|Germany's Mario Gomez celebrates after scoring against Portugal during their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match at the new stadium in Lviv, June 9, 2012. (Thomas Bohlen/REUTERS)
LVIV, UKRAINE - Everything was big about the Germany, Portugal game Saturday.
It was a big game for both teams, a big win for Germany and a big disappointment for everyone else.
One of the marquee games in the early stages of Euro 2012 turned into a clunker Saturday.
Germany defeated Portugal 1-0 but the end result was more a litany of improvements that must be made if the teams hope to advance past the group round.
Germany did not play like a tournament favourite.
It took a Mario Gomez goal to give Germany the win when it appeared the game was headed for a 0-0 draw. It came in the 72nd minute. Gomez worked away from his defender and struck a perfect header that found the corner past Rui Patricio.
As for Portugal, the team hung around like wallflower at the dance.
They looked like the same old Portuguese until Gomez’s goal. Then they took the game over and looked as if they were going to steal a draw.
Cristiano Ronaldo let go a long-range shot that bounced just in front of German keeper Manual Neuer. Neuer managed to get the shot with his arm. Then Nani bounced a cross off the crossbar.
Minutes from time, substitute Silvestre Varela found himself in front of the net but Neuer rushed out to block his shot.
As for Germany, they did what they had to do. Until late in the game they controlled Cristiano Ronaldo. Germany moved the ball well around the midfield and created some chances but not quality chances.
Most of the excitement in this game occurred prior to. While there were no confrontations between fans that were visible, it’s the one thing that is expected before, during or after every game that is played. One is always waiting for something to happen. Some football fans have few inhibitions, even less restraint and no shutdown button.
As has been proven repeatedly so far in this tournament fans actions are often unfathomable not because of what’s done but because some people are stupid enough to do it.
It began with Polish fans who chanted racist remarks at Dutch players just as the tournament started.
With the world waiting for something like this to happen, a group of idiots went out and did it.
Before the game in Lviv, a group of German fans walked about chanting Portuguese players’ names followed by “is a homosexual.”
It’s remarkable how often what’s going on outside, trumps what’s happening on the pitch. The excuse that it is just football doesn’t wash. It’s a black eye on the game.
Inside the stadium German fans continually threw wadded balls of paper on the pitch. It started during the Portuguese national anthem. It continued as Portuguese players took corner kicks.
The public address announcer continually asked fans to be fair and sporting.
When he did it, he was booed and the paper balls would fall. By the end, the German fans must have run out of paper.
All in all, it wasn’t a good spectacle.
Germany will now go on to an even bigger game against the Netherlands Wednesday while Portugal gets a must-win date with Denmark on the same date.
Germany needs to play better. Portugal needs to play longer. The fans need to play nice.