Game in a sentence
Never mind the scoreline, Greece were a total and utter shower against a calmly confident and much-changed (if not flawless) Germany.
- Greece started in a defensively stodgy 4-5-1. Did I say stodgy? I meant stingy. Anyway, the only change from their triumphant team against Russia was to take off the Man of the Match Gekas and put that shower of a wide midfielder Ninis in his place. Which of course made sense with their formation, but…come on, Fernando Santos.
- Lots of changes for Germany (still in 4-2-3-1), which you can either take as Joachim Loew’s belief in the desire of his young charges to play, or his cynical assumption Greece would be a total and utter shower. And if it was the latter, for a while (i.e. the first half) Loew was bang on. So, Schuerlle, Klose and Marco Reus on; Mueller, Podolski and Gomez on the bench.
- If you didn’t see it, I don’t think it’s possible to put into words how awful Greece were in the first half. They essentially relied on the Celtic man Samaras to run the ball along the left flank with almost no support in the middle (Salpingidis went AWOL more than once). Nothing happened on the right flank. Outside of that it was some park-the-bus-defending, that is if the bus had some crater sized holes in it that Marco Reus and Mesut Oezil hopped through like rabbits.
- If terrible metaphors aren’t your bag, try these stats on: in the first half, Germany attempted 385 passes, of which 349 were successful. Greece tried to pass 82 times (yes, two digits), and were successful 49 times, three hundred fewer than their opponents. Bastian Schweinsteiger alone managed more passes than the entire Greek team, and he wasn’t that good on the night.
- Germany meanwhile positively hummed. Thread the needle passes, smart positioning, overlapping runs into lots of space from the full-backs. Mesut Oezil was immense.
- Miraculously, Germany only had a 1-0 lead at half time, when Philip Lahm easily passed Ninis to find a thousand miles of space to cut in and smash an arced shot on his right foot. It was the left-back’s first goal in open play in two years, all comps. But the circumstances (ie Greece) will be a giant asterisk there.
- In the second half, Theofanis Gekas came on for Ninis and Fotakis came on for Tsavellas in left back. Salpingidis moved out to the right and Gekas played up front, with Samaras moving to the middle. The formation immediately put life into the Greek attack, and ten minutes into the second half, Samaras scored on the break from a scintillating cross from Salpingidis. The Greek comeback was on!
- No it wasn’t. Let’s rack ‘em up, shall we? Sami Khedira with a Di Canio esque mid air volley on a deflected cross from the right, 2-1. Miroslav Klose, with the Greek goalkeeper Sifakis barreling out of nowhere to punch the ball out, headed into an empty net on a free kick, 3-1. Marco Reus, meeting the ball with the keeper again miles out of position, 4-1. This was a far, far cry from Euro 2004.
- Oh, Germany will have its critics. Too slow in reacting to the Greek counter, not ruthless enough with its chances in the first half. And Jerome Boateng will laugh at himself for conceding a late handball penalty that Salpingidis knocked away. But a team that can sub out Reus, Klose and Schuerrle for Goetze, Gomez and Mueller after all three performed marvelously with goals aplenty is a team to be feared. Germany will almost emerge today as media favourites to snatch the European Championship from Spain. It remains to be seen whether Italy or England can stop them.
1. Mesut Oezil
2. Philipp Lahm
3. Sami Khedira