Perfection is difficult to achieve. Germany, the youngest squad in the tournament, is the only team to have maintained a perfect record in the group stages. Judging by Euro 2008, that might not necessarily be a good thing as the Dutch were knocked out after a brilliant group stage display in 2008.
First and foremost, Jerome Boateng returns for Germany. However, giving Boateng back his position will be a tad cruel to Lars Bender who not only delivered a great performance against Denmark, but also scored the winning goal. Considering that Boateng is much more defensive than Bender, playing Bender against a defensive Greek side might not be a bad idea.
Turning the attention to Greece, their campaign has been rather strange. They were unlucky to draw the opener against Poland. Their captain Giorgos Karagounis missed a penalty in that match. The Czechs put two past them in the early minutes, but Greece got one back thanks to Petr Cech. They needed to win against Russia in their final game.
The Russians were labeled dark horses by many people considering how good their performances were. But when push came to shove, Russia failed to live up to expectations. Greece’s mission was aided by Russia’s profligacy in front of goal. Of course Greece had to score a goal.
Out of nothing really, Karagounis struck in first half injury time. A throw opened up the Russian backline and the captain placed it in the back of the net. Unfortunately for Greece, the player who I definitely believe is their best midfielder by a long shot will be missing the game due to suspension.
May-be Schalke man Kyriakos Papadopoulos will be shifted to midfield even though he is more of a destroyer than a creator. Dimitris Salpingidis is a dangerous forward. He can take his chances. Both Theofanis Gekas and Georgios Samaras have had poor tournaments to date. Samaras is still a threat though.
Going back to Germany, Loew might consider bringing in more creativity considering just how ‘flat’ Germany looked against Denmark. They failed to break down a well organized defence on many occasions that Portugal broke time and again. Knowing just how good Germany are on the counter and the class of all the players they possess, very few teams will even consider attacking the Germans from the start.
In terms of finesse, Germany has Mario Goetze and Toni Kroos on the bench. On the pitch, Mesut Oezil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm present elegance. Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski both are strong and fast players, but are not necessarily blessed with finesse.
Joachim Loew took Podolski off early on for Andre Schuerrle in the previous round. Schuerrle is seemingly more influential than Podolski nowadays and could be the better alternative. Mario Gomez, after a brilliant performance against the Dutch, was poor against the Danish though he provided an assist for Podolski’s goal.
When Miroslav Klose is on the pitch, Oezil’s influence is greater as the two can link up. Oezil’s decreased influence in the side is a result of Gomez’s starting position. Gomez is a true finisher; he has also grown into a team player. However, his passing and harrying isn’t quite like Klose’s. Loew has to make a choice now: he can either go with the finisher or go with the hard-working legend.
Keeping all things in mind, I think this will be the starting line-up:
Jerome Boateng- Holger Badstuber- Mats Hummels- Philipp Lahm
Bastian Schweinsteiger- Sami Khedira
Thomas Mueller- Mesut Oezil- Lukas Podolski
Greece’s tactics are known—they will sit back and play on the counter. Denmark almost scored a second goal doing exactly that and was slightly unlucky to not have received a penalty when Badstuber pulled Nicklas Bendter’s shirt in the penalty area. Germany will patiently try to break them down. The advantage will start swinging in Greece’s favour if the game stays at 0-0 for too long.
So, finally, will Germany make the semi-finals? Let me hear your thoughts.