At the end of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Germany beat Uruguay 3-2 to clinch third place. Since then, they have played a further thirteen competitive matches, winning them all. Ten from ten in qualifying for the Euros, and three from three in the recent group phase.
Tomorrow in the historic Baltic city of Gdańsk – formerly known as Danzig – the Nationalmannschaft will be chasing an unprecedented fifteenth successive competitive victory,when they take on the tournament’s surprise package and masters of 1980s-era Teutonic Teutonic-style defence – Greece.
Yes, that’s right. Greece. The most unlikely of European Champions back in 2004, and a team earmarked by many as certain candidates for first-phase elimination this time around. Drawn alongside the Czech Republic, a highly-rated Russia and hosts Poland, nobody gave Fernando Santos’ side much of a chance.
Yet here they are.
After a disastrous start in their opening match against Poland that saw them both a goal and a man down before half-time, the Greeks would somehow claw themselves back into the contest – and would even have a chance to win it as they fluffed a late penalty opportunity. Having fallen two goals down to the Czechs in their second game another second-half comeback would not be good enough to avoid defeat, and with a final game against the impressive Russians to come, even the most fervent Greek supporters would have been preparing to welcome the team back home.
But then came the miracle. Russia had looked dominant in thrashing the Czechs 4-1 and having the better of a 1-1 draw with Poland – and only needed a draw to go through. Unfortunately for all the pundits however, the obdurate Greeks had decided to tear up the script: a goal just before half-time did enough to shock the Russians into looking like toothless shadows of the side that had steam-rollered the Czechs, and that was that.
Facts and Stats
The statistics are heavily in favour of Germany coming into this match. In eight previous meetings between the two sides the Nationalmannschaft have never been defeated against this opposition, winning five and drawing the other three.
With the exception of one friendly match played in 1970, all of these eight matches have been competitive. The last encounter between the two sides took place in a World Cup qualifying match in March 2001, when Rudi Völler’s side carved out a 4-2 victory in the Greek capital.
Despite having played seven competitive internationals the two countries have only ever met once in final tournament competition – a goalless draw in the group stage of Euro 1980, which Germany went on to win.
With Jérôme Boateng available for selection after serving out his one-match suspension, we should expect to see the same German eleven that started against both Portugal and the Netherlands with Lars Bender returning to the bench. While it make sense to keep things consistent, there are merits to the comments made by some outside experts – among them former international and respected coach Felix Magath – who have suggested that the team be tweaked slightly to deal with the highly defensive approach Greece are likely to adopt. Mario Götze or Marco Reus in, Miroslav Klose for Mario Gómez – yes, those old chestnuts.
It is highly likely that the German attack will be faced with a solid blue wall, with Greece playing the same way as they did against Russia. Should Germany strike early, they could very easy run away with the game; if however the blue bastion holds firm, there could be some frustrating moments for Joachim Löw as he may be forced to tweak his tactics mid-stream. Should the Greeks actually nose in front, might we see Löw’s tactics turn to blancmange? One would hope this will not be the case, but then nobody expected the Russians to turn into eleven gibbering wrecks.
The team (expected):
Neuer – Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Müller, Özil, Podolski – Gómez
So there we have it. A Germany v Greece match preview, and not one reference to politics, European financial collapses or bailouts.