Joachim Löw’s “cheeky” tinkering paid off as Germany cruised past Greece and into the Euro 2012 semi finals.
In stark contrast to the Eurozone, this was Germany progressing at the expense of the Greeks. The onlooking Angela Merkel must have revelled in the irony.
Löw made four changes to the starting XI that had defeated Denmark, with Jerome Boateng coming back in for Lars Bender, and Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle replacing Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski.
It worked a treat, as goals from Klose and Reus, as well as Sami Khedira and captain Philipp Lahm helped Germany to a 4-2 win.
Germany dominated the opening exchanges, with Greece happy to sit back and defend. After having an early goal disallowed, it was a question of when, not if they’d score.
And when Lahm but them ahead with an excellent long-range effort after 39 minutes, it was a question of how many.
However, the next goal did not go the way of the Germans. A swift counter-attacking move from Greece ended with Georgios Samaras prodding home.
It was to be a brief respite though, with Germany back ahead just six minutes later. A ball from Boateng fell to Khedira, who had been quietly impressive once again, and he smashed it home with aplomb.
The game was well and truly over when Klose added to his already astonishing international recording, heading home a Mesut Özil corner for his 64th goal for die Mannschaft.
There was still time for Reus to get on the scoresheet, hammering the ball past a less-than-impressive Michalis Sifakis in the Greek net.
When Jerome Boateng handled in the area in the 89th minute, Dimitris Salpingidis stroked home the resulting penalty. It mattered not.
This was Germany’s most impressive performance to date, albeit against the weakest side they’ve faced. They will play either Italy or England in the semi final.
Given bringing in Klose, Reus and Schurrle was supposedly ‘weakening’ the side, I don’t think they’ll be too bothered who they have to face, and you’d expect them to continue their march to a possible repeat of Euro 2008s final with Spain.
Speaking to Uefa.com after the game, ‘Jogi’ Löw had this to say: “First of all, I would like to say it was a fantastic performance from our team. For the fourth time in a row, we have qualified for the semi-final of a major tournament. Nobody thought we could have done that back in 2004. We have won 15 games in a row. We are the youngest team at this tournament and have great prospects for the future. I am proud of my players. We absolutely deserved to win tonight.
“Greece scored two goals out of one chance. We were good from the start but perhaps the only thing I can say is that we didn’t take advantage of our chances early on. I was irritated at that stage and my emotions are expressed at times like that.
“After three wins here, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my team in the slightest, but I had been planning on making the changes to the lineup for a while. I thought we had to be unpredictable against Greece, because I felt they would be ready for us. It is good to be cheeky like that from time to time. I thought the plan worked out quite well. Looking ahead, I think the four teams in the semi-finals will be serious contenders for the title. We know from now on games of this magnitude are decided by small details, and we can’t allow a single mistake.”