SPORTS

Powerful Germans crush Greece

06/22/2012 06:25 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT
Perennial power Germany destroyed Greece 4-2 on Friday in Gdansk, Poland, to advance to the semifinals of the European championship.

Main storyline

The match mirrored the current state of the European economic climate, with Germany and Greece at opposite ends of the crisis.

German coach Joachim Loew thought so little of Greece that he dropped three main forwards from the starting lineup. In a surprising move, Mario Gomez, who is tied for the tournament lead with three goals, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller watched from the bench.

It was a show of disrespect to the 2004 European champions, yet a move that Greece was helpless to exploit.

Predictably, Germany played keep away from the defensive-minded Greeks — holding ball possession for 70 per cent of the half — but couldn’t take advantage of any chances early. Aside from a disallowed goal due to an offside ruling, the squad showed poor finish, including one by midfielder Mesut Ozil in the 23rd minute.

The Germans refused to let up on the pressure, and it was only a matter of time before one of their talented players took matters into his own hands.

That man was captain and defender Philipp Lahm, who ended the stalemate in the 39th minute. Lahm controlled a cross-field pass before sending a right-footed, swerving drive that sliced over the left arm of goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.

Since Greece did little in the way of generating scoring chances, its tying goal in the 55th minute came in stunning fashion.

Forward Giorgos Samaras raced past German defender Jerome Boateng and placed a Dimitris Salpingidis cross just under goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

The exhilaration felt by fans at Gdansk Arena and across Greece was fleeting, as Germany retook control with two goals in mere minutes.

Midfielder Sami Khedira put Germany ahead 2-1 with a terrific volley behind Sifakis in the 61st minute. Klose, Gomez’s replacement, then ended any hope for a Greece comeback after heading in a corner kick seven minutes later.

German midfielder Marco Reus's tally simply added insult to injury in the 78th minute, while Greece's Salpingidis rounded out the scoring. His penalty kick goal did little to lift the Greeks' spirits.

The score actually flattered Greece.

Even the loss of captain Giorgos Karagounis, suspended after receiving a second yellow card against Russia, wouldn’t have made much of a difference versus an air-tight German defence.

It was Germany's 15th consecutive international victory, starting with the win over Uruguay for third place at the 2010 World Cup.

What this result means

- Germany, the 2008 European runner-up to Spain, advances to the semifinal with a date against either Italy or England.

The winning goal

- It looked like an insurance goal at the time but Germany would need Klose’s marker in the 68th minute to end Greece’s run at Euro 2012.

Man of the match

- This could go to a number of German players. We'll give the nod to Khedira, because his goal took the life out of the Greeks, who had tied the game six minutes earlier. Khedira’s goal also showed true artistry as he blasted a difficult Boateng cross in midair and over Sifakis.

The German perspective

- "We made some silly mistakes but at the end we scored four goals. We had many chances in the first 10-15 minutes." — Germany defender Philipp Lahm

The Greek perspective

- "We couldn't breathe and did very little with our chances and on set pieces. The first goal made things very difficult for us, despite our good defensive effort." — Greece coach Fernando Santos

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