Germany 1 Portugal 0: Lessons from a Gómez-inspired victory
What did we learn from Germany's 1-0 victory over Portugal in their opening Group B game at Euro 2012 on Saturday?
Germany prevail despite Portugal’s resilient midfield
Portugal set out to frustrate a Germany side with a blossoming reputation, and it’s a policy which has worked well for Paulo Bento’s men in recent games – they had only lost two matches since September 2010 ahead of Saturday’s showdown. The two sides had met on 16 previous occasions – and eight those finished with honours even. The trio of Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso offered constant protection to the Portuguese defence, and crowded the midfield areas which served to frustrate the opposition’s chief architect Mesut Ozil. Germany were only behind the Netherlands in terms of goals scored in qualifying (34), but Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira were afforded very little time to try and tease a pass to their forwards. In the first half, Bayern Munich striker Mario Gómez managed just eight touches of the ball. Overtly, Portugal’s defensive strategy restricted Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani offensively, and the pair were forced to piece together a couple moments of brilliance on the counter-attack. However, in the end, Portugal were punished for their negative approach, and perhaps willingness to settle for a point, as Khedira’s deflected cross found Gómez, who expertly directed his header into the bottom corner.
Podolksi offers glimpse of future promise
Arsenal supporters were given an intriguing insight into Lukas Podolski’s potential ahead of his switch from the Bundesliga to the Premier League this summer. The 27-year-old, who featured in the Euros in 2004 and 2008, was Germany’s most prominent forward in the first half as he looked to test Portugal right-back Bruno Alves. While the forward was unable to make the breakthrough, he threatened twice – first with a miscued effort which was easily saved, before Ozil’s delicious pass found him in space but he skied the ball over the crossbar. The forward’s fortunes didn’t change after the interval. Real Madrid midfielder Ozil elegantly exchanged passes with his team-mate, and Podolski looked to take a touch and unleash an effort on the Portugal goal, but his poor control allowed Pepe to clear. Where does he fit into Arsène Wenger’s plans? Podolski will certainly take some of the burden off Robin van Persie to score goals – he netted 31 in the past two seasons in the Bundesliga. Cutting in from the left side of midfield, he can be a long-term replacement for Andrey Arshavin, and he should thrive at The Emirates.
It’s time for Ronaldo to shine for Portugal
Ronaldo has firmly established himself as one of the greats in club football – both at Manchester United and Real Madrid. The 27-year-old helped the Red Devils to three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown, before moving to La Liga, and was key in helping Los Blancos wrestle the league title from Barcelona’s grasp last term. However, the Portuguese forward has yet to leave his mark on the international stage, despite a respectable tally of 32 goals in 92 appearances. He scored in the semi-finals of Euro 2004 against the Netherlands, but the Portugal captain has done little else in the preceding eight years, aside from ensuring England’s Wayne Rooney received a red card in their World Cup last-eight meeting in 2006. Ronaldo was limited by Portugal’s more pragmatic approach to their opening game, but he still tested Jerome Boatang with two dazzling runs which resulted in dangerous crosses. He also had Portugal’s best chance in the second half after Moutinho dissected the German defence to release Ronaldo – but the forward’s effort was blocked by a timely intervention from Boatang. He will be key against the Danes and the Dutch, and it’s time for Ronaldo to reproduce his best club form for Portugal.
‘Group of Death’ should burst into life
It was a cagey first round of games in the so-called ‘Group of Death’. Michael Krohn-Dehli’s second-half winner helped Denmark cause an upset against a misfiring Netherlands side, while Germany’s prolific striker Gómez netted with 20 minutes remaining to help Joachim Low’s men to a 1-0 victory over a negative Portugal outfit. Bert van Marwijk’s side can take solace from the fact that the in only other occasion the Dutch have lost their opening game of a European championship, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten both scored to help their country to victory in the final. But of course, it means the Netherlands will need to pick up maximum points from their final two games to help boost their bid to reach the last eight. Meanwhile, Portugal’s manager Bento may decide to adopt a style of play which is best served to extract the very best from Ronaldo and Nani in their final games. The ‘Group of Death’, or ‘Group of Boredom’ as it could be known after a tight opening round, should see these four great international sides entertain in the penultimate and final games.
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