All good international careers must begin somewhere, but the scorer of Germany’s World Cup-winning goal shone early as a teenager in two of his first international appearances in Cork and Kerry.
His part in the 2008 clashes with Republic of Ireland’s under-16s won the attention of local sports reporters, significantly contributing to a 1-0 German win in Blarney in front of fewer than 1,000 spectators on the night of Tuesday, April 8, 2008.
“Germany were playing some champagne football, with classy, central midfielder, Mario Goetze, mesmerising the Irish defence with some exquisite play,” wrote Robert Nodwell for the next morning’s Irish Examiner.
In the Evening Echo, Denis Hurley wrote: “Goetze was very good in the first half on the left for Germany, always looking like creating something.”
The Bayern Munich star — who transferred last year from his childhood club Borussia Dortmund for €37m — turned provider for the game’s only goal just before half-time. His header off a corner set up a shot for a team-mate, which was parried by Irish keeper Ciarán Gallagher, and the rebound was put away by striker Abu-Bakarr Kargbo.
A gallery of photos from the game can be found on the website of Blarney United, whose O’Shea Park ground hosted the clash, showing the young star before he began putting highlights in his hair.
Then just 15 years old, Goetze played all but the last 10 minutes of this encounter, and lined out for the full 90 in a follow-up friendly two nights later in Listowel, where Kargbo scored inside the first minute of what ended in a 1-1 draw.
But the 22-year-old Goetze, who was only introduced as a substitute for Germany a few minutes before normal time elapsed in Sunday’s World Cup final, broke the deadlock and Argentinian hearts with a spectacular goal seven minutes from the end.
Following Sunday’s final, Ciarán Gallagher, who now runs a his own goalkeeping school in Donegal, was regretting not having swapped jerseys.
“I think the reason I didn’t get any jerseys was that it was my first international game at home so I wanted to keep my own. I don’t remember him standing out particularly that night, but it was a few years ago now,” he said.
“I had a look back at the team sheet, which I kept, all right. One of my friends was slagging me that their keeper, Marc-André ter Stegen recently signed for Barcelona,” said Ciarán, who played for Ireland up to under-19 level, while playing with Finn Harps.
Now reserve keeper for Derry City, he joked he is far happier looking forward to trips to Cobh or Cork than living the high life with one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Also featuring on the German team-sheet in 2008 was Alexander Merkel, who was on loan at Watford from Italian club Udinese last season, and who is no relation to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who cheered on the new world champions in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
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