Murder on Gdanskfloor: Greek tragedy
German efficiency rules the Euro zone as Greece are axed in thrilling quarterfinal.india Updated: Jun 24, 2012 01:08 IST
Greece are probably as fed up as everyone else with jokes about who should be kicked out of the euro and who deserves all the credit, so let's just say they tried their best but failed to inflict a first nil-nil draw on a tournament that continues to showcase positive, attacking football.
Germany succeeded where Russia were too casual and scored a goal relatively early to see if the Greeks could come up with a Plan B, which to their credit (sorry) they did, joining in the fun to the extent of getting back on terms and briefly threatening an upset before a thumping volley from Sami Khedira put them in their place and started a rout.
There were boos from the Greek end at Angela Merkel's first appearance on the big screen, though anyone could have told her it was a mistake to sit next to Michel Platini. Gdansk is a bit more handily situated for Germans than Greeks, as any second world war historian would confirm, and to say there were more of the former in the stadium would be to understate the case. Even the staunch Greece support behind Michalis Sifakis's goal must have been a little dismayed when the German end unrolled an enormous national flag bumper that stretched from the top tier to the bottom one, managing to make the Greek flag they were passing around look little bigger than a bedsheet.
Despite a number of men behind the ball, the Greek defence was anything but rock-like. Biting into a blancmange would have been a more accurate description of the way the Germans sliced through time and again from midfield in the first half.
The only problem was that having cut through the supposedly impregnable rearguard with familiar efficiency, the German strikers began quivering like jellies in front of goal. First Mesut Ozil struck a shot at Sifakis when a goal seemed certain, then the normally reliable Miroslav Klose failed to turn in a chance at the far post when scoring looked easier, bringing Mrs Merkel to her feet in premature excitement before sitting back down with a look of slightly embarrassed disappointment.
With Greece not doing any real attacking, the situation could not continue for long and normal service was resumed as soon as Philipp Lahm cut in from the left to beat Sifakis from the edge of the penalty area with a forceful right-foot drive. André Schürrle was so impressed with his left-back's example he tried exactly the same thing himself just before the interval, finding only the side netting.
Schürrle, along with Klose and Reus, was playing because Löw had left some of his regulars out, notably Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski. Depending on your point of view, this was either typical German arrogance in resting players mid-tournament through confidence they would win through to the semi-finals, or a sensible recasting of available resources in light of the fact that their opponents were bound to be ultra-defensive. Either way it was a bold decision that might explain Löw's early anxiety.