Mario Gomez’s second half header made sure Germany bagged all three points in a closely-fought encounter that could have gone either way.
In a game that neither team wanted to lose, a draw looked the most likely outcome as goal scoring chances were hard to come by, until Gomez broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute after Germany had dominated possession throughout.
Portugal, who only came to life after Germany scored, tried so desperately to equalise in the last 20 minutes but will be left rueing their missed chances.
Paulo Bento had a full strength Portugal side to choose from after Nani was deemed fit for the match. Joachim Löw chose to start Jerome Boateng despite threatening to drop him after he was pictured on a night out with a model. Bastian Schweinsteiger also started despite suffering a calf niggle. Per Mertesacker was Germany’s only casualty after suffering a collision in training.
Portugal started the game but it was Germany who maintained most of the possession in the opening minutes passing their way towards goal and two minutes into the match Mario Gomez had the first shot on target but Rui Patricio comfortably saved. Portugal responded by running straight towards goal and winning a corner, taken by Miguel Veloso, who was showered by paper cups from the German fans, but Manuel Neuer easily punched away.
Germany continued to be an offensive threat when Thomas Mueller’s cross flew across the box in the ninth minute and reached new Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski, but his low shot with the outside of his boot is too close to Patricio. Two minutes later Mezut Ozil looked to skip into the box but was denied by a good tackle from Joao Pereira. The Germans looked assured on the ball but Portugal were playing deep and weren’t letting anything through.
The game began to heat up on 12 minutes when Helder Postinga slid into Neuer who dramatically made the most of the tackle by jumping about eight foot into the air, but Postinga was only shown a yellow. Portugal had their first real chance on 17 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo showed his first bit of class, pulling out all the tricks to get a low cross past Boateng but Postinga failed to connect.
Goal – but no goal
The ball did find the back of the net courtesy of Ozil on 23 minutes but the ref had already blown for a Germany free-kick in a good position just outside the area however the set-piece was drilled straight into the Portguese wall, perhaps thanks to a bit of encroaching.
Germany continued to dominate the procession but couldn’t find any way through and despite the Portuguese backline looking shaky they stood strong. To Portugal’s advantage when Germany did get through they couldn’t get their shots on target, Sami Khedira picked Podolski out at the back post but he fluffed the high volley. Muller was well placed to make it 1-0 on 39 minutes when the ball found him unmarked in the area but again the shot went well wide.
The only real chance of the half came a minute before half time when from a Portuguese corner Pepe took a great touch and fired in a crisp shot with the side of his foot which hit the underside of the bar and bounced on the line. A couple of Portuguese players protested it crossed the line but the ref and his assistants were having none of it.
Goalless at half-time, Portugal would be happy with their performance, it seemed clear that they are playing for a draw and praying for a break from Ronaldo or Nani.
HALF-TIME: Germany 0-0 Portugal
As the second half started the tempo increased and Germany were very nearly in business right away. A Khedira cross/ shot broke to Muller on the right who drilled a shot in which Meireles did well to block. At the other end Fabio Coentrão drove forward but was tackled and the ball diverted to Cristiano Ronaldo who cut in off the left wing and shot low but it was a tame effort and saved by Neuer. Moments later, Ronaldo had a chance to deliver from the left but his dangerous cross is headed behind by Mats Hummels.
The excitement begins
The first few minutes of the second half were more exciting than the entire first half. Both times continued to take it in turns to have a go at goal with a few spicy challenges also thrown in for good measure but the next proper chance didn’t come until 63 minutes when Ronaldo was clear in the right following a neat pass and lined up a shot from inside the box but at the last moment he was denied by a saving tackle from Boateng.
The German players began to become frustrated with their dismal aim after Muller chipped a cross well beyond Gomez. However moments later Germany did get a cross right when the ball was delivered in from the right by Khedira which GOMEZ leapt towards and headed the ball back past Patricio which slotted perfectly into the bottom right corner of the goal. Gomez was seconds away from being subbed until the goal went in on 72 minutes.
From that point the game opened up as Portugal tried more adventurous methods to get a goal although the players were consistently dispossessed. Gomez almost had a second on 76 minutes as he tried to slide onto a cross from Muller but was inches away from making a connection.
Portugal spring to life
This brought Portugal to life as Ronaldo picked up possession 40 yards out, powered forward and hit a hard dipping shot that swerved just in front of Neuer who gratefully deflected it behind. The Selecção then hit the woodwork when a cross from Nani landed on top of the crossbar with the German backline watching open mouthed. Another Portugal effort saw Nani work some space on the edge of the box but curled a low shot wide of the post as they had no choice but to attack.
If Portugal’s fans weren’t a nervous wreak already they would have been on the verge of having a heart attack when on 86 minutes Nelson Oliviera superbly controlled a long ball forward before crossing low across the box which fell for Silvestre Varela. All he had to do was beat the keeper from eight yards out but failed to give his shot any lift as Neuer dived off his line to block superbly.
Another great chance for Portugal went begging at the death when Ronaldo ran to collect possession on the byline and cut back for Nani, but his shot was blocked by the shoulder of Holger Badstuber and went out for a corner. The corner was met by Bruno Alves, but his header went wide as Portugal’s last chance for a goal went begging.
FULL-TIME: Germany 1-0 Portugal
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, João Pereira, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho, Nani, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles (Varela 80′), Helder Postiga (Oliveira 68’), Cristiano Ronaldo
Germany (4-5-1): Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil (Kroos 87′), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller (Bender 90′), Mario Gomez (Klose 80′)
Star man – Pepe
From the off Portugal seemed to be playing out for a draw, which is hardly surprising as Germany are favourites to win Group B, however their failure to go forward was frustrating at times when they have one of the world’s best goal scorers in their side. Portugal didn’t kick into life into the goal went in and even then their lack of a clear cut striker was clear to see.
Holding possession was also a big issue, Germany passed their way forward, Portugal just lumped everything up to Ronaldo whenever they had a chance. On the plus side the defence, which had come under criticism in the past few games, stood strong and maintained their discipline throughout.
The good news is that Denmark beat the Netherlands 1-0 so the group is still wide open although it is now vitally important they get something from their next match against the Danes. However if Portugal are to progress in this tournament they need goals. They have the skill to break through any backline and they need to capitalise on this especially as all of the teams in Group B have a shaky defence.
In the next two games I’ll be hoping Portugal are lively from the start. If they bag the first goal then they can sit back but there’s no point trying so hard to prevent goals when they’re not going to try to score any themselves. Also they need to stop giving the ball to Ronaldo all the time, everyone knows who he is and what he’s capable of so obviously the opposition will be man marking him, instead involve the midfield more and play more of a passing game.
Rui Patrício – 6
Performed as required on a largely quiet evening. Confident in his handling of set pieces, appeared harrassed on occasion when asked to distribute quickly. Hard to fault his positioning for the goal: Gómez placed his header in the one area that left Patrício with no chance of making the save.
Bruno Alves – 5
More conservative in his forward movement than partner Pepe, Alves was unable to pose any great threat at set pieces (usually one of his more notable attributes) until the dying moments. Struggled to find his passing radar early.
Pepe – 7
For 72 minutes Pepe was Portugal’s outstanding performer. Imperious in the tackle at the back, and the player who came closest to scoring shortly before half time, the Real Madrid man was well on course for a man of the match display. However, he was caught in no-mans land for the goal, leaving the diminutive João Pereira alone to contest Schweinsteiger’s ball in.
Joao Pereira – 5
The Valencia-bound full back was a couple of notches below his industrious best, though he did provide bundles of energy and a number of useful balls forward for Nani to chase. As mentioned above he was left alone to deal with Gómez for the goal, and can hardly be blamed for his pronounced disadvantage in the air.
Fabio Coentrao – 7
Played a central role for the Selecção at both ends of the pitch, and benefited from being on the opposite flank to Philipp Lahm, his nemesis at club level. Managed to stretch Jérôme Boateng on a number of occasions, and embodied the battling nature of the performance. Visibly frustrated towards the end, but managed to keep his temper in check. Booked.
Miguel Veloso – 7
After attracting widespread criticism for his unsteady performance against Turkey last weekend, Veloso barely put a foot wrong this evening. Reliable short passes and adept positioning fully justified his selection, after speculation that Custódio would be drafted in. Might have marked tighter in the lead-up to the goal, but a largely good display, particularly in his marginalisation of Özil. Booked harshly.
Raul Meireles – 5
Not the most effective of outings from Meireles, although he played his part in stifling Germany’s midfield play during the first 45 minutes. His set-piece delivery was also much improved.
Joao Moutinho – 7
A defence-splitting pass to tee up Ronaldo provided Moutinho’s outstanding moment, as the Porto man delivered a typically dynamic 90 minutes. Although much of Portugal’s play flowed through the wide areas Moutinho still managed to exert an influence on proceedings. Like Meireles, his dead-ball deliveries gave Germany a number of tense moments.
Nani – 6
Grew into the game after a quiet first half, and by the end had the beating of his marker Lahm. A cross-shot almost opened the scoring for the Selecção, but that was more luck than judgement. Nani continues to frustrate at times but is undoubtedly Portugal’s pre-eminent wide man after Ronaldo. Showed encouraging willingness to run at opponents.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 7
As ever, Ronaldo was tireless in his efforts, and alongside Coentrão appeared the most frustrated of Portugal’s personnel. Bamboozled the German back line with a series of first half stepovers, and was also able to produce a number of wicked deliveries, despite generally having to cope with two markers. Tested Neuer with a fierce strike late on, and his contest with Lahm was a compelling one.
Helder Postiga – 5
Postiga delivered a committed performance before being withdrawn for the final 20 minutes, but the Zaragoza man was left isolated at times, allowing the game to pass him by. With Nani and Ronaldo flanking him Postiga will never be the focal point of Portugal’s attack, but Hugo Almeida might have posed more of a set-piece threat.
Nelson Oliveira (Played 20 minutes)
Tipped to be Paulo Bento’s super-sub, the Benfica youngster showed his worth shortly after arriving when he did superbly in holding the ball up before squaring for Varela.
Silvestre Varela (Played 10 minutes)
Directed his one real chance straight at Neuer with the side of his foot, when perhaps a fiercer attempt was in order.
Portugal next play Denmark on June 13th
Group as it stands: