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Euro 2012 Special: Matchday One- Portugal vs Germany

Sunday, June 10, 2012

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Portugal vs Germany
June 9 2012
Arena Lviv

Arguably the biggest match of the Euro 2012 thus far, spectators were treated to the talents of Real Madrid superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, but this time on opposing teams. Other very much notable names include Nani, Pepe, Khedira, Coentrao, Gomez, Podolski, Klose who has had a brilliant record in international competitions just to name a few. Portugal were dumped out of the Euros 4 years ago by Germany, with both of them being finalists in 2004 and 2008 respectively and thus, one can expect a clash of epic proportions; a clash of skill, finesse, defence, goals, pedigree and talent.

The Germans were marginal favourites in this one and showed just why by asserting their control over the ball and Gomez well nigh scored off a header in the first minute if not for Rui Patricio. Coentrao then embarked on a destructive run past the entire German defence to win a corner for Portugal. Germany stayed true to the attacking principles that rewarded them with an impressive international reputation over the past decade and ensured that Portugal played without the ball for most of the starting exchanges. Pepe's passes were found wanting as Portugal failed to make any sort of progress on the attack and Postiga was booked for a late challenge on Neuer, though there was an element of theatrics and drama. 

Ozil looked sharp on the ball, as did Germany on a whole and Portugal had yet to find a way into the game, though Cristiano Ronaldo produced a decent low cross. Germany then pressed far up into Portugal's half and though the ball was rolled into the net by Gomez, the whistle had gone for a foul by Meireles on Khedira with a roar of disapproval from the crowd. The Portuguese defence held strong and Nani came across the German defence to give the ball to Ronaldo, whose shot was closed down by two defenders. 

Ozil's pass to Podolski was met with a wild volley and Germany continued to attempt, unsuccessfully, to break the resolve of the Portuguese defence. Coentrao stood strong in defence in addition to providing an attacking option, as did Pepe whenever he was called into action. Bruno Alves knocked a cross to safety and later on, Muller missed by a considerable margin. Ozil displayed notable individual ability on the ball, such has been his meteoric growth at the Bernabeu.

Nani was fouled by Badstuber and the latter was penalised with a yellow card and the resultant free kick was sent straight down Neuer's throat. Pepe then curled a shot that went off the underside of the bar but barely ever crossed the line. The teams were stalemate at half-time, with Portugal taking comfort in having kept Germany at the gates and Germany visibly flustered by a staunch defensive showing by the Selaccao. 

Germany kicked us off in the second half and immediately forced Portugal into flurry of blocks, but Portugal made an attack of their own with Nani's quick feet sending him past his marker but it eventually came to nothing. Coentrao then embarked on another mazy run which culminated in a long-range shot by Ronaldo, saved by Neuer. Germany were still clueless in attack and Ronaldo sprinted towards a long ball by Pepe, ignoring Boeteng and sent a cross in which found a rising German header to safety. 

Ronaldo then sent a ball acrobatically out of his own box, while a dangerous Ozil cross evaded everybody. Germany yet again came knocking at the door, with Ozil yet again terrorising the Portuguese defence with his passing and ball control. Gomez skied his header and Portugal threatened to pull off a Denmark-esque strategy of containment. Coentrao was booked for a reckless foul as Germany consolidated their dominance with wave after wave of attacks. 

Ronaldo was then sent through by a brilliant pass but was denied by the flailing leg of Jerome Boeteng. Badstuber was perhaps lucky not to have a corner awarded against Germany as he came across to put himself between Nani and the ball. Another testing cross from Muller was snuffed out by Rui Patricio and his long pass into play was well-controlled by Ronaldo, who was fouled by Boeteng.

But Germany relentless persistence would soon pay off as Mario Gomez, a Champions League finalist, scored off a header which sent Rui Patricio in the wrong direction to put Germany deservedly in front. All the pressure exerting over much of the 70 minute period soon got its just reward with the header and Germany began to play with an extra spring in their step. 

Ronaldo then cut inside Boeteng and let rip with a shot which Neuer tipped clear. Portugal then went forward with a limited threat, with Nani eventually clipping the crossbar with a cross. Nani gradually started to pose more and more of a threat to the German backline in a Portuguese retaliation, twisting and turning to find space and fire a poor shot at Neuer's goal. 

Klose then wriggled his way free of two defenders only for Pepe to come across and put in a typicall robust challenge, but Varela, when faced with a golden opportunity to equalise, could only fire tamely at Neuer. 

A late Portuguese blitz was quite simply not enough as Bruno Alves' header glanced wide of the goal. Cristiano Ronaldo arguably made the most out of the service he got and couldn't have said to have played badly, as did Nani and company. Paulo Bento's negative tactics was perhaps baffling given the absolute abundance of attacking and defensive talent Portugal boasted, but it was Mario Gomez, possibly one of the best pure goalscorers of the game, whose goal won the day in a match where Portugal's attacking prowess came forth far too late in the game and Germany's youth, versatility and exuberant attacking philosophy shone through in their bid to usurp Spain as European Champions. 

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Nick said...

Good review. Enjoyed watching that match, both sides were playing good attacking football. But I felt Portugal were dominant in the 2nd half, and for them not to get at least a draw, is saddening :\

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