A FORTUNATE deflection hoisted the ball into the path of Mario Gomez, who put away his first strike in nine tournament caps to give the Germans a vital 1-0 victory over Portugal.
It was day two of the Euro’s and the beginning of the ‘group of death’. After a shock defeat for the Dutch by the forgotten team of Group B, Denmark, this headline encounter at the Arena Lviv in Ukraine was packed with almost 33,000 supporters for a much-hyped encounter.
Sadly it never lived up to it. Whilst the game had plenty of shots, most were off-target and much of the game was spent in a midfield battle of obscurity.
Don’t get me wrong there were bright moments; Gomez early on beat the defender to get onto the end of a cross, however his effort was comfortably saved. New Arsenal man Lukas Podolski showed hints of quality, but an effort that soared into the stands, is still climbing.
Mesut Ozil — the man who had a great World Cup in South Africa and was snapped up by Real Madrid for around £12m — pinged a wayward shot across goal after a cross from Muller, only for Muller to then get on end of Ozil’s poor effort and have his own terrible strike by almost hitting the corner flag.
Despite their dominance, the Germans were left with their hearts in their mouths just before the break. A Portugal corner from Moutinho found its way to Pepe, and the Real Madrid defender bent a shot from 12 yards into the top corner only to see the ball strike the bar and bounce down on the line. Despite claims from Mr Ronaldo and co, the officials were correct and the ball didn’t cross the line. In at the break and all was square.
You can always tell a boring half judging by the speed you drank your pint, and I can tell you, these pints went down quick.
The second-half was much of the same, with countless half chances never quite amounting to anything. It probably says a lot that if you browse the countless sites that offer player ratings, you’ll find the defensive units of both teams achieved the highest.
Cristiano (Ronaldo), had looked dangerous each time he collected the ball. Constantly showcasing step-overs and backing defenders up, but a lack of end product seemed an astonishing fete for a man who has netted 60 times this season.
With only 15 minutes left a poor-looking cross from Sami Khedira — just how many Real Madrid players are in this game — was fortunately, or not for Portugal fans, deflected into the path of Gomez, who powered a downward header into the bottom left of Rui Patricio’s net.
Gomez’s replacement, Miroslav Klose was promptly told to sit back down by Joachim Low.
After the German goal the game actually opened up as Portugal suddenly realised they were in a tournament scenario. A cross-come-shot from Nani, a goal-bound shot deflected off the back of Badstuber and — by far the best opportunity — Silvestre Varela smashed a one-on-one opportunity into the nether region of Manuel Neuer. Paulo Bento can only wish that it had been Cristiano with that chance, Neuer is probably glad it wasn’t or it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be fathering any children.
Portugal were seemingly happy to sit and grind out the game, possibly hoping to strike on the counter using Nani and Ronaldo. A defensive 4-3-3 is rather strange, but the might of the German 4-2-3-1 just seemed to suit a midfield battle. Either way, for German fans three points and a defeat for Holland makes a very good days work. The next round of games of Wednesday will certainly be interesting as it becomes an all of nothing scenario of Holland and Portugal.