Germany v Greece preview
On paper, this is the most one-sided of the four quarter-finals. Germany qualified the most impressively of the eight quarter-finalists, while Greece squeezed through with just four points.
Greek coach Fernando Santos is without two players because of suspension. Giorgos Karagounis is absent from the centre of midfield, while left-back Jose Holebas is also unavailable, though might not have started anyway.
Jogi Löw doesn’t have such problems – in fact, he has Jerome Boateng back after a ban – but reports in today’s German newspapers suggest he’s set to make radical changes in the final third. Most importantly, it seems certain that Miroslav Klose will start instead of Mario Gomez upfront. On the flanks, Andre Schurrle is challenging Lukas Podolski for a starting place, while Marco Reus could play instead of Thomas Muller. It would be a surprise if Löw changed three of his front four, and probably unnecessary considering their 100% record so far.
Greek left / German right and midfield battle
A key area is the Greek left-back zone, the area where they’ve looked vulnerable throughout the tournament. Holebas being out of contention isn’t a significant blow, as Giorgios Tzavelas performed well there against Russia, but he’s likely to be faced with two players – either Muller or Reus, plus Mesut Ozil moving across to that side of the pitch. Tzavelas won’t receive much help from Giorgos Samaras, who will concentrate on marking Boateng, so it’s likely that Grigoris Makos will have to move across the pitch with Ozil.
Makos will worry about leaving the Greek midfield understaffed, and running into the same problems Holland encountered. The German midfield is highly flexible, of course, and though the runs of Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger will worry Greece, they should be defending with three central midfielders at all times. Therefore, while the movement and unpredictability could catch them out, they shouldn’t be merely outnumbered, as Holland were.
Santos could format his midfield in two ways – play Kostas Katsouranis high up the pitch with two holders behind, or move Katsouranis deeper and play Giannis Maniatis as the highest midfielder. Maniatis is much more energetic – it’s a question of whether Santos wants that energy used in a purely defensive sense, or in a more ambitious manner.
Those two battlezones – the Greek left-back area and the centre of midfield – seem the key areas to watch. But there should be some interesting, well-matched battles on the wings. Vasilis Torosidis will take on Podolski or Schurrle in a quick, energetic battle. Higher up the flank, Philipp Lahm will push back Dimitris Salpingidis, though needs to be wary of Salpingidis’ clever movement, both in behind the defence on the break, and into more central positions behind Schweinsteiger.
Boateng against Samaras is essentially a centre-back versus centre-forward battle in a wide zone. Boateng should try and push Samaras towards his own goal, as the Greek forward can be quite effective with his hold-up play in wide positions.
But Löw’s apparent decision to play Klose ahead of Gomez will probably be the key feature. Löw is a huge fan of Klose, and many think he would have started this competition upfront were he not an injury doubt, but dropping Gomez after three goals in three games is a huge decision.
It seems that the choice is purely tactical, rather than because of fitness reasons. Klose is a more mobile player with clever movement and would allow Germany to change the positions of their front four more readily (his understanding with Ozil is particularly impressive). That is probably in Löw’s mind, and he wants to outwit the physical Greek centre-back duo with a nippy player, rather than play into their hands with a big striker like Gomez.
However, Löw risks allowing the Greeks to defend deep and narrow. Part of Germany’s brilliance in the group stage was that they had Gomez on the pitch to offer something different, so when Portugal tried to park the bus against them to crowd out the creative players, Germany could use Gomez as a more direct option. Instead, it seems, he’ll be a plan B.
For Greece, there remains a lack of drive going forward, unless Sotiris Ninis gets a surprise start on the right. Greece, predictably, will rely upon set-pieces.
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