Germany won its fifteenth consecutive international match Friday in Poland, defeating Greece 4-2, to join Portugal in advancing to the semifinal stage of the 2012 Euros. The Germans will play the winner of Sunday’s England-Italy matchup next Thursday.
German Coach Jogi Löw made three changes to his starting lineup, bringing on Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus and André Schürrle for Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski. Löw also had Jerome Boateng back after the right back missed the Denmark match due to suspension.
First Half: Germany Dominate but only score once
From the kickoff, Germany were the dominant team, as all three inductees into the lineup contributed to a German effort that saw them constantly with possession in the Greek half of the pitch. Despite their overwhelmingly superior performance, though, the Germans were unable to breach the Greek goal, with an early goal by Schurrle voided by an offside call among the myriad German opportunities. Germany’s attack was so continual that at one point in the first half, midfielder Mesut Özil by himself had completed 17 passes into the Greece third of the pitch while the entire Greek squad had only completed 4 passes in the German third.
The German attack continued relentlessly, with the reward finally coming in the 39th minute as captain Philipp Lahm chested down a pass from Özil on the right and drove forward to deliver a swerving right-footed a shot that Greek goalkeeper Michail Sifakis got a hand on but couldn’t deflect away. A late Schürrle shot hit the side netting as the two teams entered intermission with Germany holding a 1-0 lead.
Second Half: Goals Galore
On a day in Gdansk in which the German national team would put 14 shots on goal to 5 for the Greeks, flirt with 70% of the possession and earn 10 corner kicks to only one for their opponents, it was the Greek side that scored first in the second half. Again Germany came out working the ball in Greek’s half of the pitch, but Fernando Santos team knotted the game when Celtic’s Giorgios Samaras charged downfield on a counter, beating Boateng to a cross from the right by Dimitris Salpingidis and knocking the ball past Manuel Neuer. Ten minutes into the second half, the fighting spirit of the Greeks had brought the game back to even and one wondered if Germany’s wonderful and wasteful first half would be punished by the footballing gods.
But Sami Khedira, whose play has been so poised and confident in the tournament, regained Germany’s lead quickly when he volleyed a cross from Boateng six minutes later to give the Germans the lead they deserved and wouldn’t relinquish. Germany’s iconic striker Klose added a third German goal shortly afterwards on a header while Reus completed the rout with a goal to vindicate Löw’s lineup changes. A late penalty kick goal by Salpingidis following a Boateng handball finalized the score to 4-2, a flattering result for the Greeks considering Germany’s dominance.
In advancing to the semifinals, Germany set an international record for consecutive wins (15) in competitive international football in a match in which Schürrle led the squad with six shots, while Khedira and Reus each tallied four, while masterful playmaker Özil had two assists. Borussia Dortmund’s 20 year-old Mario Götze saw his first Euro action as a second half substitute, and while pundits will wonder who will be in the starting XI for Löw next Thursday, Friday’s lineup changes only demonstrates the depth of the German squad and should not cause undue controversy among players in the German camp. Giving up two goals to an inferior side, however, will create cause for worry.
For the Greek team, a determined effort to bottle up the Germans unfortunately wasn’t followed up by enough close marking and physicality to create more counter attacks, and thus a brave if overwhelmed Greek team fell to a squad with much superior talent as their spirited Euro 2012 run ended.
A detailed tactical recap of the Germany-Greece match by Cris Nyari will be posted later on the Bundesliga Fanatic.Image provided by welt.de