GDANSK (Reuters) - Germany forward Mario Gomez is hoping to finally make his mark at a major international tournament after scoring on his first Euro 2012 appearance following goal droughts at the last two.
The 26-year-old has long been the butt of jokes in Germany when it came to his performances on the big stage, having failed to net in eight successive games at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
But he scored in the 72nd minute in the 1-0 win over Portugal on Saturday to get his name on a tournament scoresheet at last.
"It is true that this was my best and most important goal so far," a visibly relaxed Gomez told reporter, knowing the tables had finally turned with the German press.
Yet it could have been different with striker Miroslav Klose waiting on the sidelines to come on for him before he headed in Germany's first goal of the tournament.
"Football can be strange. I knew that Miro was on the bench and that he would come on at some point. I saw him waiting but I thought I could still have time for one chance. Then the ball landed on my face," he said with a dry smile.
The forward's winner, however, was not enough to silence every critic back home, including Bayern Munich reserve team coach Mehmet Scholl who told German television he feared Gomez would get bedsores after a performance in which he spent a lot of time lying on the pitch.
"At Bayern we are a big family. I have scored the most Champions League goals in the past two seasons behind Lionel Messi. Why should I change the way I do things?," the 2011 Bundesliga's top scorer said in response to a question regarding Scholl's comments.
Gomez, who scored 26 league goals and added another 12 in the Champions League this season, also received the backing of Germany coach Joachim Loew, who said the forward had been steeled by his ups and downs in recent years.
"Mario is strong because he has often gone through the valley of problems, especially in the national team," said Loew. "He has always managed to bounce back. He knows what he can and cannot do."
Germany take on Netherlands in Kharkiv on Wednesday.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)