Germany coach Joachim Low has said he expects Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Ozil to shine during the knockout phase at UEFA EURO 2012 ahead of Friday's quarter-final against Greece.
The 23-year-old provided the final pass that allowed right-back Lars Bender to complete his 80-metre run by drilling home the winning goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Denmark in Group B, firing Germany into the last eight.
Ozil also won the man-of-the-match award in Germany's opening 1-0 win over Portugal before admitting he could play better.
In the first-half against Denmark, the Danish defenders paid him plenty of attention, but Low says he expects Real's attacking midfielder to come into his own now in the knockout phase. "I am so far satisfied with his performance," said the 52-year-old Low ahead of Friday's match at Arena Gdansk.
"He improved sharply against Denmark and showed he is an absolute team player. The major explosion (of form) from Ozil is still to come."
He improved sharply against Denmark and showed he is an absolute team player. The major explosion (of form) from Ozil is still to come.
Low cast his mind back to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ when Ozil played a key role as Germany hammered both England and Argentina en route to finishing third. Having scored the winner in their nervous 1-0 win over Ghana in the group phase, Ozil dazzled down Germany's flanks in the knockout phase against England before helping put Diego Maradona's Argentina to the sword.
"It was the same during the group phase at the 2010 World Cup," said Low. "Suddenly, he was outstanding against England and Argentina. I feel the same thing will happen here."
There were signs of frustration in Ozil's post-match demeanour against Denmark as a few passes failed to find their man, but Low defended his star's performances after a stellar season with Real Madrid as they won the La Liga title.
"Ozil has improved tremendously during the tournament," said Low. "Many look to their individual performance, but I also look what he brings to the team. He is a great distributor, but at the same time, he does a huge amount of running, so what he was lacking were people for him to pass to.
"He needs more options up front, but those are for his team-mates to give him. He's creative and he knows how to play the defence-splitting passes, but he needs runners to pass to. As far as his performances are concerned, there are no ifs or buts about it, he has really sacrificed himself for the team."