Germany ensured that they survived the group of death, and progressed to the quarter finals, with a 2-1 victory over Denmark.
The win means Germany finish as group winners, while Denmark join Netherlands in making their exit from Euro 2012, although with more pride intact than their Dutch counterparts.
After putting an early chance over the bar, Thomas Müller turned provider for the first goal of the game.
He fizzed a ball into the feet of Mario Gomez, but the Bayern striker – who already has three goals this tournament – miscontrolled it. However, that was all part of the script as the ball fell to Lukas Podolski, who was left with an easy finish and a goal to celebrate his 100th international appearance. (He’s only 27!)
The Danes were back level soon after though, with Nicklas Bendter rising to head a deep corner back towards goal, and that was met by Michael Krohn-Dehli who was able to nod the ball past Manuel Neuer.
Germany continued to push for a winner in the second half, going close through Gomez. By this point I was struggling to keep up with who could go through and how, and was sick of hearing the word ‘permutations’, which I’m not sure anyone had ever used before last night.
It could have all been different for, well, everyone in the group (except Holland, who continued to be a bit rubbish) had the referee decided to award a penalty and send-off Holger Badstuber when he appeared to pull back Bendtner in the box.
He didn’t, however, and minutes later a quick break led to Mesut Özil playing in the impressive stand-in right back Lars Bender, who finished coolly to put the game – and the group – beyond any doubt.
Germany will now face Greece, a side Joachim Löw described as “very hard…it’s like you’re biting on a rock,” for a place in the semi final. You can make your own jokes about the Euro/Euros etc in the comments box.
Löw, speaking to Uefa.com, said: “The match was very difficult, as expected. In the first half, we had an opportunity to open up a good lead; we missed three or four chances to make it 2-0 or 3-0. Then, from a standard set piece, Denmark levelled. After that, it became harder. In the second half, we controlled the match, looked after the ball and played with real maturity. Three or four years ago, we wouldn’t have won this. But on 60, 70 minutes, all those technical players we have who can take control of the ball stepped up.
“Denmark play with real calmness – they play like they don’t care about winning, sitting back, and then they hit you on the break. They pass the ball back and forth. I never got the feeling they wanted to win; I felt they were happy to keep it level and hope to get a set piece and score from that.
“While I was aware of what could happen, I always felt we would get the second goal. Today was the first decisive game of the tournament, but we did the job and qualified with nine points – a great performance, even if there’s still room for improvement. In midfield and defence, we maybe allowed too much space; we could have closed them down much earlier to avoid allowing Denmark to take the pace out of the game. Greece will be the same, so we need to tighten up.
“I’ve never played Greece and now it’s time. No one thought they would make it as Russia had been so strong. I think they’ve had three or four chances at this tournament and scored three goals; they’re masters of efficiency. They’re hard and great at the back, strong in the tackle; it’s like biting into a rock.”