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Prolific Bayern stars leading from the front

Germany are through to their sixth European championships final, in large part due to the clinical form in front of goal of the large Bayern contingent in the squad. No fewer than eight of Germany’s ten goals so far have been scored by FCB stars, three by Lukas Podolski, and two apiece from Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Finally, Philipp Lahm sealed a dramatic semi-final win over Turkey with his first goal at the tournament on Wednesday evening.

“I made it 3-2 just before the end of a semi-final at the European championships, so that was definitely the most important goal of my career,” the 24-year-old enthused after his first international strike since opening the scoring against Costa Rica in the 2006 World Cup opening match on 9 June 2006. “It’s definitely one of the best moments for me personally. It’s always great to get to a final.“

Penalty shout turned down

The Munich-born full-back had been one of his country’s most consistent performers until Wednesday, but struggled at times against the Turks. “They made life very difficult for us,” confirmed Lahm, frequently troubled on the left side of defence and partially at fault for both Turkish goals. However, he always provided a dangerous attacking option, and was extremely unlucky to be denied a penalty after 51 minutes when the referee inexplicably failed to blow for a blatant foul after the full-back had thrust into the opposing box.

With 79 minutes played, he swung over an enticing cross for Klose to head his side into the lead, before rounding off an emotional night with his superbly-taken last-minute winner. “This lad’s unbelievable. He set off on a solo run right at the end and stuck it away,” smiled Bayern team-mate Klose. Lahm was later officially named “Man of the match“.

Poldi sets up Schweini

“There have been other games where I may have deserved the Man of the match award rather more,” Lahm commented modestly. Bayern colleague Bastian Schweinsteiger almost spoiled the magic last-gasp moment, as he appeared poised to accept Thomas Hitzlsperger’s return from Lahm’s initial pass. “I was considering moving to the ball, but then I heard the codeword 'Leo' in the background. I’ve heard Philipp’s voice every day for a while now, so I knew I should leave well alone,” Schweini reported.

Schweinsteiger and Podolski have also been recipients of “Man of the match“ awards at the tournament. In a repeat of their well-worked goal against Portugal, Schweini and Poldi also conjured up Germany’s 26th minute equaliser against the Turks, Schweinsteiger laying in a world-class 60-metre sprint to be in exactly the right place at the right time.

Clinical Klose

World Cup leading scorer Klose made less of an impression as a lone striker, but showed his predatory quality to the full when his chance finally came, netting his 41st international goal to put his team 2-1 up. “It would have been better with a second striker to give us two target men,” coach Joachim Löw later acknowledged after Miro’s lonely battle up front.

Only one Bayern player left Basel’s St. Jakob-Park in despondent mood on Wednesday, as Turkey’s defeat meant the end of the Euro 2008 road for Hamit Altintop. However, the 25-year-old can set off on vacation with his head held high, as he played an increasingly influential role from the first match onwards to become one of his country’s outstanding players at EURO 2008, also earning a ‘Man of the match’ accolade in the quarter-final against Croatia. Altintop will be hoping for more honours very soon – hopefully with Bayern next season.