

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