The Germans took the green blades of L’viv Arena as one of the favourites to lift the European Cup this time. Under Joachim Loew the squad has shaped nicely. It is now choc-a-bloc with top talents who are envy of Europe and rest of the world as well.
Lying in the ‘Group of Death’ Portugal’s hope rested on Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo. Paulo Bento’s side has no shortage of talents on their armory. They don’t have problem with experience either, but the issue is do they enough world class players in their ranks capable of challenging for honours?
Germany as expected started the match lively creating early pressures. However, Portugal defence was equally up to task and comfortably thwarted away the dangers. In the second half, Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez stepped up to the plate and sealed the winner through a finely taken header. Here are my five observations from the match.
Tactical set up
If we are to analyze the overall dynamics of the match, then first half was very cagey, second half opened up a bit and after Gomez found the net it became more adventurous.
Loew fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation with Gomez upfront as lone striker. He was supported by Müller, Özil and Podolski while Khedira & Schweinsteiger were left to pull the strings from behind.
Paulo Bento organized his troops in 4-3-3 formation with Nani and Ronaldo supporting Helder Postiga from the flanks on either side. However the reluctance of Nani and Ronaldo to track back meant Portugal had to ensure solidity in the midfield.
As it turned out that Germans due to better organized structure could get more hold on the ball while Portugal had to rely on odd counter attacks. The Germans looked to play more from the centre; their opponents looked to free their wingers in space.
To be fair, both the sides were doing their jobs so well that in the first half chances came very few and far. The central pairing of Pepe and Alves was like rocks of Gibraltar and Germany despite holding lion share of possession lacked proper penetration.
Winning the midfield
Half of the game is won or lost in the tussle for supremacy in the middle of the park. The Germans had a ball possession of 57% with an overall 85% of passing accuracy.
Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger dictated the tempo of the match. Khedira with 90% passing accuracy and his partner 89% clearly kept the midfield ticking.
Khedira’s distribution was equally impressive. It was from his cross that Mario Gomez headed home. But, the point here is, despite such command in the midfield the Germans couldn’t manufacture enough chances.
In fact Portugal had more shots on goal than the Germans. The trio of Merieles, Veloso and Moutinho did a good job in protecting the back four as also helping the wingers to break free.
Defensive organization from both the sides
Both the sides displayed great defensive caliber especially the Germans. Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber had 131 passes in between with the Dortmund defender making 10 clearances throughout the match, seven out of which are crucial.
This is compared to 75 passes made by Pepe and Bruno Alves combined. That shows how effective the back line of German was throughout the match.
Boateng did a brilliant job in lulling Ronaldo and he didn’t provide any false sense of security. Towards the end, when the game opened a bit, both the sides made few mistakes at the back. Had Portugal been bit clinical, they might have got something from the match.
Late surge from Portugal
With time running away Bento was hollering at his players to attack more. They tried their best. It left wondering why they didn’t play with such tempo from the beginning. The substitutes made a good impact and created goal scoring chances as well.
Ronaldo darted from the wings acted more of a provider than doing everything all alone. Nani, Varela and Oliveira got decent chances to put their names on the score sheets late on.
Goal scorer Mario Gomez
He deserves special mention. It was his header that earned full points to Germany. Moreover, that lifted some of the pressures now before heading to the next match.
There was a debate amongst the Germans fans and media people about his inclusion in the starting line-up. But, the manager was absolutely certain about him and he repaid his faith. He was wasteful against Chelsea in the Champions League final, but today took his chances with both hands scoring his 23rd goal for his nation.
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @SMandal87