After Greece’s surprise win against Russia on Saturday night and Germany’s 2-1 victory over Denmark in the European championships on Sunday, the two countries will now face each other in a quarterfinal on Friday. Given the tensions, the prospect has filled Greeks with hope that, on the football pitch at least, they will be able to come out on top.
“Bring us Merkel,” demanded Goal News after the defeat of Russia. “You will never get Greece out of the euro.” The German chancellor was also the subject of various bellicose chants in Omonia Square on Saturday night, when football fans bedecked in blue and white and waving flags descended into the centre of Athens and indulged in a brief outpouring of national pride.
Captain Giorgos Karagounis, star of Greece’s legendary 2004 championship victors and scorer of Saturday’s winning goal, said the country’s debt woes had encouraged the players to perform on the pitch. “When we left Greece, we all said, ‘Really give it everything,'” he told reporters. “We would have anyway, but the [hardship] made us fight more.”
Twitter was awash with jokes ahead of the piquant Friday showdown. “If Greece get Germany in the quarterfinals, will Angela Merkel try to tell the Greeks how many goals they have to concede?” wondered @Nndroid.
Group of Death
Germany advanced to the quarterfinals as defender Lars Bender scored his first international goal to seal their 2-1 win over Denmark.
After Portugal’s 2-1 win over Holland in Kharkiv, another three points at Arena Lviv confirmed Germany as Group B winners with three victories while Portugal progress as runners-up from the so-called “Group of Death”.
Lukas Podolski, who was making his 100th appearance for Germany, celebrated his century with the opening goal on 19 minutes which was cancelled out by a Michael Krohn-Dehli just five minutes later before Bender’s late winner.
“Independent of the goal, that was my first start [for Germany], so it was something special,” beamed Bender.
“We were trying to get that second goal, I just saw the goal in front of me and it was a bit lucky.
“I am not used to being in that position but it felt good to be there.”
Having made his debut in the 2-2 friendly draw with Poland last September, the 23-year-old Bender was making his ninth appearance for Germany, while twin brother Sven, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, was cut from the squad.
Both coaches made only essential changes to their start line-ups.
Germany’s Joachim Loew opted for Bayer Leverkusen’s Bender at right-back for Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng, who was suspended after picking up a yellow card in their 2-1 win over Holland last Wednesday.
Likewise, Denmark’s Morten Olsen brought Jakob Poulsen into the midfield for veteran forward Dennis Rommedahl, who damaged his hamstring in their 3-2 defeat to Portugal.
The Germans started at pace and only a superb block by Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen from a Thomas Mueller low drive on six minutes denied the Germans.
Germany got the break through when Mueller fired his pass across the Denmark goal and Gomez let the ball roll for man-of-the-match Podolski to drill his shot home for his 44th international goal.
The Germans held the lead for five minutes before Bendtner headed back from a corner and Krohn-Dehli, who also scored in the Danes’ shock 1-0 win over Holland, got his head to the ball before the German defence.
It was 1-1 at the break but midfielder Jakub Poulson, in for hamstring injury-victim Rommedahl, clipped the post with his shot on 51 minutes.
The game’s tempo dropped noticeably in the second-half with Germany’s midfield star Mesut Ozil looking flat as the Danish defenders constantly thwarted the Germans.
Podolski was brought off with 25 minutes left as Leverkusen’s Andre Schuerrle was given his chance and he soon tested Andersen with a shot.
With ten minutes to go, Germany counter attacked at pace. Ozil squared for the grateful Bender and the right-back calmly slotted past Andersen to seal victory. – Guardian, AFP