Germany ready for tough opener against Portugal
Lviv, Ukraine (Sports Network) - Germany and Portugal kick off their Euro 2012 tournament in the first huge clash in the "Group of Death," as two of the best teams in the world face off Saturday in their Group B opener.
Germany enters Euros as one of the favorites along with Spain and fellow Group B member the Netherlands, but will have to navigate a brutal group stage for a shot at its first major title since 1996.
The Germans have fallen short of titles recently, finishing third in the World Cup in 2006, second in Euro 2008 and third in the World Cup in 2010. Now, with a young but talented squad, it could be primed to end its title drought.
Ranked third in the world by FIFA, the Germans are just a few places ahead of the Portuguese, and the margin for error is always slim at major tournaments.
"It's the little details," Portugal's Joao Moutinho said, "that decide games at this level."
Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who will turn 34 on Saturday, could be a small detail that decides the opener. Also part of the 2002 World Cup runner-up side for the Germans, Klose could be in his final tournament.
Although Mario Gomez could steal the starting role for Joachim Loew, Klose can end speculation with a strong opener at Arena Lviv. With 63 goals for Germany, he is second all-time to Gerd Muller.
"Competition keeps you sharp. Any one of us could replace another," Klose said ahead of the tournament. "Everyone knows what a great striker Mario is and I definitely won't underestimate Marco Reus, our third striker."
The opener is also important for Germany, as eight players - possibly all will be starters - are from recent Champions League losers Bayern Munich. Although defender Holger Badstuber was suspended from the final, he admitted the defeat to Chelsea was tough to shake, but that the players have moved on.
"We've got to look ahead, and the good thing is that our hunger to win a trophy has got even bigger," Badstuber said.
Portugal has yet to win a major trophy, but led by former world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, will hope to surprise this summer. It could make a big statement with a win over Germany, and that's the goal according to Moutinho.
"We'll work towards getting a victory, like we do for all the games," Moutinho said. "If we don't manage it, then we'll do the sums later on."
Portugal will face Denmark in its second group match, but it lost to the Danes in World Cup qualifying. That just shows how tough this group will be, and how important the first match in group play is for all four teams.