Germany Marches into Semis

German Football
By German Football June 19, 2008 20:51

Germany Marches into Semis

Germany stormed past Portugal 3-2 in the quarterfinals, scoring 2 goals in the first half and adding 1 in the second. Schweinsteiger, Klose and Ballack were all on target for the Germans and they held on in a tense last 10 minutes of the game as Portugal scored a late goal to try to revive their hopes. However, it was too little too late for Scolari’s men and they are now out of Euro 2008.

Before the match begun, there was much talk about Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo as everyone expected him to shine in the game. However, his opposite number in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger stole the show with a commanding performance to put the Germans through to the semifinals. The Bayern Munich winger scored one and setup two others from free kicks to snuff out the hopes of the Portuguese.

Germany now face either Turkey or Croatia in the semifinals, with a possible rematch of their group stage loss to Croatia, forcing the Germans to fight to the end of the group stage so that they could progress.

Joachim Low, banned from the touchline due to a sending off in the last group match, made three changes to his starting lineup. Fritz, Gomez and Frings, who was suffering a broken rib, were taken out in favor of Schweinsteiger, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Simon Rolfes. Scolari, on the other hand, started with the same eleven that had breezed through the first two group games.

Germany controlled the tempo and the possession in the early stages of the game. Hitzlsperger had the first shot with a ninth-minute free-kick but Deco blocked it, and the Stuttgart midfielder let rip another left-footed effort towards the goal moments later which went into the side-netting.

Simao made Jens Lehmann work for the first time just before the quarter-hour mark when he found himself well placed on the right-hand side of the area following good build-up play from Pepe and Deco, but the former Arsenal stopper confidently held on to the winger’s effort. Gomes then looked to put Cristiano Ronaldo through but Arne Friedrich got across swiftly to put the ball out for a corner.

Portugal’s best chance in the first half came when Jose Bosingwa fired in a cross from the left towards Joao Moutinho. It arrived at an awkward height for the Sporting Lisbon midfielder, who seemed unsure of what to do with it and ended up diverting the ball over the bar with his knee. The miss proved costly as the Germans went a goal up shortly after in the 22nd minute.

It was a wonderfully worked goal too, some swift one-touch passing between Philipp Lahm, Ballack and Lukas Podolski advancing the ball down the left, with Podolski bursting clear to drive in a low cross which Schweinsteiger converted with a sliding finish. Löw had told the midfielder he had a “debt” to his team-mates after his red card against Croatia and he certainly made sure he repaid it by opening the scoring against Portugal.

Four minutes later, Germany doubled their advantage when Schweinsteiger, now on fire from his earlier goal, floated in a perfect free-kick and Klose glanced a header past the onrushing Ricardo.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Portugal suffered a further blow to their dimming hopes when Moutinho hobbled off with a knee injury, to be replaced by Raul Meireles.

The Portuguese slowly began to find their way back into the game again, as Ronaldo and Simao combined well just after the half-hour to force Per Mertesacker into a scrambled clearance. Gomes halved the deficit in the 40th minute, reacting first to fire into the bottom-left corner off the right boot of Christoph Metzelder after Lehmann had parried a Ronaldo shot towards the middle of his goalmouth.

That goal set-up an interesting last 5 minutes of the first half as the Germans tried to restore their lead when Ballack cut in well from the left onto his right foot, but Ricardo saved well at his near post to deny the German captain.

The second-half began in a rather ragged fashion as Friedrich and Lahm were both shown yellow cards for tackles on Ronaldo and Simao respectively. Hitzlsperger had a chance five minutes after the restart but sent his left-footed strike high over the top. Pepe then gave up a good chance to draw level when he headed over in the 57th minute after Deco had flicked on a corner.

The Portuguese immediately paid for their wastefulness when Ballack met Schweinsteiger’s free-kick from the left to head past Ricardo in the 62nd minute, restoring the two-goal cushion they had earlier.

Portugal’s hopes of going through looked decidedly dim after that, although Scolari tried to turn things around with less than 30 minutes left by throwing on attackers Nani and Postiga.

Podolski almost put the result beyond doubt 12 minutes from time when his fierce long-range drive whizzed just past the right-hand post with Ricardo not able to react to the shot. Nani then set up fellow substitute Postiga to head home a second late in the game to give Portugal a slim chance to level things in the last 3 minutes of the game.

Germany pulled everyone back to form a solid defensive wall against Portugal in the dying minutes as they tried to fend off the few remaining attacks mounted by the Portuguese. However, there was no way past for Portugal and Germany, under the temporary guidance of Löw’s assistant Hans-Dieter Flick, are now through to the semifinals of European Championships for the first time since their 1996 triumph.

The game also brings Luiz Felipe Scolari’s five-year reign as the Portugal coach to an inglorious end as the team crashes out, unable to improve on their past two outings in the European Championships. He now heads off to become Chelsea manager on July 1.

German Football
By German Football June 19, 2008 20:51
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