June 22, 2012
Germany bounces Greece
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
GDANSK - It's a scary thing that happened in the Euro 2012 soccer tournament Friday ... scary and more than a little impressive.
Imagine what would have happened to Greece if Germany had actually decided to play an entire 90 minutes?
Message to Italy or England or Spain or whoever else may eventually wind up meeting Germany down the line -- it's going to take a near-perfect game to beat them.
Germany moved into the semifinals of Euro 2012 with a 4-2 win over Greece Friday. Germany will now meet the winner of the Italy-England game.
But before we bury the Greeks, let us praise them. It would be unfair to simply write them off as another victim of the German soccer machine.
Greece was the little side that was in over its head from the beginning. But it didn't back off, not for a second.
In fact, it gave the Germans some nervous moments. For about six minutes, it looked as if Greece might be brewing up another Euro miracle, just as it did in 2004.
Being badly outplayed and trailing Germany 1-0 in the second half, the Greeks got a shocking tying goal from Giorgios Samaras.
The Greeks in the stadium went crazy. The thought in everyone's mind flashed back to the Euro 2004 championship Greece won. Gould it happen again?
Unfortunately for Greece, the goal woke up the German giant and once woken, it was in no mood to be forgiving.
The giant took a quick stretch and in a quarter hour had scored three goals, taking a 4-1 lead and quickly shattering any dream of a major upset. Fifteen minutes, that's how quickly it took for Germany to take Greece apart.
Philipp Lahm gave Germany the 1-0 lead before Samaras' tying goal. But in quick succession Sami Khedira, with a marvellous volley, Miroslav Klose, with a patented header and Marco Reus, on a rebound, punched the Germans' ticket to the semifinals.
Greece's Dimitris Salpringidis scored in the 89th minute on a penalty to round out the scoring.
While the Germans were impressive, there is a tendency to overlook their start. They had chance after chance to put the Greeks away.
Instead, Germany let the Greeks hang around long enough to create problems and make life uncomfortable. While there was never a sense that they were in trouble, the Germans recognized they would have to pick up their game considerably.
Germany was fortunate, in one sense. They weren't playing one of the top teams in the world. They escaped severe punishment for some of their indifferent play. Against the better teams, they may not get a chance to recover.
Germany provided those better teams with a little more to chew on. Not all of Germany's top players were hitting on all cylinders against Greece. The vaunted midfield of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil was average. But in stepped Khedira, who had his best game of the tournament.
Joachim Loew also sat some of his best players on the bench -- Mario Gomez, Lukas Podloski and Thomas Muller did not start. Their replacements, Klose and Reus, had one goal each and Andre Schurrle was outstanding.
Did the Greeks expose any weaknesses other teams can exploit?
Not many. The Germans have a tendency to get caught when they come forward. They can be hurt on the counterattack.
But Loew's team can play any way an opponent wants. If a team wants to attack, the Germans will defend and counterattack on their own. If a team wants to play a tough, grinding game, no one grinds out wins like the Germans. And if the opponent wants to sit back and let the Germans come to them, the Germans have no problem with that, unleashing wave after wave of attacking midfielders and backs.
The win was Germany's 15th in a row and put it into its fourth straight semifinal appearance in major tournaments. Germany has not won any of those tournaments.
Could this be the one they win?
It will take something special to stop them.