The attendance of German chancellor Angela Merkel will only add to the political overtones of Friday’s game but for the twenty-two players on the field politics will be the last thing on their minds. With a place in the semi finals at stake and Greece playing with nothing to lose, this game is more open than most expect. Going into the game as heavy favorites all the pressure will be on Löw’s men, only adding to the herculean task of having to break down one of the most defensively organized sides in world football.
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Momentum and confidence is high in the German camp after topping their group with a 100% record for the first time in their EURO history. What’s more, they are now unbeaten in their last 14 competitive matches, a national team record. Another positive omen is the fact that they have never lost to the Greeks before in their eight matches so far. Germany have scored at least one goal in their last 19 matches, a record that spans two decades. In addition to having everyone fit for this game, Löw will also welcome back Jerome Boateng from suspension.
Although they never beat the Germans, Greece’s defensive record is impressive and the foundation of their success. They conceded only five goals in qualifying and went undefeated for the first time in a major tournament. And while they might not be prolific scorers they have found the back of the net in 21 of 24 games under coach Fernando Santos. They will however be without the influential midfielder and captain Giorgos Karagounis who will serve a suspension along with the German born Jose Holebas
Does Löw need to change the way they play against Greece?
If it wasn’t for Mario Gomez’s match winner Germany would not have walked out winners against a defensively sound Portugal. Similarly, the only reason Germany came out on top against the Danes is because they allowed Germany to break quickly having committed multiple players forward for the first time in the game. Prior to that Germany struggled to break down a very well organized Danish defense. Özil’s frustration after the Portugal game reflected the team’s inability to get past an opponent that defended with eight or nine men but that will be their the challenge yet again on Friday.
This week Felix Magath suggested Löw adjust his personnel and tactics completely for the Greece game. Because they would not need two central midfielders, he suggested one of Sami Khedira or Bastian Schweinsteiger be dropped and in their place an extra attacker be used. Sure enough, Germany are not short on options there. Magath recommended a specific type of attacker though, one who is able to dribble and make good use of tight spaces like Mesut Özil. In particularly, he called for one of Götze, Reus or Schürrle to start. Additionally, he suggest the more mobile and creative Klose be used in place of the static Gomez against a Greece side who will pack the box
Löw said after Denmark game that the team need to improve offensively and theoretically speaking at least, Magath’s suggestions make sense. Plays will have to come from outside the sixteen yard box since the Greeks will crowd anyone out who stays inside, hence the call for Klose. Similarly, the more midfielder runners available, the more options for the creative players and clever and quick link up play is one of the ways to beat a bunkering side.
Löw is not likely to ring in many changes though and is not much of a risk taker in major games so one can expect the same lineup from the group stages but his hand might be forced early in the second half if Germany are not on the scoresheet by then. The worst case scenario for Germany is to fall behind and then have to chase the game against what will be a blue and white wall.
Neuer – Lahm, Badstuber, Hummels, Boateng – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Podolski/Schürrle, Özil, Müller/Reus – Gomez/Klose
Sifakis – Torosidis, K. Papadopoulos, Sokratis, Tzavellas – Katsouranis, Makos, Maniatis – Salpingidis, Samaras – Gekas
Facts and Figures vs. Greece
– Germany’s record – 5 Wins, 3 Draws 0 Losses
– Germany’s biggest win – 3-0 in a 1962 World Cup Qualifier
– Germany and Greece have met in the EURO finals on only one occasion, back in the 1980 group stage where the game finished 0-0