Modest maestro Ozil is German fulcrum
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 so far.
But there can be no denying that Mesut Ozil has been just as influential. The performance level of the German No8 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.
While Ozil has not scored, he has come to define Germany's tournament. He drives them from within, in an understated but overwhelming manner. "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."
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."
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."
So are Germany ready to beat the biggest football nation, Spain?
"Spain are the favourites," Ozil 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."