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Football: End of an era for Lukas Podolski


Lukas Podolski makes his last appearance for Germany when the world champions take on England in a prestige friendly in Dortmund on Wednesday.

The match is preparation for coach Joachim Loew before a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku four days later but is also being used to give Podolski a decent send off.

The Japan-bound Galatasarary striker announced his retirement from international football following Euro 2016, and on Wednesday he will bow out with his 130th appearance.

Only Lothar Matthaeus with 150 and Miroslav Klose on 137 have won more caps.

Podolski’s 48 goals for Germany meanwhile puts him fourth behind Klose (71), Gerd Mueller (68) and East Germany international Joachim Streich (59).

Loew said he was pleased Podolski would be able to say farewell to fans in a match of this nature.

“He deserves this fitting farewell. Matches against England are absolute classics and they are great fans in Dortmund,” Loew told the German football federation DFB

Poland-born Podolski, now 31, made his debut for Germany two days after his 19th birthday when he came on as a 73rd-minute substitute for Fredi Bobic against Hungary in Kaiserslautern on June 6, 2004.

Only a few days earlier, he had been selected as an entirely untested player by the then national team coach Rudi Voeller for Germany’s Euro 2004 squad.

The former Cologne, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Inter Milan (on loan) striker was then a regular under both Juergen Klinsmann and Loew, although latterly mostly usually used as a substitute.

Podolski has always been a fan favourite in an international career which ran parallel with his friend’s Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The pair initially played up to the image of a fresh-faced, cheeky duo in a new-look German squad rebooted under Klinsmann after the Euro 2004 failure.

They played side by side until 2016, crowning their international careers with the 2014 World Cup victory in Brazil when Podolski appeared in two games as a substitute.

“It is nice to feel that people have respect for what you have done. Especially abroad I get this feeling,” Podolski told Kicker magazine published on Monday.

Loew has always appreciated the options Podolski gave the team as a mainly left-sided attacker with pace and a strong shot, but also valued his presence in the squad as a hard-working and positive team player.

“With all his relaxed and laid-back nature, he is a role model in professionalism and attitude. Everything, even himself, is subservient to success,” Loew said.

Podolski has played outside Germany since 2012 when he ended a second spell at Cologne, the club of his youth, to move to Arsenal, and in 2015 to Galatasaray. Next stop will be Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of the European season.

Podolski is now the last of a generation from some 10 years ago, and the final member of the 2006 World Cup squad under Klinsmann to wear the Germany jersey.

Most are no longer playing, while some around the same age such as Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm or Per Mertesacker have already retired from national team duty.

Loew has continually rejuvenated the squad and brings in another newcomer in RB Leipzig’s 21-year-old striker Timo Werner, who is thought likely to make an appearance against England.

Germany have the small matter of avenging a 3-2 defeat in Berlin to England a year ago, while Loew is focused on early qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Germany have won all four of their games in Group C and will be looking for another three points in Baku.

“Our aim is to get the World Cup ticket as soon as possible,” Loew said. 


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