Germany 4-2 Greece: near-total dominance
Germany thrashed a poor Greece side to progress to the semi-finals with ease.
Jogi Low, as widely reported before the game, changed three of his front four. Mesut Ozil remained, but Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and Miroslav Klose replaced Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez.
Fernando Santos was without Giorgos Karagounis from the centre of midfield, so Grigoris Makis played instead. Sotiris Ninis played on the right, with Dmitri Salpingidis upfront.
Greece tried to soak up pressure, but simply weren’t good enough defensively and Germany constantly created chances.
The most interesting feature of the first few minutes was the German pressing. They stood off the two Greek centre-backs without the ball, maintaining a good shape near the halfway line. However, as soon as the ball was played into the full-backs, Germany sprung into life and pressed suddenly and ferociously. This approach worked well throughout the game, as Greece struggled to put passes together and launch counter-attacks. The centre-backs weren’t good enough on the ball to distribute it usefully, though Sokratis Papastathopoulos went on a couple of charges forward.
The introduction of Schurrle and Reus made Germany more energetic, quicker and more dynamic with the ball. Reus and Ozil swapped passes nicely and occasionally changed positions, with Reus motoring towards goal purposefully and dangerously. On the other side, Schurrle’s direct play was more obvious when he got the ball, as he cut inside and shot quickly, though this became a little obvious and many of his attempts were blocked.
Greece played this game very cautiously. The back four rarely moved forward, with the full-backs pressed back effectively by Reus and Muller.
The Greek midfield was interesting, however. Kostas Katsouranis played an odd shuttling role – when Greece had the ball (or hit goal-kicks down the pitch towards the forwards) he was the highest midfielder, but when Germany had long spells of possession he often became the deepest of the trio.
But Greece didn’t have any great structure or shape to their midfield in general – Ozil pulled them out of position, while the runs from Sami Khedira often caught them by surprise. Germany simply attacked from so many different angles, and at such great speed, that Greece’s reactive football couldn’t cope – they were trying to react to so many different things. Ninis should have defended better for Philipp Lahm’s goal, but this came at the end of constant pressure, and Germany should have been ahead before having worked their way into the penalty box repeatedly.
If there’s one thing Santos has done well in this tournament, it’s been half-time changes (although the inevitable question is why he can’t get things right from the start). Here, he brought on Theo Gekas upfront with Salpingidis moving to the right to the right. Central midfielder Georgios Fotakis replaced left-back Giorgos Tzavelas due to injury, with Maniatis going to right-back, and Vasilis Torosidis switching sides.
Germany seemed to drop the tempo after half-time, almost as if they were planning on keeping it 1-0. However, while it’s difficult to say that the Greek goal was coming, or that they merited it on the balance of play, they had put together a decent break before the goal, when Gekas and Samaras combined.
The goal came when Salpingidis, now on his natural position on the right flank, got the ball to feet and was in a position to run with it, something that never happened in the first half. He crossed for Samaras to tap in. However, it was more interesting that the goal came from a loose Schurrle pass – it wasn’t his first, and he was later the first German player to be removed. His sloppy passing might prevent him from starting the semi-final.
Germany run away with it
Greece angered Germany too early, though, and Low’s side stepped up the tempo and ended up winning the game at a canter. The second goal, from Khedira, demonstrated his ability to time runs into the both excellently from deep positions – something he’s done well throughout the tournament, probably outperforming the more established Schweinsteiger in the centre of the German midfield.
From then on, Ozil took over to turn in his finest performance of the tournament so far (though his poor finishing is often remarkable for such a good player). He provided the assist for Klose’s headed third from a free-kick he’d won himself out on the right, then was the man who provided the run shortly before Reus’ thumped fourth.
Greece eventually got a second to make the scoreline closer than it should have been, but really this was a mismatch and uninteresting tactically, aside from the different qualities the ‘new’ German attackers provided.
Germany were – put simply – too good. The changes Low made broadly worked well, giving a quicker feel to the German side, a good move against a slow, cumbersome Greek back four. Klose scored a fine header, but more importantly his movement and link-up play made Germany more fluid as a whole. With a more intelligent centre-forward and two more direct wingers, Ozil was the main man to benefit – and he played a part in all four goals. If Germany can get him constantly involved, they stand a great chance of winning Euro 2012.
Greece’s approach relied upon good penalty box defending, but too often they were sliced open easily. Their old weakness, a poor goalkeeper, was also obvious at various points. But Santos did well to get out of the group in the first place, and his approach tonight was probably the right one on paper. Ultimately, there’s no shame in losing heavily to a vastly superior side.