Germany add their touch to tourney thrills

Germany joined the Euro 2008 thrill-seekers on Thursday, beating flamboyant Portugal in a five-goal classic which provided a dazzling introduction to the knockout stage of the tournament.

After some unconvincing group games, Germany finally opened the throttle and deservedly earned their place in the semifinals with a pulsating 3-2 win in which forward Bastian Schweinsteiger was outstanding.

An estimated 40 000 German fans and about 10 000 Portuguese flocked to the Rhine city of Basel to join the festivities at a tournament which is rapidly earning a reputation as among the most exciting to date.

The atmosphere was peaceful and festive, as it has been through most of the matches in both Switzerland and Austria.

Those in the St Jakob Park stadium on Thursday and the thousands more outside watching in fanzones and in public screening areas could hardly have been disappointed by the spectacle.

Germany dominated and took a two-goal lead through Schweinsteiger, returning after being suspended because of a red card in an earlier defeat by Croatia, and Miroslav Klose in the space of four minutes midway through the first half.

Best teams
But Portugal, one of the best teams on show in the group stage, refused to succumb and came back five minutes before halftime when Nuno Gomes fired home after German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann could only parry a Cristiano Ronaldo shot.

German captain Michael Ballack extended Germany’s lead in the 61st minute, heading home a Schweinsteiger free kick, exactly as Klose had done for Germany’s second.

But Portugal again came back, scoring three minutes from time through Helder Postiga and forcing Germany to defend desperately at the end.

Man-of-the-match Schweinsteiger said afterwards: ”I’m very happy to have won the game. We eliminated the best team of the tournament in my eyes.”

Germany will meet the winner of the second quarterfinal between Croatia and Turkey in Vienna on Friday in the first semifinal in Basel next Wednesday.

The quarterfinals close with The Netherlands playing Russia in Basel on Saturday and Spain meeting Italy in the Austrian capital on Sunday. The final will also be played in Vienna on June 29.

Turkey face a selection headache in their match with Croatia with coach Fatih Terim having only 17 of his 23-man squad to choose from because of injuries and suspensions. His latest casualty was defender Servet Cetin who has a knee problem.

There was sad news in the Dutch camp where defender Khalid Boulahrouz learnt that his wife had been taken to hospital with pregnancy complications and that his prematurely born daughter had subsequently died.

But Dutch coach Marco van Basten said Boulahrouz had decided to stay with the squad. ”I understand it is very difficult for Khalid and we will all try to support him however we can,” he said. – Reuters

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