Following the Nationalmannschaft’s third group phase victory against Denmark, there would be much talk about the eleven would start the quarter-final against Greece. Most of us expected the same team that had taken to the field against both Portugal and the Netherlands, while secretly hoping that the coach would ring the changes and give some of the creative bench a work-out.
When the team list was published, there was what could only be described as a whiplash effect. There they were, the three names: Marco Reus, André Schürrle and the veteran of the side, Miroslav Klose. A German side picked to deliver a completely different sort of game.
Despite being caught short by the coach’s personnel changes, it wouldn’t take long to get into the match – which saw a return to the sort of football played by Joachim Löw’s side two years previously in South Africa. Wave after attacking wave, incisive runs down the flanks, Klose floating hither and thither, Sami Khedira enhancing his reputation as “Der Boss”, and a masterful display from the mercurial, magical Mesut Özil.
There were moments of frustration, a moment of alarm, and many moments of sheer delight. Yes, many moments of delight. So, onto the match report.
It is a damp evening in Danzig, and having taken a hammering from extensive overnight rainfall the pitch is slick, greasy and tricky. The sort of surface the Spaniards would complain about. The Germans are in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß, while their Greek opponents are in an all-blue ensemble.
1 min. Slovenian referee Damir Skomina gets things underway, but there’s a false start with the kick-off before the Greeks gets things under way. Almost immediately Mesut Özil puts Miroslav Klose through, and the veteran striker is unlucky to be flagged offside.
2 mins. It’s Özil again as he plays a neat one-two with Marco Reus, who works his way into space down the right. Reus’ sharp cross into the Greek box is just behind Klose who slightly loses his footing. This is a brilliant start.
3 mins. Georgios Samaras makes a heavy challenge on Sami Khedira, and is unlucky not to be booked.
4 mins. The ball is in the net after the ball is played forward by Khedira, but André Schürrle’s effort is ruled offside. Again, it is a very, very tight decision by the Slovenian official.
6 mins. Khedira sends a long-distance effort high over the Greek crossbar.
10 mins. This has been an energetic first ten minutes from the Mannschaft. They are unlucky not to be a goal up already, and are chasing every fifty-fifty ball.
11 mins. The first really incisive move of the game, and both Klose and Khedira combine with some lovely one-touch passes to set up Reus, who gets a bad bobble before shinning his shot wide of the target.
13 mins. Another swift move into the Greek box again involving the speedy Reus, but Khedira’s cross fails to find a recipient.
14 mins. Follwing his earlier challenge that escape a yellow card Samaras commits crude fouls on Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and the second challenge finally gets him into Mr. Skomina’s book.
16 mins. Jérôme Boateng swings in a left-footed cross from the right, and the diving Khedira is unable to reach the ball with a Greek defender crawling all over him. The ball rolls wide.
20 mins. The Greeks make a rare foray into the German half, but Holger Badstuber is perfectly positioned to mop things up at the back for Jogi Löw’s side.
23 mins. Reus and Klose combine beautifully once again, as the pair put together another crisp one-two before the youngster sets up Özil who is in space out on the right. For all his deft interplay Özil’s finishing still remains his weak spot, and his attempt to pass the ball into the net is straight against the Greek ‘keeper.
24 mins. Reus gets a shot in on target which is turned around by the ‘keeper. Almost immediately he gets another chance, and his scuffed shot misses the target and is agonisingly in front of the sliding Klose. That much be half a dozen decent oppotunities now, and the score is still goalless… Something has to give, surely. Or Schürrle.
25 mins. And so it is, Schürrle. The Bayer 04 Leverkusen winger chests the ball down before finding Klose, who in turn touches it out to Reus out on the right. He has plenty of time to line things uo, but the new Borussia Dortmund signing blasts his shot wide. The frustration is getting to the Maharishi Jogi, who provides us with his own wild whirling dervish impression on the touchline.
32 mins. After a fairly quiet spell, Sotiris Ninis gets Greece’s first shot in the direction of the German goal, which Manuel Neuer just about gathers. The pitch is wet and greasy: appropriate.
33 mins. Schürrle frees himself of his marker Vasilis Torosidis out on the left before making a trademark cut inside. His right-footed effort just doesn’t have enough bend however and skids wide of the Greek goal.
36 mins. Özil dances and weaves his way into the opposition penalty area, and cuts the ball back to Khedira, who sends a stinging shot that is blocked by Greek ‘keeper Michalis Sifakis – more by luck than judgement.
39 mins. The little German skipper makes the breakthrough, and how. Picking up the ball inside the Greek half, the irrepressible Philipp Lahm makes one of those famously impish little runs and cuts inside almst static Ninis before leathering a delicious right-footed shot that curls away from Sifakis and into the right-hand bottom corner of the net. 1-0. Löw is again doing his whirling dervish act, but this time in wild celebration.
Philipp Lahm celebrates Germany’s opening goal six minutes before half-time with Marco Reus and Jérôme Boateng
45+2 mins. Schürrle is getting closer with every attempt, as another right-footed effort shaves the outside of the near-post side netting.
45+3 mins. Some neat keep-ball from the Mannschaft brings the half to a close. It has been a dominant half where Joachim Löw’s side have bossed possession and have peppered the Greek goal with shots – but only have a single-goal lead to show for all their possession and dominance. The highly-defensive Greeks will clearly have so come out and play some football, and hopefully things will open up further for the Mannschaft in the second half. Another goal should settle matters as the Greeks have looked not even remotely threatening.
46 mins. There are some personnel changes for Greece as Ninis is replaced by veteran Theofanis Gekas, and midfielder Georgios Fotakis is on for left-back Georgios Tsavellas.
47 mins. Schürrle again shows great strength down the left and Germany maintain the high energy.
48 mins. Klose shows great pace down the right and wins a corner out on the right. Özil’s kick comes to nothing – again, the corners have been woeful.
50 mins. After Reus is brought down out on the right Özil sends in a high free-kick which is nodded back into the danger area by Badstuber, but nobody in a white shirt is on hand to take things further and the men in blue are able to clear their lines.
53 mins. Germany have spent the best part of two minutes passing the ball around, but suddenly the Greeks break and have two on two. The German defensive rearguard quickly springs into action however, and Neuer collects. The ball is almost immediately up at the other end as Klose almost finds his way through before hitting a misplaced pass inside towards Reus. It’s a poor pass by the typically unselfish team man Klose, who perhaps should have tried to finish things off himself.
55 mins. Out of nowhere, Greece break. A sloppy pass from Schürrle is intercepted, and substitute Gekas released Dimitris Salpigidis who hares down the right before hitting a delicious cross into the six yard box. Samaras races ahead of Boateng courtesy of a sneaky shirt-tug and slides in to finish. Unbelievable. 1-1.
56 mins. Germany have had nigh on ninety percent of the ball and the Greeks have been unable to string even half a dozen passes together, but somehow the score is standing at one apiece. It really is head-scratching stuff.
61 mins. After having to recover from what have been the sheer shock of conceding the equaliser Boateng makes his way down the right, before sending in a cross which is positively smashed by Khedira into the back of the Greek net. It is the perfect response to to Samaras’ temerity. 2-1, and it’s game on again.
Sami Khedira thumps the ball past Greek ‘keeper Michalis Sifakis to restore the Mannschaft’s advantage
63 mins. Greece are playing some football now, and put some decent passes together. Gekas gets a sight of goal and working his way inside Badstuber, but sends his shot high over the bar with the target at his mercy.
65 mins. Greece win their first corner out on the right, and burly Schalke 04 defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos sends a header high and harmlessly over the crossbar.
67 mins. Özil weaves beautifully towards the byline and is brought down, winning a free-kick just by the corner flag. Schürrle is replaced by Thomas Müller, and we look all set for a tactical switch with the versatile Reus moving to the left. Not that this matters that much to Özil: the German number eight’s free-kick is swung in nicely, and as the Greek ‘keeper decides to go walkabout Klose leaps above Papadopoulos to score his sixty-fourth international goal. Klose is getting closer to Gerd Müller’s record. 3-1.
An alert Miroslav Klose takes full advantage of an error by the Greek ‘keeper to double Germany’s lead
It’s clearly an emotional moment for Klose, scoring in the land of his birth.
71 mins. The Greeks are in a state of shock now, and Germany are not holding back. Müller works his way into the box, and has a shot that is deflected behind. Nikos Liberopoulous is on for Grigoris Makos as Greek coach Fernando Santos makes his final change.
74 mins. Özil is the magician again to put Klose through, and the number eleven’s dinked attempt is well smothered by Sifakis, only for Marco Reus to volley in the rebound off the inside of the crossbar and into the right-hand side of the net. For all those who had never heard of Marco “Rolls” Reus: yes, he is the real deal. The Mannschaft are now surely out of sight at 4-1.
A stellar performance from winger Marco Reus would be capped off with a fourth goal for Jogi Löw’s side
76 mins. Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos gets a yellow card for a foul on Özil.
80 mins. It’s Mario time two as Messrs. Gómez and Götze are on for goalscorers Klose and Reus.
83 mins. Fotakis gets a shot on target for the men in blue, but the ball is easily swallowed up by Neuer.
84 mins. Greece break, but Mats Hummels pulls off a truly world-class challenge on Samaras in his own penalty area. The centre-back has not had much to do, which makes his winning the ball so cleanly look even better.
85 mins. As the play almost immediately swings to the other end Özil is right in the thick of the action again, as he now plays a crisp one-two with Gómez. The striker rolls the ball back invitingly for the midfield schemer, but Özil’s attempt to gently curl it into the corner of the net is almost spilled by the unfortunate Sifakis who desperately gathers the ball before Gómez can get there.
88 mins. A bizarre decision by the referee, as Greece are awared a penalty as the ball crashes into Boateng’s dangling arm from Torosidis’ shot. The defender is not even looking at the ball. Salpingidis sends his shot low to the right as Neuer dives the wrong way. 4-2.
90+2 mins. The final whistle blows.
Probably the most entertaining match of the tournament thus far, and best display by the German team in their four games played. The opposition may not have been that fantastic or particularly testing, but Jogi Löw’s team did what they had to do and emerged as easy winners in a match that could easily have seen them go beyond their four goals.
This 4-2 victory is Germany’s fifteenth competitive win in a row – a world record spell that stretches back to the third place play-off in South Africa against Uruguay, a match that saw Sami Khedira score his first international goal. Next up is a semi-final in Warsaw against one of Italy or England – any which way, a classic encounter is expected.
Having had a fairly unspectacular first three matches, Mesut Özil would come into his own in this one – and it is hard to dismiss those who have argued that he plays a whole lot better when Miroslav Klose is also out there on he pitch. Some of the interplay between the two was magnificent, and both the energetic Marco Reus and André Schürrle also played their part, even if the latter had started to get a little greedy as the match wore on.
Defensively there were a few worries – the team remains susceptible to the fast break, and Bastian Schweinsteiger is still nowhere near his best. Normally almost metronomic in his distribution, one could count the number of mistimed or misplaced passes from the FC Bayern München man. Thankfully any gaps in Schweinsteiger’s game were more than made up by the impressive Khedira, who continues to impress. His brilliantly-taken volley to restore Germany’s lead was but the icing on the cake of what was yet another first-class display.
The coach’s tactical and personnel changes clearly worked, and it is now a matter of finding the right balance for the next match. Will he return to the more orthodox lineup against an opponent like the Italians for example, or might there be a little of the best of both? It’s hard to read the coach’s mind, but we can be almost certain that he has mapped out his plan for each possible semi-final opponent already.
After all, the Maharishi Jogi knows best. Facts, stats and player ratings on their way.
v Greece, Arena Gdańsk, Gdańsk (Quarter-Final) 22.06.2012
Lahm 39., Khedira 61., Klose 68, Reus 74. / Samaras 55., Salpingidis pen 89.
Germany: Neuer – Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Reus (80. Götze), Özil, Schürrle (67. Müller) – Klose (80. Gómez)
Greece: Sifakis – Torosidis, K. Papadopoulos, Sokratis, Tzavellas (46. Fortakis) – Katsouranis, Makos (72. Liberopoulos), Maniatis – Salpingidis, Samaras – Ninis (46. Gekas)
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Assistants: Primož Arhar, Matej Žunič (Slovenia)
Goal Assistants: Slavko Vinčić, Matej Jug (Slovenia)
Fourth Official: Stéphane Lannoy (France)
Yellow Cards: – / Samaras 14., Papastathopoulos 75.
Red Cards: – / –
Attempts on Target: 15 / 5
Attempts off Target: 10 / 4
Corners: 10 / 1
Fouls Committed: 9 / 10