Portugal (Gomes 40, Postiga 87) 2-3 Germany (Schweinsteiger 22, Klose 26, Ballack 61)
St Jakob Park
Quarterfinals, Euro 2008
Thursday 19 June 2008
Kickoff – 20:45 CET, 14:45 EST
An enthralling quarter-final in Basel saw Germany progress to their first European Championships semi-final since 1996 thanks to a well earned 3-2 victory.
Luis Felipe Scolari’s imaginative side played their part in a fantastic contest but were undone by their inability to defend set pieces properly against a German outfit that had a distinct height advantage. It’s the end of the road for Cristiano Ronaldo and co, while the Germans will now be feeling optimistic of taking their place in next weekend’s final.
Here is the best and worst of the action in the SOCCERLENS FULL-TIME FILE…..
Germany’s opening goal of the night from their hard-working midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, came after a stunning move down the left. The intelligent Lukas Podolski played a double one-two, first with Klose and then with Ballack before surging down the left flank at pace. From there, the Bayern Munich star delivered an inch perfect low cross which was met at speed by the onrushing Schweinsteiger who finished emphatically with his right foot at the near post. This artful goal proved that Joachim Leow’s Germany side has much more flair and craft than they are given credit for, dispelling the nation’s tradition of producing effective, mechanical football.
With his side trailing 2-1, Portugal defender Pepe spurned a glorious opportunity to level the scores in the 56th minute. Finding himself free inside the six yard box from a dangerous corner that had been flicked on at the near post, the Real Madrid centre-back somehow contrived to head the ball over Jens Lehmann’s crossbar from just two and half yards out. It was a defining moment that left outgoing Portugal coach Scolari holding his head in his hands in sheer disbelief.
In a match as exciting as this it seems incredible that neither goalkeeper was forced to produce a spectacular save all night but that was the case, despite 15 shots hitting the target in Basel. The pick of stops came from Portugal’s maverick keeper Ricardo just before the half-time interval. After great work from Michael Ballack cutting in from the left, Ricardo was forced into making an excellent double-handed low save to deny the Chelsea man whose fierce drive was heading for the bottom corner of his near post. It was the closest we came to seeing a super save in this thriller.
Step-over king Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to be on the receiving end of some physical treatment against the Germans and full-back Arne Freidrich didn’t disappoint him. Just after the interval after being bamboozled Freidrich pulled and tripped the Manchester United star to the ground — but that wasn’t it. Not content with conceding the foul, the Hertha Berlin man cunningly trod on Ronaldo’s outstretched right boot causing a great deal of wincing and ‘agony’ to the Portuguese maestro.
It wasn’t until you saw the action replays of Germany’s first and third goals that you realised who their main culprit was — and that was most certainly Chelsea’s fringe player Paolo Ferreira. Luis Felipe Scolari certainly won’t be happy with his new club’s full-back, firstly for falling asleep momentarily to allow Schweinsteiger to get in front of him for the first goal, and secondly for allowing the man he was marking, Michael Ballack, to nod in the decisive third goal. Ferreira claimed he was pushed (and with some reason) but his two defensive lapses cost Portugal dearly.
Germany had an entire team full of heroes in this one, but the recalled Bastian Schweinsteiger deserves to be put on a pedestal for making two goals and scoring the other in such a crucial encounter. His first half strike was excellent, but the Bayern Munich man eclipsed that with two magnificent deliveries from inswinging free-kicks that put goals two and three on a plate for Messrs Klose and Ballack. Manager Joachim Loew will surely find room in his semi-final starting XI for Schweinsteiger after this effective display.
He wasn’t the worst player on the night but given his usually high standards Cristiano Ronaldo will feel immensely disappointed with his contribution in this quarter-final. Despite helping to make Nuno Gomes’ first half goal the Premier League superstar cut a frustrated figure for most of the night after being marked tightly by the excellent Jose Boswinga throughout. As the game wore on you expected a moment of magic but it never came, and Ronaldo’s late free-kick blazed high and wide summed up a poor night for the Real Madrid target.
THE TWO GAFFERS
It’s difficult to know who to give credit to in the German camp as manager Joachim Loew was banished to an executive box all evening unable to contact his players or staff — thanks to his red card against Austria in their final group match. Assistant manager Hans Dieter Flick did a sound job from the bench but Loew must be given the plaudits for tactically outwitting Scolari on the night. Making three attack-minded changes to his starting midfield, Loew was positive from the outset, and his training ground work on free-kicks must be applauded wholeheartedly too. A great managerial effort all-round.
Luis Felipe Scolari can hold his head high as he packs his bags for Stamford Bridge but his final game in charge of Portugal won’t go down as one of his greatest nights in the game. Tactically Scolari was taken aback by Germany’s starting XI and defensively his side were woeful from set pieces all evening, begging the question – was that neglected in his preparation for the match? As the game wore on the Brazilian looked more and more frustrated, and as the TV cameras panned in on him holding his head, looking close to tears, you could sense it wasn’t to be a happy farewell for the flamboyant coach. There is no doubt he is a top class manager but he wasn’t at his best in this clash.