Germans strut out against strutmeister Ronaldo
Group B: Germany vs Portugal
Friday, 09 June 2012
2045 (local time); 1445(EST); 0015(IST)
Arena Lviv, Lviv
The group of death hosts its first death match, so to say, when arguably the second best team of Europe faces the team with arguably the second best player in the world. Now Portugal and Germany did face each other in the last Euros, where the Germans won in a best of five goal thriller. Germany then went on to lose the final to Spain and then showed a remarkable generation of players had arrived in their stunning run to the semifinals of 2010 world cup. Portugal disappointed in the 2010 world cup with a second round exit to Spain.
Germany has since then been clearly seen as a team on the rise. Their performance in the qualifying was stupendous as, along with Spain, they were the only team to have a 100% record – winning all their matches. In 10 matches they scored 34 and conceded only 7 and that performance has instilled them as one of the favourites for the the group and indeed the tournament. Many feel that the young Germans have matured and another era of domination by Die Mannschaft is nigh. On the other hand, it may also be pointed out that the Germans, despite their impressive performance and nature of play, has not won any tournament of note, even at the club level in the last decade. One has to go back to the early years of the millennium for Bayern Munich’s Champions League win. Even this year, the Bavarians finished second to Chelsea in a surprising result. The famed German willpower which created victories out of losing positions was missing in the club and country levels. So it is interesting to see, if the potential shown by the new generation of players – Neuers and Müllers and Özils and Boatengs can actually show they are worthy of being the heirs to the great Deutchland tradition.
When Portugal lost to Spain in the world cup, that ended a streak of 19 match undefeated with only 3 goals conceded. However a disastrous opening to the Euro qualifying, and a 4-4 draw at home to lowly Cyprus, forced the Federation to sack Carlos Queiroz and install Sporting man Paolo Bento. The campaign remained stuttering and Portugal only qualified on a better goal difference with Norway as the second team from their group. A fortuitous 0-0 draw away to Bosnia in the play-offs, where Edin Džeko missed several gilt edged chances had again put Portugal’s qualification on the line. But they thrashed Bosnia 6-2 at home and qualified, only then to be put in the hardest of the groups possible. This Portugal side has not been impressive but call it luck or coincidence, have found a way out tightest of tight corners. Nobody really sees them as favourites in this group and that might play in their favour and if the Germans come out as cocky, they just might be in for a shock.
Germany has been ruthless and in form in their build up to the euros. Wins against Brazil and Netherlands as well as against both the euro hosts had shown their irrepressible form. However that formidable balloon has been punctured with 2 consecutive friendly losses to France and Switzerland (by a margin of 5-3). Those losses may actually be good for them as it would probably make them wary of being too cocky in this group of death.
Portugal has been as poor in the friendlies as they were in the qualification of the Euros. Draws against Poland and Macedonia and loss to Turkey is definitely not the ideal preparation for such a huge test. More worryingly, Portugal has only scored once in their last 3 matches.
Teams & Formations
Jogi Löw faces the test of choices galore with his tea full of players who have shone for various clubs in Europe. So much so that he may actually not start the Munich duo of Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez. But with Özil pulling the strings in the classic 4-2-3-1, expect a speedy, short passing German team to come out, irrespective of who starts as the front striker.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jérome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger ; Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski; Miroslav Klose
Manager: Joachim Löw
Portugal are not a one man team, despite having Ronaldo in their squad. Alves, Pepe, Meireles all had good, if not stellar club campaigns. Ronaldo himself had another extraordinary year at Madrid and one can expect him to outshine his club partner Özil in this tie. Much of their success would depend on how the middle three of Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles picks up the speedy German attacking troika of Müller, Özil, and Podolski.
Portugal(4-1-2-3): Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso; Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles; Nani, Hélder Postiga, Cristiano Ronaldo
Manager: Paulo Bento
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (France)
“Basically, we need to spoil his enjoyment. He is Portuguese and the Portuguese do not function that well when they do not enjoy themselves.”
Sami Khedira on how to stop Cristiano Ronaldo
“They had a brilliant qualification [winning ten out of ten] and their three [European] titles speak for themselves. But we played well to get here, and though we’re in a strong group, we’re well organised. We can get a result.”
Paolo Bento lifts the Portuguese morale.