The pre-tournament favourites Germany take on massive outsiders Greece in the quarter-finals in Gdansk today – with the Germans looking to join Portugal in the final four, while the Greeks will be hoping for an upset.
Greece provided arguably the biggest shock of Euro 2012 so far by jumping from the foot of Group A to second with a 1-0 win over Russia in their final group game. And their unexpected title triumph at Euro 2004 is another indication of how dangerous the Greeks can be. Greece coach Fernando Santos believes the example of eight years ago is giving his squad belief as they enter the knockout stages. “I would like to seize this opportunity to say what an inspiration for us the 2004 success is,” said Santos. “We showed great resolution and strength and we were written off before that tournament, but we still reached the final and won the cup. That should be a source of inspiration for us this time.”
It may need more than inspiration if they are to beat Joachim Low’s team. Germany are the only team at Euro 2012 to win all their matches so far – even also winning all 10 qualifying games. Although Low is not taking Greece for granted, he remains convinced his team will progress to the semi-finals. “Logically we are favourites, but we can deal with that,” he said. “But remember – knockout games have their own character so it will not be the case that the favourite automatically reaches the next round. We saw that in the group when Russia were the big favourites and we have all seen what happened. But if we show all of our inner strength and belief, then we are strong enough to beat the Greeks of course. I am convinced we will win.”
Germany welcome Jerome Boateng back after he missed the 2-1 win over Denmark due to suspension. Lars Bender should therefore return to the bench despite scoring the winner against the Danes. The rest of the team is expected to be the same, meaning the likes of Miroslav Klose, Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos must continue to wait for a start.
Fernando Santos must do without skipper Giorgos Karagounis and left-back Jose Holebas, who were both suspended in the win over Russia. Georgios Tzavelas had already usurped Holebas in the left-back slot so will continue, but the likes of Sotiris Ninis, Grigoris Makos and Giorgos Fotakis will battle for Karagounis’ midfield berth.
Played – 8
Germany Wins – 5
Draws – 3
Greece Wins – 0
Germany – WWWWL
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 1-2 Germany
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
31-May-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany
Czech Republic – WLDWD
16-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-0 Russia
12-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic
08-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Poland 1-1 Greece
31-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-0 Armenia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-1 Slovenia
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid star has had a relatively quiet tournament so far with just one assist to his name, but Joachim Low has backed the playmaker to “explode” in the knockout rounds just like he did in the World Cup two years ago. Indeed, a return to the form he showed in South Africa which earned him a move to Real Madrid may just be what is needed to get the zip back into Germany’s build-up play in the final third, which has at times looked a bit lifeless.
Mario Gomez (Germany)
Coming from a highly successful season with Bayern Munich and with already three goals in three group games, the German striker is the favourite to win the Golden Boot award. But with Greece boasting a record of the least number of goals conceded during qualifying, the former Stuttgart striker will have to be at his very best to score today and help his side reach the semi-finals.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Greece)
With Greece most likely to sit on the backfoot and defend rather than playing some free-flowing, eye-catching attacking football, their defending will have to be up to the task to give them any chance of pulling off an upset against the slick passing game of the Germans. The 20-year-old Schalke defender, Papadopoulos was reliable at the back in the group stages and his physical strength and ability to read the game will aid him well in his duel with Mario Gomez.
Geiorgios Samaras (Greece)
The Celtic striker was impressive against the Russians the other night, holding up the ball and going past the defenders with ease. Often played out on the wide, the 27-year-old put in some dangerous crosses and also tracks back to help out his defenders. Although he hasn’t scored in the tournament yet, he remains an integral part of the Greece as justified by manager Fernando Santos by handing him a start in all the games till now.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mario Gomez.
Germany have stuck with their best players all through the tournament and coach Joachim Low will not wish to mess with the winning eleven much. Bayern stopper Neuer will start in between the sticks and will be hoping to deal with the Greek attacks. The defence will see the return of Jerome Boateng in place of Lars Bender after serving his suspension, despite the later scoring the winning goal against Denmark. Hummels, Badstuber and Lahm are expected to make up the rest of the defence. Khedira and Schweinsteiger will protect the defensive line while also assisting the attacking midfield trio of Muller, Ozil and Podolski. Star striker Mario Gomez, who is the joint topscorer in the competition with 3 goals and will get the nod again ahead of the veteran Miroslav Klose.
Greece (4-2-3-1): Michalis Sifakis; Vasilis Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos, Giorgos Tzavelas; Kostas Katsouranis, Giannis Maniatis; Dimitris Salpigidis, Giorgos Fotakis, Geiogios Samaras; Theofanis Gekas.
Greece coach Fernando Santos will be without captain Giorgos Karagounis and Jose Holebas, who are both suspended, while goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias is unlikely to recover from his hamstring injury in time. Sifakis who has yet to concede a goal in his two appearances since coming on as a substitute against the Czech Republic will start in the between the sticks for the Greeks. The back four of Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos and Tzavelas will guard the goal ahead of Sifakis. Katsouranis and Maniatis will play in the midfield protecting their defence as well as assisting in the attack. Ninis might get a chance over here with skipper suspended but Santos may go for the experience of Fotakis to play behind the striker Gekas and in between Samars and Salpigidis.
Germany 3/10 Draw 21/5 Greece 10/1
The Germans are known for their free-flowing attacking football, while the Greeks are known to be defensively very sound and they showed it against the Russians. It’s going to be a contest of attack versus the defence, as the Germans would look to attack from the first minute and look score an early goal, while the Greeks would look to defend and try to hit their opponents on the counter or from the set-peices. Greece have some very hardworking players who gave their best to win the match against Russia, but the Germans have talent and quality in their side alongwith some game changing individuals and that might be too much for Fernando Santos’ men to handle.
Predicted Score – Germany 2-0 Greece