Germany don’t do upsets and it proved an extremely safe assumption as the current favourites to win Euro 2012 outpassed and outclassed Greece to run out comfortable 4-2 winners in Gdansk.
Joachim Low took a huge gamble, it seemed, as he rested all three of the front line that had started every game in the tournament to date leaving himself open to an ambush from critics had Greece taken advantage of the change in personnel, considering those previously in the side included Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez, who had hit three in his three prior games.
Those in the know might have pointed out that this was nothing new for Low, who showed great faith in his whole squad in qualifying as the new faces featured two of the outstanding young crop of players to emerge in the Bundesliga over recent years – Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus – who are just 21 and 23 respectively, and Miroslav Klose, who top scored in qualifying with nine goals in only six appearances, and is threatening to overhaul Gerd Muller as the nations all-time record goalscorer.
The German’s hunger was a huge factor in the early stages and Schurrle was harshly judged offside when he stabbed home a rebound after four minutes in a first half they dominated but would have to wait until six minutes before the break to take the lead when captain Phillip Lahm cut in on his right before lashing into the top corner from outside the area. Greece regrouped at the interval though and scored a terrific equaliser to briefly earn parity when a slick break culminated in Georgios Samaras sliding in at the back post to convert a great low delivery from Dimitris Salpingidis.
That instantly brought on a huge reaction from the Germans, however, and three goals in thirteen minutes settled the contest. Sami Khadeira struck with a neat volley from Jerome Boateng’s cross on 61 minutes, Klose converted a close range header when he beat Michalis Sifakis to Mesut Ozil’s free kick for his 65th international goal in the 68th minute and Reus claimed a well-deserved fourth when he lashed home in style after Klose had his initial shot saved by Sifakis six minutes later. Podolski may have won his 100th cap in in the 2-1 victory over Denmark in their last game but Reus will have given Low a real selection dilemma for the semi-final with a barnstorming display that caused havoc. The Greeks earned a late penalty Salpingidis converted with ease after Boateng handled but it was immaterial at that point, their spirited performance over the previous two weeks were to end here.
Germany have now hit nine goals in Poland and Ukraine, from seven different players, so that certainly suggests they have the squad to rotate without significantly affecting the overall quality of the team, it may prove crucial as Euro 2012 hurtles towards it’s conclusion. They now face the winner of Italy versus England and both of those teams will be even more keenly aware of the strength of this German outfit following a performance of real conviction from Low and Co.