22 June 2012

Germany 4-2 Greece

Lahm 39'
Samaras 55'
Khedira 61'
Klose 68'
Reus 74'
Salpingidis 89' (pen)

Germany deserve every inch of that score line and more, and probably would have had it if not for unfathomable first half profligacy and two second-half Boateng punch-lines. For six minutes, we actually had a football match. But just six minutes.

Midway through the first half, the "How Did Germany Not Score" count was at five. And that's not including a fourth-minute "goal" rightly (but narrowly) ruled out for offside. Greece weren't just living dangerously, but juggling chain saws and carving knives while blindfolded. Schürrle and Reus, in place of Podolski and Müller, had multiple chances at goal and Özil, unsurprisingly, was the ringmaster bedecked in top hat and tails.

That Löw was comfortable enough to change Germany's front three after that group stage was an apt demonstration of both Löw's chutzpah and that country's embarrassment of riches. Still, with both Schürrle and Reus misfiring – especially the former – and with Klose unable to make an impact (zero shots and just 14 passes in the first half), Löw had to be second-guessing his decision, despite Özil's typical mercurial brilliance and Khedira's all-action running.

But then the captain struck. Ninis – in theory, the man supposedly covering Germany's left back – ran in the opposition direction after Lahm received the pass. To compound the error, neither Torosidis nor Papadopoulos closed Lahm down. And still, Sifakis should have done better; it was a wicked, on-target shot, but a wicked, on-target shot that the keeper got a hand on. It wasn't the first time the goal-keeper should have done better and wouldn't be the last.

Finally ahead 1-0, with 82% of the first-half possession and seven times as many completed passes, Germany should have been able to smother and suffocate the match in the second half. But this is a Greece team that scored early in the second half against both Poland and the Czech Republic in the group stage; down a goal and reduced to ten men against the former, down two goals and completely out-classed against the latter. Fernando Santos has done an outstanding job making half-time alterations, and did the same again today.

Gekas and Fotakis replaced Ninis and Tzevellas, a striker and midfielder for a winger and left back. Both were heavily involved in the 55th-minute equalizer: Gekas to Fotakis in Greece's half to start the blitzkreig counter, a deliciously-chipped throughball from the midfielder to Salpingidis down the right with Lahm caught on his heels, and a perfectly-placed cross for Samaras to tap-in having gotten in front of the lackadaisical Boateng. Salpingidis' cross and Samaras' finish were Greece's first two touches inside the German penalty box.

But the fun didn't last long. Patient, recycling possession ended with Boateng's cross from the right, just too high for Klose but immaculately finished by Khedira's bum-rush, absolutely blistering a volley over Sifakis, his late dart into the danger area catching Maniatis flat-footed. Less than two minutes later, Gekas had a narrow glimpse of another unlikely equalizer, creating space at the top of the box only to balloon a shot well over, but from there, it was efficient, thorough domination as the Germans are ever so inclined to do.

Seven minutes after Khedira's strike, Klose added a third from a pitch-perfect Özil free kick, out-jumping Papadopoulos with Sifakis flapping at air. Six minutes after that, Reus got on the board, destroying the rebound from Klose's shot as Sifakis spilled yet again. Germany tried to deflate the ball, replacing Klose and Reus with Götze and Gómez, but didn't try hard enough, allowing Greece just enough possession to get down the field, with Torosidis' cross casually blocked by Boateng's arm and Salpingidis converting the first penalty of this tournament – with Greece having missed the only other spot kick in that first match against Poland.

Even though the margin of victory was just two, that was as thorough a victory as you're likely to see in a major tournament quarterfinal. Not to be too patronizing, but Greece were fortunate to make it this far, arguably qualifying from their group due to Russia and Poland's failings as much as the earlier-mentioned second-half heroics.

As usual with these write-ups, the crutch that are match statistics sufficiently tell the story. Germany: 709 passes attempted, 649 completed. Greece: 159 of 220. 26 shots to 10, 28 crosses to 7, 76-24% possession. 300 attacking third passes to Greece's 39 is probably the most galling reflection of the disparity.

Whoever Germany face in the next round will most likely provide a sterner challenge.

That, however, might be taking it a little too far.


femme magazine said...

good job germany

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