Ciaran Bonass previews Friday evening’s Euro 2012 quarter final match from Gdansk in Poland, Germany v Greece.
They have previous when it comes to causing huge upsets in the knockout stages of major tournaments so can Greece, at massive odds of 10/1 to win in 90 minutes, repeat their exploits of Euro 2004 and knock out one of the tournament favourites in the quarter-finals?
In a word, no, and for a compelling argument we need look no further than the sage words of renowned gambler George W Bush. “Fool me once… shame on you; fool me… eh… you can’t get fooled again”, said the man who never let the facts get in the way of a good election, or proverb. His diction may have been awful, but the reasoning (behind the intended statement at least) is sound when it comes to the chances of such a huge shock taking place as it did when the Greeks beat defending champions France 1-0 en route to glory eight years ago, and while statistics can be manipulated to a certain degree to suit most arguments there are quite a few that are very difficult to ignore concerning the two sides in opposition on Friday in Gdansk.
Germany’s 2-1 win over Denmark to confirm their status as group B winners gave Joachim Low’s team their 14th competitive win in a row, which is a national record – an extremely impressive achievement in itself given the nation’s incredible history of success down the years. The perfect record they achieved in the group was the first time they have done so in a European Championships and accounted for the 19th game in a row in which they scored at least once and the longest run of consecutive goals for the national team in over twenty years, when their streak incorporated a World Cup Final win. Alloyed to the fact Germany have won all four of the European Championship quarter-finals they have featured in and have no injury or suspension worries and it would be a struggle to give Greece any hope even if they didn’t have concerns beyond the virtues of their opponents, but they have plenty of them.
The Greeks have hit the back of the net once, and only once, in each of their past eight games, winning only two in the process. Their crucial 1-0 win over Russia in their final group A outing was a first from six European Championship games since Greece lifted the trophy after a 1-0 win over hosts Portugal in the 2004 final, and although they showed great resilience to the onslaught, they still allowed the Russians over 30 shots in that game. Record cap holder and captain Giorgios Karagounis, arguably their most important player, is, somewhat unluckily, suspended along with Jose Holebas while first choice centre half Avraam Papadopoulos is unlikely to play again this year following the knee ligament damage he suffered in the tournament opener against Poland.
As may have been guessed by now, all signs point to Germany, and if there’s going to be a surprise in the last eight, I can’t see it coming in Gdansk so the 1/3 on a fifth consecutive quarter-final win for beaten finalists of 2008 looks reasoned, if hardly lucrative, so value may have to be found elsewhere. The handicap of -1 at 20/23 seems a relatively safe one too but might put off some coming in below evens. Correct scores of 3-0 at 6/1 and the 11/1 available on a 3-1 scoreline look about right considering the difference in quality while in the goalscorer markets a wager on 15/8 shot Thomas Muller or 7/2 Bastien Schweinsteiger – who should be given more licence to push forward against challengers prone to defending from deep – could be worthwhile with the Greek defence otherwise engaged attempting to stop the top scorer still playing in the competition, Mario Gomez.