Old Style Germany win opener
Germany 1 Portugal 0
M Gomez (1-0)
The group of death it was and after two matches of 1-0 wins, two teams are teetering on the brink of elimination. Germany started this match as slight favourites against a Portugal team that had not won 2012. German manager Joachim Löw had made two major decisions of starting Mats Hummels in defense over Per Mertesacker and Mario Gomez over birthday boy Miroslav Klose. Both his decisions proved to be right as Gomez scored the winner and Hummels was the bedrock of the defense which kept Portuguese attacks at bay.
Germany had started the match in lively fashion with Mesut Özil making his runs down the flanks – both left and right and providing inviting balls for Lucas Podolski in particular. But on each occasion Podolski muffed those chances hitting high and wide. The three man Portuguese midfield narrowed the space with Raul Meireles a particular bright spot and together with centre backs Pepe & Bruno Alves ensured very little direct threat to Rui Patricio’s goal. Despite overwhelming German superiority in ball possession and passing, it was the Portuguese who came closest to going ahead at the half time. A corner felt agonizingly for Pepe and with no one covering him, all he had to do was hit the back of the net. But his hastily taken swipe hit the underside of the bar, dropped on the line and came out. That the Germans had both their fullbacks on the goalline on the corner – a basic rule, helped in narrowing the area for Pepe to hit.
The second half too went on as the first with an attritional Portugal keeping the Germans at bay. Last ditch blocks from Fabio Coentrão and Raul Meireles. Finally Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been largely ineffective and invisible, got a chance from a Moutinho through ball and should have pulled the trigger but Jerome Boateng disposed him in the nick of time. That was the first and last time that Ronaldo had any effect on the match. Ten minutes later a Sami Khedira cross hit Meireles and looped over Pepe falling perfectly for Gomez, to head home. Portugal would try to mount more attacks as the match wore on and the perfect opportunity to equalise fell to substitute Silvestre Varela in the 88th minute when a ball came to him at the far post with the goal at his mercy. A desperate Manuel Neuer jumped in to save the shot and in added on time a Nani effort that was goalbound hit Holger Badstuber to go for a corner. Bruno Alves headed that corner out and that was the final act of the match which never really rose to the heights that one expected these two European heavyweights to take it to.
In this group of death, each decisive result pushes teams out and Portugal’s brand of soaking pressure to hit on the break would have been successful if they were clinical in taking their chances. Their play didn’t evoke much confidence in their progress and a more proactive approach is required in the next two matches. Germany too were wasteful and could have easily lost this match. They would hope to have a more clinical finishing from their forwards in the upcoming test if they are to win their first trophy in over 15 years.
Germany: Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller (Lars Bender, 94), Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil (Toni Kroos, 87), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Mario Gomez (Miroslav Klose, 80)
Portugal: Rui Patricio,Pepe,Fábio Coentrão,Bruno Alves,João Pereira,Raul Meireles (Silvestre Varela, 80),João Moutinho,Nani, Miguel Veloso, Helder Postiga (Nélson Oliveira, 70), Cristiano Ronaldo
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy
Venue: Arena Lviv
“I told the guys at half-time that we had to up the pace. Portugal were breaking up our rhythm and eventually we picked it up”
Germany manager Joachim Löw
“Tonight we did quite well and just lacked a goal – we will try to do that in the next game.”
Paulo Bento, Portugal manager.