OK, I’ve been holding off this one for a while – but the time has come to finally provide you all with some potted previews of the Mannschaft’s three group opponents for the upcoming Euro finals. Not too much depth: just a bit of history, a recent form guide and some tongue-in-cheek opinion on the potential dangers in what has been described by many as the Group of Death – der Todesgruppe.
Just two days to go now until the the Mannschaft get things under way… As usual, comments welcome – I will try and reply to them all.
Portugal (09.06.2012, Lviv)
Germany’s first opponents are the unpredictable and talented Portuguese – a team that can look like world-beaters one moment and a bunch of spoilt crybabies the next. Germany have won their last two matches against this opposition, but nobody will ever forget the horror show that took place in Rotterdam in 2000.
Head to Head Record
Overall, the Nationalmannschaft have played Portugal sixteen times – winning eight, drawing five and losing three. In the Euros the two sides have met on three occasions: the first encounter in France in 1984 saw a rather tedious 0-0 draw, and after that came that game in Rotterdam and then a far more acceptable 3-2 win at Euro 2008.
Germany have a slightly better overall record in competitive fixtures: in eight matches they have won three, drawn three and lost two. One of these defeats took place in Stuttgart in October 1985, when the Portuguese became the first team to beat any German team in a World Cup qualifying match.
Paulo Bento’s side have not been in great form of late, though it is always dangerous to read too much into results from pre-tournament friendlies. Their last two matches – both played at home – produced nothing to write home about: a goalless draw with Macedonia followed by a 3-1 defeat against Turkey, a team Germany beaten comprehensively both home and away during qualification.
Last eight matches (latest first): LDDWDLWW
Portugal have a number of talented players, but the one that stands out above the rest is the talented but wonderfully dislikeable Cristiano Ronaldo. As well as being an irritating permatanned, strutting fashion model and professional wind-up merchant, the Real Madrid CF playmaker also happens to be a very good footballer – which only makes him doubly irritating.
Other notables include Man United youngster Nani, Chelsea’s cockerel-lookalike Raul Meireles and the truly obnoxious Pepe who if treated correctly is ripe for a red card.
Netherlands (13.06.2012, Kharkiv)
The Mannschaft then head into the eastern wilds of the Ukraine to face their second opponent – our old friends from the Netherlands. Somehow fate always seems to bring these two sides together, and another possible classic is on the cards. The last meeting between the two teams saw the Oranje given a beautiful three-goal hiding, but we should all expect a closer battle here.
Head to Head Record
Germany have played the Dutch thirty-eight times over the course of just over a century, winning fourteen, drawing fourteen and losing ten. The Euros have been a popular combat arena, with the teams meeting on four occasions: the Dutch have had the upper hand, winning two (1988, 1992) while the Germans have won one (1980) with the most recent encounter in 2004 producing a 1-1 draw.
While the Oranje have done marginally better at the Euros, Germany have the better record overall in competitive fixtures: there have been nine encounters between the two sides, with the Mannschaft winning achieving a win-draw-loss record of 3-4-2. The last competitive match took place at Euro 2004, where a late Ruud van Nistelrooij goal cancelled out an earlier strike by Torsten Frings.
Having embarked on a long unbeaten spell following their defeat in the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Dutch have been more unpredictable of late. As always, results in friendlies not not be taken too seriously, but the Oranje’s more recent results have shown a steady rate of improvement. After a last-minute 2-1 home defeat by Bulgaria, Bert van Marwijk’s side have played two more games at home, beating Slovakia 2-0 before racking up half a dozen unanswered strikes against Northern Ireland.
Last eight matches (latest first): WWLWLDLW
Against Germany, the Dutch are always dangerous. Punkt. However if one were to name names the first ones to come to mind would be Arsenal’s versatile and highly talented Robin van Persie and Schalke 04 hitman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – nicknamed the “Hunter” – who finished ahead of FC Bayern München striker Mario Gómez to win the Bundesliga top scorer award.
Then we have a number of other notables, all of whom are potential match-winners: FC Bayern’s unpredictable Arjen Robben, Internazionale winger Wesley Sneijder and Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay to name but three. Then there is Mark van Bommel, who will hope to continue escaping the beady eyes of the officials.
Denmark (17.06.2012, Lviv)
German Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw will hope to have already booked a place in the quarter-finals by the time his team return to Lviv to face their northern neighbours Denmark, who as ever are the dark horses of the group. Steady rather than spectacular, the 1992 champions have made a habit of producing their best form in major tournaments.
Head to Head Record
Germany have played Denmark twenty-five times overall, winning fourteen, drawing three and losing on eight occasions. The two sides have met just twice before at the Euros, with the Nationmannschaft winning the first encounter 2-0 in 1988 and the Danes producing the same result in the 1992 final in Göteborg.
In competitive fixtures the two teams have met each other on three occasions, with the Danes having the better of things with two wins against Germany’s one. As well as the two European Championship meetings in 1988 and 1992, the one other meeting took place in the group phase of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, with Denmark winning – again 2-0. The two teams have never met in qualifying competition.
Denmark have played two pre-tournament fixtures, losing 3-1 in Hamburg to Brazil and then defeating Australia 2-0 in København. They have not been particularly impressive, and could very well have lost to the Brazilians by a larger margin. That said, they have only lost two of their last eight matches – winning the other six – and have a better recent record than Germany’s other two group opponents.
Last eight matches (latest first): WLLWWWWW
Denmark have over the years tended to play as a team, but have always had a number of individuals worth watching. The man to watch in this current crop of Danish players is Ajax Amsterdam’s twenty-year old attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen, though VfB Stuttgart’s William Kvist and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner will also be looking make an impression.
He is unlikely to feature in any of the matches, but goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel – the son of 1992 hero Peter – is also in Morten Olsen’s twenty-three man squad.