Germany to break Greeks
FROM THE moment striker Mario Gomez headed home a 72nd-minute winner from a deflected cross in Germany’s opening match win over Portugal in Lviv, there has been that all too familiar sensation that Gary Lineker was dead right.
Remember how the former England striker, now BBC presenter, once famously described football as a game in which “22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win?”
In their first round wins over Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark, there was plenty to suggest this particular German juggernaut will live up to exacting standards of the Lineker description.
Certainly in those games, the Germans suggested they will have way too much fire-power for the doughty Greeks when the two sides meet in tonight’s second quarter-final in Gdansk.
Inevitably, given this moment of Euro crisis, this game has taken on an extra-curricular dimension.
Is Germany about to kick Greece out of the Euro tournament as a preamble to kicking the country out of the Euro currency?
Popular German tabloid Bild set the scene yesterday with a preview which reads: “For 90 minutes it will be about more than just football. The euro crisis will be playing too. Rejoice, dear Greeks, defeat will be for free on Friday! No bailout will help you against Joachim Loew!”
To some extent, then, this game seems set to join the list of potentially explosive “political” games of recent times, such as England v Argentina at the 1986 World Cup, Iran v USA at France ’98, or indeed West Germany v East Germany at the 1974 World Cup.
In reality, though, the only “explosive” aspect to all of those games was confined to the pitch – Maradona’s Hand of God, for example.
Even if Celtic’s Greek striker Giorgos Samaras said yesterday this is “just a game” and “you cannot mix football and politics”, he did concede “we’re playing for the country, for 11 million people waiting for a smile”.
The problem is all logical analysis would suggest that after tonight’s game, the only smiling faces will be German. There is a feeling that Loew’s team, so impressive in South Africa two years ago, is even stronger now.
For a start, Gomez, who gave a passable impression of an arthritic camel at these finals in Austria and Switzerland four years ago, has begun to look like the real thing up front. Not for nothing, he is joint-leading tournament goalscorer with Russia’s Alan Dzagoev and Mario Mandzukic of Croatia on three goals.
Whilst there has never been any doubt about the quality of attacking players such as Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, this side has so far shown a self-confident patience which suggests that, in the end, they will get the job done. Both winning goals against Portugal and Denmark came late.
The Germans will need all that patience against a Greek side which makes no bones about its number one priority, to defend and to do so en masse.
Even Loew admitted as much yesterday when he called the Greeks “masters of efficiency”. In other words, they do not do much other than defend for long periods before stepping up for a corner or free-kick to hit the winning goal.
Greek hopes of putting any sort of spanner in the German works, however, are further undermined by the absence of their suspended captain, the former Inter Milan midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, scorer of the surprise 45th minute goal which eliminated the Russians in their final first round game.
There are pundits who suggest Greek’s defensive 4-3-3 (often a straight seven-three) formation could yet frustrate the Germans.
One doubts it.
So, Germany to win and thus set us up for another football classic, namely a Germany v England or Germany v Italy semi-final.