European glory for Zieler… but what next?
Posted by nickogs20 on July 29, 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Patrice Evra, Edwin van der Sar – all dreamt of becoming champions of Europe with their country this summer, but it’s Ron-Robert Zieler who has become the only United player to achieve that feat after helping his Germany side to the European U19 title in the Czech Republic on Saturday night.
The young Germans lined up against a strong Italian team in the final, held in Jablonec’s Střelnice Stadion, and were looking for not only their first ever Euro U19 title but for their first youth international title of any kind since 1992. Their impressive march to the final had seen Germany installed as slight favourites to take home the trophy and the bookies were ultimately vindicated, but there were a few hiccups along the way.
One moment of confusion at the back aside (where Milan’s Paloschi nipped in to beat Zieler to a through-ball but couldn’t guide his shot between the posts), Germany dominated the early exchanges and Lars Bender duly gave them the lead from the edge of the box after 24 minutes. However, ten minutes later their skipper Florian Jungwirth contrived to pick up two bookings in the space of as many minutes and left his side facing the daunting task of preserving their lead while short-handed for almost an hour.
The ensuing half-hour either side of the break saw Zieler genuinely tested for arguably the first time in the tournament as Italy sought to make turn their numerical advantage into goals. Paloschi and Roma’s Okaka were among those to draw saves from the 19 year-old before the Germans slowly began to weather the storm and go looking for the killer goal on the counter. It duly arrived on the hour mark from one of the tournament’s most impressive young strikers, Richard Sukuta-Pasu, and when Italy had Matteo Gentili sent off to even up the personnel, the game looked all but over, only for Zieler to show a rare sign of fallibility, his weak punch from a corner allowing Silvano Raggio to pull one back with 12 minutes remaining.
Fortunately for RRZ, German nerves were re-settled almost immediately as Timo Gebhart rose to head home Deniz Naki’s freekick to restore what was to prove a decisive two-goal cushion. Germany saw out the remaining ten minutes to secure a title they thoroughly deserved – they were comfortably the best side in the tournament and won all five of their games. Ron-Robert’s tournament is a hard one to evaluate as the strength of the German team meant he was so rarely called upon. Bar one aberration in the final though he did everything that could have been asked of him and looked particularly assured when dealing with high balls into the box.
So what next for him? Speaking to the German media ahead of the final the young stopper revealed he had signed an extension to his current United contract, tying him to the club until 2010. “It’s a good sign, (it shows) that they trust me there,” he said of the new deal. “I can learn an awful lot [from Edwin van der Sar]. It is obviously difficult to force your way in at such a club but I will do everything”.
Zieler admitted that a temporary move away from Old Trafford could well be on the cards this season, with clubs interested both in England and in the youngster’s homeland (Hoffenheim have been mentioned in particular). With the promising Ben Amos pushing for matches in the reserve side, a loan move could suit all parties, with Zieler himself reaching the stage where first-team football would be ideal. If he does go out on loan, the main criteria when choosing a suitable loan club is likely to be their standing within a division – young keepers make mistakes, it’s a cast-iron certainty, and clubs likely to be facing a relegation battle will rarely persevere with a keeper who’s making costly errors, regardless of their obvious talent and mitigating youth. One to watch, with the loan market set to really kick into gear over the next week or so.