Germany cruised into the semifinals of Euro 2012 as Greece’s unlikely run in the tournament was ruthlessly brought to a halt in Gdansk.
Philip Lahm’s long-range strike, Sami Khedira’s superb volley, Miroslav Klose’s header and a Marco Reus thunderbolt sealed a comfortable victory. The result only looked briefly in doubt when Giorgios Samaras brought Greece level for six minutes in the second half, while Dimitris Salpingidis made the Greek deficit respectable with a late penalty. Germany’s win vindicated a pre-match selection gamble from their manager Joachim Low, who surprisingly rested his three main attackers Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski.
They will all expect to return to the starting line-up when Germany take on either England or Italy in next Thursday’s semifinal. “I thought I had to change things after three wins,” said Low following the victory. “That was a class performance. We failed to take an early lead, but we did not panic. We can be proud of the team.” The pre-match talk had centred on political tensions between the two nations over Greece’s debt. But the Germans were anything but economical in the opening exchanges as a series of chances went begging.
The most inviting fell to Mesut Ozil, who sidefooted weakly at the keeper from 12 yards, while Reus was also wasteful. Greece’s players, meanwhile, were models of thrift and caution, with five across the midfield and lone striker Salpingidis subsisting on the merest of scraps. But for all Fernando Santos’ side’s diligent defending, it was a lack of concentration at the back that led to Germany’s opening goal. Lahm was allowed the time and space to cut inside from the left and unleash a swerving 20-yard strike with his lethal right foot.
It meant Greece, who had failed to carve out a single chance of note in the first half, needed to revamp their gameplan after the break. Yet even while behind, the underdogs seemed content to keep players back and not leave themselves open to a fatal second goal. This minimalist approach to attacking appeared to be paying off when they equalized courtesy of three touches of real class. The first was a sumptuous pass from Georgios Fotakis into the path of Salpingidis, who burst down the right and delivered a wicked low cross for Samaras to slide the ball home from close range.
It was one of the most astonishing moments of the tournament so far, but the Greek jubilation was short-lived. Six minutes later, German superiority was restored when Jerome Boateng crossed and Khedira hammered in a spectacular volley from the edge of the box. Germany’s third goal was as soft as their second was brilliant, Klose nodding home from Ozil’s corner after the hapless Greek goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis recklessly tried to claim the ball.
Reus then added a fourth with a blistering volley after Sifakis parried a Klose strike into his teammate’s path. There was time for Salpingidis to grab a consolation from the spot after Boateng was adjudged to have handled in the box. But it would have taken more than that to dent the spirits of a German side who, having been confident enough to rest three key players of a quarterfinal of a major championship, will now have a strong belief they can win it.-Cnn