By Florian Teichert
The curse of the second group game is over. In both 2008 and 2010, Germany lost their second match of each major tournament. Not this time.
Mario Gomez scored twice in their 2-1 win against Netherlands, and stole the headlines as match-winner. But there was another player who showed impressive form and is secretly developing into a key man for the team: Sami Khedira.
The Real Madrid midfielder is now an integral part of the German starting XI. The 25-year-old has been in fine form alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. Against Portugal he was one of the best players on the pitch, continually making quick passes to complement his side's counter-attacking game.
|THE SECRET STAR|
| KHEDIRA VS PORTUGAL
PASS COMPLETION RATIO
| KHEDIRA VS NETHERLANDS
PASS COMPLETION RATIO
In defence, the former Stuttgart man kept the Portuguese at bay with ease, while going forward it was Khedira who supplied the cross to Mario Gomez for the decisive goal. His club coach Jose Mourinho was full of praise for him after the match, noting: "He was the man of the match."
In the second game, against the Dutch, Khedira played a major role once more.
"I'm more mature, I train and play at the highest level, and can deal with the pressure better," he said before the match. And once again, Khedira bossed the midfield, restricting the room in the middle of the park with his perfect positional play. Players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart could do very little.
In fact, over the last two years, Khedira has developed more than any of his colleagues in the national team. His time under Mourinho at the Bernabeu has helped him develop as a footballer.
He was ridiculed after his transfer to the Spanish capital, but has since become a worthy player for La Liga's Primera Division champions, developing into an integral part of one of the best teams in the world.
His development has been reflected in his form wearing the national jersey. Khedira is no longer described as "the guy next to Bastian Schweinsteiger" - he is now one of the main pillars of Joachim Low's team.
The statistics also back up his success. A regularly high pass-completion percentage is evidence of his superb vision, while his success rate for tackles also speaks volumes. At Madrid, he has got better and better as time has gone on, and is now a permanent fixture for Los Blancos.
Mourinho has said: "Ronaldo is for magic, Khedira is for winning."
The former Stuttgart man has shown that he will be vital to Germany's success in Ukraine and Poland.