Denmark 1 – 2 Germany – Germany reach quarterfinals with laborious but historic win

A hard fought win against one of the tournament’s surprise packages meant that Germany won all three group stage matches for the first time in EURO history, and thus qualified for the quarterfinals after topping the group.  A goal from centurion Podolski gave Germany the lead before Denmark exposed their vulnerability on set pieces to equalize through Krohn-Dehli.  It was Jerome Boateng’s replacement, Lars Bender, who struck the match winner ten minutes from time.  Germany were made to work the win against a well organized and stubborn Danish side who made it a nervous last game for Löw and company.

Lineups and Formations

Unsurprisingly, Löw made no changes other than to replace Boateng with Bender, seeking to add to the momentum the team had gathered so far. The big question was how Germany were going to break down a defensively organized and energetic Denmark, having already struggled against Portugal in their first match and in various games leading up to the EUROs.

Morten Olsen had never lost against Germany as Denmark manager and looked to continue that record.  He had to compensate for the injured Dennis Rommedahl and started Jakob Poulsen in his place.  That also meant a change in shapes.  Eriksen moved out wide to the right and Poulsen slotted into a three man midfield, an ideal formation to take advantage of an opponent who are likely to have the majority of the ball.

The Match

Germany took charge of the game right  from the start but wasted a great chance to go ahead early when Müller connected with a Podolski cross but could not beat Andersen.  For a minute it looked as though Germany weren’t going to struggle breaking down the organized Danish defense but Morten Olsen’s men just needed to weather an early storm to gather themselves. They held on well from then on and the next chance would not present itself until the twentieth minute when a seemingly harmless thrown in turned into Germany’s first goal.  Müller picked up Bender’s throw and without looking pulled it back into the six yard box for Gomez.  Unbeknownst to him his mis controlled first touch steered it perfectly to the oncoming Podolski behind him who scored a rare goal with his right foot on his 100th cap for the national team.

Germany’s lead did not last long though and once again their vulnerability on set pieces cost them.  They were lucky to escape against Portugal after Pepe’s header bounced out of the goal after hitting the crossbar but would not be so lucky this time.  Bendtner got between Schweinsteiger and Bender to head it to an open Krohn-Dehli in the six yard box.  Germany were stunned.  They had controlled the game and it was all undone by a single set piece.  Badstuber, Hummels and Gomez all stepped up after Bendtner’s header came in, leaving the Danish winger free to flick it past Neuer.

Bendtner outjumped two players to head it past an open Krohn-Dehli
From another angle, Gomez, Hummels and Badstuber impulsively step out and leave Krohn-Dehli unmarked

Denmark’s confidence grew with the goal but Germany still dominated possession, only they struggled to do much with it.  Olsen’s decision to play three in midfield must have stemmed from Germany’s exploitation of the weak Dutch midfield a couple of days earlier.  Kvist tracked Özil while Zimling paid specific attention to Schweinsteiger’s forward runs.  They faced a similar dilemma as they did in the Portugal game, namely lots of the ball but little space to play it in.  Because Schweinsteiger and Özil were marked so tightly Khedira had the most freedom of Germany’s three midfielders and was quite active offensively but Denmark kept their shape well.

All of Germany’s running and continued probing of the Danish defense frustrated and tired the Germans.  Denmark had one of their best spells of possession after the break and J. Poulsen came close in the fifty-first minute but his shot just missed the post.  Olsen’s men did not have many opportunities but did look threatening the few times they broke forward with Germany’s defense always seemingly caught by surprise by the Danish counterattack.  It was something Löw needed to be careful with because it troubled them in the Portugal and throughout qualifying as well.

With their attack stale, Löw brought on the lively Schürrle in the sixty fourth minute who nearly made an impact almost immediately four minutes later.  He made a clever run in behind S. Poulsen and received a beautiful through ball from Khedira but was not able to direct it on target from a tight angle.  On the other hand Zimling had a go as well but barely troubled Neuer.  Elsewhere Portugal took the lead against the Netherlands which meant that a goal from the Danes sent Germany packing.  Nerves were palpable and Germany needed something to break the tension.

Luckily Denmark, needing a win, sent more players forward with time running out, which played right into the hands of the Germans.  Up to that point Löw’s men struggled to break Denmark down precisely because they were hesitant to get forward.  But when they did Germany immediately took advantage because they now had the space to work with.  It was Khedira’s quick thinking that created the goal after he received the ball and immediately played it to Özil around the halfway line who proceeded to run up with it and played it into the path of Bender, the makeshift right back making a darting run down the right.  The goal took all the pressure off.  Löw brought on Kroos again and Germany closed out the game comfortably.

Final Verdict

Germany were lucky that referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did not spot Badstuber’s pull on Bendtner’s shirt in the seventy-sixth minute otherwise it could have changed the complexion of the match.  Whether it was Denmark’s organized defending or Germany’s own lack of tempo and urgency, it was quite possibly the most frustrating of their group stage matches but they did enough to win.  Schweinsteiger admitted how tiring the game was which shows how difficult the Danes made it for them.

Looking ahead, there is plenty of room for improvement.  Particularly worrying was how shaken Germany were on Denmark’s counter attacks.  Löw remarked after the game that they showed them too much space.  Furthermore, their defending on set pieces must improve, especially against the Greeks who scored more goals from set pieces than any other side in qualifying.  

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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