Mario Gomez is the only player in Germany's World Cup squad to have featured at UEFA Euro 2008. - © © imago
Mario Gomez is the only player in Germany's World Cup squad to have featured at UEFA Euro 2008. - © © imago

Mario Gomez: Germany's oldest, fastest and most important man


It would appear Timo Werner isn't the only supersonic Swabian in town – although it is Mario Gomez's presence, more than his pace, that is proving pivotal in Russia.

Gomez clocked the fastest top speed of any Germany player in their vital 2-1 win over Sweden on Saturday – an impressive 20.13 miles per hour – and Joachim Löw will be hoping he has no plans to slow down as the world champions head into their must-win Group F finale with South Korea on Wednesday.

The VfB Stuttgart frontman made a decisive impact after replacing Julian Draxler at the interval in Sochi, setting up Marco Reus for the equaliser just three minutes into the second half. As well as destabilising a solid Swedish backline with his movement and physical presence, the 32-year-old brought some much-needed reassurance and belief to his floundering side.

- © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein

"It doesn't matter who's better on paper, or which players are more skilful. The team that wants it more will win," Gomez had wisely foreshadowed in his pre-game press conference. Having that voice of experience on the pitch seemed to spur Die Mannschaft on against the Swedes, who were looking to claim another illustrious scalp after reaching the tournament at the expense of four-time winners Italy. The result was the now legendary Toni Kroos free-kick deep in stoppage time.

"I was so happy for the team," Gomez said, after sprinting to the corner to celebrate with Real Madrid's midfield maestro. "We're all in this together, we have a common goal."

Some observers raised eyebrows when Gomez was included in the final World Cup squad ahead of Sandro Wagner, with Gomez himself saying he "would have taken" the Bayern Munich forward along. But Löw's decision is looking increasingly savvy, given how Gomez appears to be thriving in the indispensable role of elder statesman.

"Mario is very important to us, both with his presence on the field and in the dressing room," admitted Reus, who scored on his long-awaited maiden World Cup start thanks to Gomez. Werner added that it was "unique" to have the support of a man with whom he is vying for a place at centre-forward.

Gomez's role – not unlike that of Lukas Podolski four years ago – is to mentor his younger teammates and bring harmony to a squad that has already come under more scrutiny than it ever did in Brazil. As the oldest member of the group, he has often been the first man to face the media, while he is the last man who would dream of demanding a starting berth.

"You won't hear anything like that from me for the rest of my life!" he insisted. "I can play with freedom now. My emotional world is completely sorted."

- © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein

A loss of form and fitness prevented Gomez going to Brazil in 2014, but he remains a player of invaluable big-game experience, having turned out for Die Mannschaft at four major tournaments: UEFA Euro 2008, 2012 and 2016, as well as the 2010 World Cup. Unlike some of his teammates he has been through the lows as well as the highs, which no doubt helped immeasurably after the Mexico defeat.

"The mood in the camp has been a lot better in recent days," Gomez admitted. "We're still a strong side with extraordinary quality, and we've got what it takes to get the better of South Korea. We're also a tightly-knit squad, even if not everybody wants to believe that."

Though he has been tipped to start alongside Werner in Kazan, Gomez could just as easily make his third appearance from the bench, and he certainly wouldn't be complaining about it. But South Korea would do well to note that he has a formidable scoring record for Germany – 31 goals in 75 caps – and that once he gets going he can be a hard man to stop. Just ask Sweden.

- © Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Staff

A natural leader, Gomez could end up playing a key role heading into the business end of the 2018 World Cup. It may be over a decade since he earned the nickname, but he is still very much proving to be Germany's Mr Reliable – both on and off the field.

Andy Smith

Click here for the lowdown on Germany's World Cup campaign!

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