MARIO GÖTZE will always be defined by his stunning extra-time goal which sealed World Cup final victory for Germany against Argentina last summer, yet despite his iconic status around the globe the jury remains out on the gifted midfielder in his own homeland.
In many respects, the Bayern Munich star had already slipped from the consciousness of most German supporters before re-announcing himself in the most spectacular fashion against Poland on Friday night.
As Scotland were toiling desperately in Georgia, Götze capped a virtuoso display with two stunning goals as Joachim Löw’s men beat the Poles 3-1 in Frankfurt’s Commerzbank Arena to leapfrog their neighbours at the top of Group D.
However, after his heroics in Brazil, the past 14 months have not quite gone to plan for the wunderkid, who made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 17 for Borussia Dortmund.
Often referred to as the “least liked hero” in Germany, the aloof Bavarian has found it difficult to win over the affections of his public.
It didn’t help that his form tailed off dramatically last season when he found himself surplus to requirements at Munich and was jettisoned from the starting line-up for the two biggest games of the season.
But, after being left out of the side for both Champions League semi-final ties with Barcelona the 23-year-old, who was linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena, knuckled down over the close season.
His improved attitude and demeanour off the park have coincided with a spate of sparkling performances for club and country.
Against Poland, Götze scored two magnificent goals and tortured Poland right-back Lukasz Piszczek so badly the Borussia Dortmund defender was hauled off before half-time to spare him any further punishment. Alan Hutton had better be beware at Hampden tomorrow. It could be a long night.
“Mario was very good. He scored two great goals against Poland and you cannot ask for more than that, really,” said team-mate Toni Kroos.
“He was up front, where normally he sits a little bit deeper, and caused so many problems. He played so well and when the chances came his way he was clinical. We had some good performances in many positions with Jonas Hector also really strong on the left in the second half.
“We are playing well again and the team are now feeling much more confident ahead of our game in Glasgow.”
Götze was here, there and everywhere in Frankfurt, teasing and tormenting Piszczek, who is one of the best full-backs in the Bundesliga. He was ably assisted by the prolific Thomas Müller, who took his tally to seven for the qualifying campaign with Real Madrid’s Kroos pulling the strings just in behind them.
The general consensus afterwards from players and pundits alike was the display was clearly Germany’s best since their phenomenal 7-1 slaughter of Brazil in Rio last July.
Ominously for Scotland, whose hopes of ending a major tournament exile stretching back to 1998 now hang by a thread, it was the first time Löw’s team have played with the same intensity and urgency.
The manager has made no secret of the fact Germany have toiled post World Cup, although with skipper Philip Lahm and central defender Per Mertesacker both retiring from international football the rebuilding process was never going to happen overnight.
Their contribution has been missed as much off the pitch as well as on it, the influential pair being members of the four-man player council, along with Sami Khedira, who has been sidelined for the best part of the last year.
With three of his four dressing-room spokesmen missing, Löw was aware his team needed to find a new voice. Manuel Neuer, has since stepped into the breach alongside Müller, and the goalkeeper feels Germany are now singing from the same hymn sheet again.
Neuer said: “After the World Cup we had to pick it up and finally show something
“It has been a difficult period, but I think we have now developed as a team since the World Cup. It was time we showed that and we managed to do that against Poland. “
Germany’s resurgence couldn’t have come at a worse possible time for a Scotland side now in real danger of missing out on a play-off spot never mind automatic qualification.
Gordon Strachan’s charges appear to have lost their way of late and the potency which characterised the early part of their campaign nowhere to be found.
For the first time in his tenure Strachan is under pressure although, contrastingly, his counterpart gave the impression he didn’t have a care in the world as he geared up for tomorrow’s clash at Hampden.
“Overall, I was delighted with the performance against Poland,” said Löw. “Considering that we did not so so well last season, it was extremely satisfying.
“The only goal from Friday was to win the game and get to the top of the group before we travelled to Scotland. We have always shown our worth when it counted and when the going got tough.”