17 June 2012

Denmark 1-2 Germany

Podolski 19'
Krohn-Dehli 24'
Bender 80'

So the pre-tournament favorites stroll to another 2-1 win, eliminating Denmark after Portugal's win over the Netherlands. And, in the process, prove that they can succeed with possession football.

Against Portugal, Germany had 57% possession and attempted 463 passes, completing 394. Against Holland, able to play its preferred counter-attacking game after scoring twice in the first half, Germany had 47% possession, attempting 457 and completing 398.

Today, Germany had more than 60% possession, and attempted 170 more passes than in either of those matches – 633 attempted, 565 completed. The top seven passers were Germans, and Schweinsteiger and Khedira dominated proceedings.

While it's not normally within their comfort zone, the Germans were able to kill the game with small cuts because of the early goal. Which they came out intent on getting. Müller had two chances within six minutes – the first fired over, the second wonderfully saved from point-blank range – while Gómez whistled a shot over the bar soon after. Only resolute defending, usually from Agger and usually because of an interception, and that early Andersen save prevented Germany from getting off the mark earlier.

But they were ahead within 19 minutes regardless. A throw-in deep in the Danish zone, a Müller cross worked into the danger area despite Simon Poulsen's marking, Gómez in front of Kjaer far too easily, inadvertently flicking the ball straight to Podolski, who easily avoided Jacobsen's watch and slotted past Andersen.

But Denmark leveled almost immediately, from the expected, most likely only, route. If Denmark were going to score, it was coming from a set play; Germany, much more secure down the flanks – even with midfielder Lars Bender at right back with Boateng suspended – were never going to concede the goals that Holland and Portugal conceded. Jakob Poulsen cleverly won a corner, Jacobsen accurately found Bendtner on the back post, and the striker out-jumped both Bender and Schweinsteiger to head back towards goal, perfectly placed for Krohn-Dehli to head past Neuer.

Seemingly regardless of what was going on in the other match, Germany seemed content after scoring, even after Denmark equalized. The Germans are rightfully confident, and no matter what Portugal or the Netherlands did, a draw would be good enough to advance. They knew Denmark would have to come out of its shell at some point, and knew that their defense was good enough to repel most if not all the Danes could muster. And all the chances continued to come at the end Germany were attacking, even if Germany showed little impatience in creating them.

Still, Denmark nearly proved a goal can come from nothing twice in the second half. Simon Poulsen's usual threat down the left created the first chance, in the 51st, set up by Agger's burst forward. Poulsen got around Bender and centered for Bendtner, whose turn and layoff was whistled past the near post by Jakob Poulsen. 25 minutes later, Agger accurately hoofed a long ball over the top for Bendtner, in behind Badstuber but unable to make clean contact, looping a shot directly to Neuer. He was most likely unable to make clean contact because Badstuber had a full handful of jersey, but the linesman behind the goal saw no reason to call the referee's attention to it.

With time creeping down and Denmark increasingly desperate, Germany's second came from a very German counter-attack. Soon after Denmark were denied that penalty shout, Germany broke forward with nearly all of the Danish players caught upfield, Khedira charged forward into acres of space and found Özil. Unusually, his through ball was too hard for Klose, but fell perfectly for Bender to coolly tap-in with Jakob Poulsen caught ball-watching. Churlishly, I'll also note that the goal came immediately after Christian Poulsen entered play, nowhere to be found as Germany counter-attacked. Game over, despite Agger's amusing bullying in attack in search of an unlikely equalizer, which nearly came from a corner, but the center-back narrowly headed over.

Once again, Daniel Agger didn't deserve to be on the losing side – with more interceptions and clearances than any other player – but Denmark probably did. They were clearly second-best today, only beat Holland because of Holland's undying profligacy, and nearly drew with Portugal because of Portugal's wingers' (read: Ronaldo's) resolute unwillingness to track back. Third in the Group of Death is better than expected, with excellent tournaments from Agger, Bendtner, Andersen, and Simon Poulsen, and despite disappointment from the much-heralded Christian Eriksen. And now, to finish on a selfish note, Agger gets the rest of the summer off, returning to Liverpool after three very impressive matches and, more importantly, without the injury we all feared.

1 comment :

Elizabeth said...

Churlishly, I'll also note that the goal came immediately after Christian Poulsen entered play, nowhere to be found as Germany counter-attacked.

Churlish or not, as someone cheering for Germany this was a welcome moment of relief for me because that's when I knew Germany would be okay. As you note, a draw would have been enough to get through to the next round, but I always worry about being caught off guard and falling behind so I didn't feel secure until Denmark made the most hilarious of substitutions. Christian Poulsen, never change.