• Saturday, 23 June 2012

    Yesterday at the Euros #14

    Or to put it another way, the striker who kicked the hornet's nest.

    It went pretty much as expected with Greece sitting deep and in numbers and asking Germany to break them down. For 39 minutes, it worked. Germany did get the ball in the net, but Andre Schurrle - one of three changes up top as Joachim Loew boldly swapped his forwards - was a smidgen offside. Greece were beginning to believe they might do this again. Then Phillip Lahm decided to drain one from downtown (as I believe the basketball vernacular would have it).

    It was a vicious, swerving, dipping strike from 20-something yards - quite spectacular and for all their firepower up front, suddenly you had to start wondering about the quiet lad at full-back, the respected captain, the man that seems to have been around forever, who wouldn't say boo to a goose and has hardly been prolific throughout his international career.

    1-0 it remained to the break, a 45 minutes in which Germany enjoyed 78% of the ball. But within ten minutes of the restart, Greece were level. Theofanis Gekas played a lovely through-ball for Dimitris Salpangidis who squared the ball beyond the advancing Manuel Neuer for Giorgios Samaras, sliding in, to tuck away, though Jerome Boateng really should have done better.

    Oh Giorgios. What did you do? He made Germany angry, and you wouldn't like them when they're angry. Within five minutes, the lead was restored thanks to a frankly amazing volley from Sami Khedira who met Boateng's cross with a perfectly executed kung-fu kick to smash the ball past Michalis Sifakis. Seven minutes later, the compulsory tournament goal from Miroslav Klose and the outstanding Marco Reus volleyed a fourth a further six minutes later. Greece did get one back via a last-minute penalty converted expertly by Salpangidis after Boateng had handled needlessly. Boateng's performance was the one negative for Germany and it would not be a shock to see Lars Bender recalled for the semi-final.

    So what did we learn? Not a lot about Greece who did all they could in the face of overwhelming opposition. We learned a lot about Germany. That they could drop Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller and replace them with Schurrle, Reus and Klose is frankly frightening. And still Mario Gotze only got ten minutes, Ilkay Gundogan, Toni Kroos, Marcel Schmelzer and Benny Howedes couldn't get a kick. Be afraid, Europe.

    So long Greece, but we still love you:

    Spain v France today. It should be a cracker.

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