Group B Germany v Portugal
Arena Lviv, Ukraine, Today, 7.45pm On TV: RTÉ 2, BBC1
Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)
Two of Euro 2012’s heavyweights will be keen to avoid a false start which could compromise their entire tournament. Given the strength of the group, losing tonight could therefore have serious repercussions which Germany forward Thomas Muller is particularly keen to avoid.
“Making a good start is crucial because you avoid a pressure situation with the game against Holland,” the Bayern Munich forward said. “You only get three games in the group phase and all three opponents are very strong, so you really cannot afford to slip up.”
Yet while Germany may have one eye on Holland, their coach Joachim Löw does not want them to lose their focus against one of the sides he believes will have a big say in where the title goes this year. “Portugal are a team who can beat anybody,” Low warned. “They have very good players who play for big clubs, and they have always been a top nation in tournaments.
“I don’t just mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course has fantastic skills and can decide games on his own, but also Nani, Pepe; Portugal have a strong backbone and are technically very strong. Ronaldo is definitely the star who can decide matches, but they have many other world-class players in their team.”
Ronaldo returned the compliment, but made it clear that Portugal’s game plan will not be based on trying to contain the Germans. “Germany are very strong opponents and they have great players, but I think that Portugal are a team who can always play well against top opponents. We have to concentrate on our strengths and be organised.”