Not only was this a battle of the richest Eurozone nation versus its most economically troubled country but the teams reflected in talent what their overall balance in their national banks say.
Greek manager Fernando Santos also didn't have his heart and soul player on the field, Giorgos Karagounis, who had to sit this one out because of his second yellow-card in their last game.
During the Greek National Anthem, the fans displayed the Greece flag upside down... a distress signal!
On the other hand, German manager Joachim Low had to not be very worried being that he took out his front three starters for what it looked like rest for the semifinals. That raised more than a few eyebrows before the game's start. Still, however unorthodox, it showed great confidence in his bench and team that they could win yet another game in this tournament.
If you were Coach Santos, what would you do? Well, what he did was to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 which was essentially a 9-0-1 formation conceding the middle third of the field. His decision was in effect him agreeing with the analysis of the world that, on paper, Greece stood no chance against the emerging top team in the world. The point of this wasn't to just go out and sit in front of the goal. It's purpose was to frustrate Germany's front six... or in this case eight and to counter attack on the bored other three Germans.
The hope is to also lull the keeper, Manuel Neuer, to sleep as he would steadily creep up to the midfield. Almost at the first German touch of the ball, the back ninr would run back to the midfield stripe into that 4-2-3 alignment. This is to continue until a certain time in the game when the entire team would play normally and very intensely. In a 90 minute game, the Greeks had no chance. In a 10 minute game...perhaps. The strategy had been used successfully before to win a World Cup. Could it be successful here as well?
For soccer enthusiasts, it was a treat to see. For those who like action films instead of romances, it was boring. Exactly the point. Could the Greeks stay disciplined and could the Germans see the Greeks as any kind of threat? Well, for the first 15 minutes, it worked like a charm. The Germans didn't need to use any skill whatsoever. No adrenalin, no sweat, but loads of stress. They kept shooting the ball off target while the Greeks kept their back four as tight as possible in order to catch the Germans offsides.
For the first 30 minutes it worked! The Germans were getting frustrated. The Greeks caught them offsides on what looked like the breakthrough goal. Then, in the 28th minute the Greeks had a real chance which should have woken up Neuer and the rest of the German defense as the German keeper cleared the ball. Greece almost caught him napping in front of an open goal.
Coach Low was so beside himself that he left the bench for a moment. It was working! Then, in the 38th minute, Greece made a terrible mistake. German captain and defender Phillip Lahm breached the middle tier of Greeks and before he reached the back 4, he struck a shot that he will never forget. He hit the ball hard from the left side across the face of the goal. Greek goalie Michalis Sifakis got a finger on the ball, but it still went in. Germany 1-0. If it had not been deflected.... well, it was deflected and now we were going to see if Coach Santos was going to stay true to the game plan. He did.
Halftime came and we were all waiting to see if he would stay true to the plan. He did.... and it was working. Germany couldn't believe it. They were looking forward to a straight up match in which they could rip the Greeks apart.
Then, 10 minutes into the half, Greece got the chance they were setting up all game. They stole the ball and made a deep pass for Dimitris Salpingidis who proceeded to make a run to the outside right of the box. He got there and then played a ball back just out of reach of Neuer. Jérôme Boateng fell asleep for just a split second and allowed Giorgos Samaras the inside route towards the goal. Samaras slid and hit the ball just under a bewildered and surprised Neuer. Germany 1, Greece 1. Game on.
I have used this strategy before. It does work if you are focused on defending and the referees are keen looking for offsides. When your team scores that goal, the other side is usually in disbelief while yours is euphoric! Now, when that goal is scored, the mettle of both teams emerges. Will Germany continue to be frustrated as their coach was on the sidelines, or will they refocus and not panic. Will Greece get lost in their joy that they forget to do the things that kept Germany with only one goal even though they had 70 percent of the possession.
The answer to that question laid in the hands of quiet-but- sure German midfielder Sami Khedira. Two minutes after the shocker, he found himself watching, and taking part in a series of the endless passes Germany had in front of the goal. He was on the top of the penalty box and saw Boateng take the ball down to the right end-line. Many of the greatest goals in history were taken just outside the six yard box. Khedira must have remembered that. He took off to some rare open space outside of the six and met the Boateng cross with a volley that the fans in Berlin watching went wild over! It was a vicious hit in which the ball bounced off of the net and back unto the field! Germany 2 - Greece 1.
Now, when that second goal goes in, despair goes into the hearts of the defending team. It took 58 minutes to score their first goal and now Neuer understood the strategy with only 40 minutes left. Sometimes, the game is then over. In this case, it was. Germany figured out that they just had to be patient for nine people can't cover a space of 18 yards totally. Unfortunately, one of Germany's most accomplished goal scorers was one of those that learned the lesson. In the 68th minute, Mesut Özil delivered a free kick on the edge of the six. Miroslav Klose was there. Greek goalie Sifakis came out, but did not get his hand on the ball to punch it in. Klose was able to drive the ball into the goal. Germany 3, Greece 1.
Now, the Greeks could not wait for a 10 minute game. They had to go now. Odds of Greece beating Germany for over 20 minutes was poor.
Marco Reus who started for legendary Thomas Müller had a chance to make his point that he should be on the field more. In the 74th minute, he drove Klose's deflected shot so hard, that it bounced around the inside of the goal for an eternity! Germany 4-1.
The Greeks would show character however and not give up. They fought bravely and earned a penalty kick after a German handball. Salpingidis was chosen to take the kick and he buried it. Germany 4, Greece 2.
Greece gave their all but the right result happened.
I congratulate both coaches on a job excellently done. Both coaches showed that they are at the top of their game and we will be hopefully seeing both of them two years from now.
France v. Spain tomorrow!!
God Bless You All.
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