Lukas Podolski on Germany's Euro 2008 final heartache & the nation's future stars - Euro Memories

Lukas Podolski of Germany celebrates after scoring the second goal during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Germany and Poland at Worthersee Stadion on June 8, 2008 in Klagenfurt, Austria 1:26
Lukas Podolski says the opening game of Euro 2008 was emotional as he scored twice against the country of his birth, Poland

Twelve years on from Euro 2008, former Germany forward Lukas Podolski shares some of his favourite memories of the tournament, while admitting it's time for the new generation of German stars 'to take over'. 

In 2008, the Euros was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland and among the favourites for the tournament were undoubtedly Germany.

The Germans had come off consecutive third-place finishes in the 2005 Confederations Cup and the 2006 World Cup, and with a spine of Jens Lehmann, Philipp Lahm, Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose - you could see why they were held in high esteem.

For one player in particular it was a special tournament. On his way to becoming the third-most capped player in Germany's history, with 130 appearances, Lukas Podolski would play an instrumental part in his side reaching the tournament's final.
Lukas Podolski
Image: Podolski received the silver boot for scoring three goals at the tournament

But preceding that, the then-Bayern Munich man would come up against a familiar side in their first match of the tournament.

Rewind to June 8, 2008, and Germany are playing on the opening day. Their first opponents? Poland. The nation where Podolski was born, and who he would go on to score a memorable double against.

"It was 12 years ago and the memories are still there, it was a special game against the country I was born," Podolski said.

"It was special to score two goals, but I didn't celebrate. The emotion was there and it was a hard moment. This is sport and you have to deal with that but I'll always remember that game, it was special for me and the Polish fans."

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After the strong start, Germany would go on to suffer a shock loss against Croatia in the second game, despite Podolski scoring once again.

Lukas Podolski

That left them needing a win in their last group game against co-hosts Austria, but did the Germans ever feel the pressure to get a result?

"Pressure can be negative or positive. We knew we were strong since 2005 in the Confederations Cup where we finished third, then third again in the 2006 World Cup, we knew we were strong," Podolski said.

"We kept the same coach for 15 years and we built something up in the national team, that's why I was happy to play for 12 years, and the pressure that comes with it, that's life.

"People go to work to feed families, work in factories, work to build cars or planes for the public, this is pressure too. You have to deal with the pressure in every situation."

Germany would go on to beat Austria. Knockout stage wins against Portugal and Turkey, in which Podolski featured heavily, would send them straight to the final.

All that lied between Germany and a first major international trophy in over a decade was Spain, who themselves were blessed with talent across their squad, with the likes of Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta and David Villa.

Unfortunately for Podolski, a Xavi pass, and a Fernando Torres chip saw Spain win 1-0 to secure their first Euros in 44 years.

Lukas Podolski
Image: Germany lost 1-0 to Spain in the final

And 12 years on, Podolski holds no regrets about the final.

"What can you do? We lost the game and as you know, the final is just one match, a couple of situations can decide it," Podolski said.

"Just like in 2014, when Argentina had great chances against us, the one-vs-one chances Manuel Neuer saved. There is key points in every final and you just have to deal with that. It is just one game and sometimes it is the luckiest team who wins."

As Podolski mentioned, the Germans would go on to win the 2014 World Cup. But six years later the side has a new look, with the likes of himself, Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger all retiring in recent years.

However, despite losing such high-calibre players, the future looks bright for Germany.

In 2017, they won the U21 Euros in Poland and now have younger players coming through such as Serge Gnabry, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who are leading a new generation of talent.

Kai Havertz and Timo Werner
Image: Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are the future of German football and could both be heading to Chelsea this summer

So what does one of Germany's greatest players make of the young side?

"What we had in our team was a special team spirit and that's what they're missing now," Podolski explained.

"We had players like me, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Jens Lehmann and Michael Ballack - a lot of players like that.

"But it's a new generation now, the players are younger but there is a lot of them who have not played a tournament. We'll see next year in the Euros, hopefully when there isn't a virus around!

"They need time and a couple of tournaments to improve and then we will see, but it's time for a new generation to take over."

Euro 2020 may not be taking place this summer, but Sky Sports will be bringing you exclusive interviews in our Euro Memories series throughout the month. Next up on Tuesday, Hal Robson-Kanu tells us about Wales' incredible run in 2016.

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Super 6: Bayern to sail past Gladbach?

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Do not miss your chance to land the £50,000 jackpot on Saturday. Play for free, entries by 2:30pm.

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