UEFA Euro 2008
Portugal 2-3 Germany
A tired maxim, but an important one: never write off the Germans. Once again, they prove that when it comes to clinical finishing and efficient, sharp use of possession, they are still the kaisers. After two poor performances, the Germans once again look like the favourites they were labelled as before the tournament.
Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose looked accomplished and dangerous alongside one another; Michael Ballack, improving more with every game and surely an early candidate for player of the tournament, controlled the centre of midfield with a delightful arrogance.
For Portugal, it’s a typical outcome: mercurial, thrilling and disgustingly talented, but wasteful and disorganised. It’s a disappointing exeunt from international football for Luis Felipe Scolari, who will now make the transition to Chelsea where many of his Portuguese stars, and Ballack, now take residence.
Portugal started off the better side, with Simão’s creativity going forward and Bosingwa’s pace proving troublesome on the right-hand side against Germany’s Philipp Lahm. If it weren’t for an ineffective Nuno Gomes, Portugal should have been a goal up after eleven minutes, after a teasing low ball from Bosingwa failed to be capitalised upon. Moments later, João Moutinho spurned a sitter in front of goal from a Bosingwa corner.
Then, after twenty-two minutes, a move of absolute excellence, with Ballack at its centre.
Klose passed to Ballack, and then a succession of one-touch passes between Ballack and Podolski resulted in a beautifully weighted ball from Podolski, and an unmarked Bastian Schweinsteiger waiting in the eight-yard area. A goal of the highest quality, and certainly up there with the two fine counter-attacking goals scored by Holland against the Azzurri.
Four minutes later, and the Germans were two up thanks to some woeful Portuguese defending. With Ricardo Carvalho nowhere to be seen, Klose rose and headed in unmarked, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo wondering who was meant to be marking the 2006 World Cup Golden Boot winner.
By now, Germany were in complete control of the midfield; but Portugal still threatened when going forward, and Ronaldo managed to put his side back in the game before half-time with his cross-angle run into the area and eventual shot rebounding for Nuno Gomes to finish. Ronaldo then almost equalised for Portugal minutes later, with a shot that just crept past Jens Lehmann’s left-post.
Portugal came out the better side after half-time, with Ronaldo becoming more of a threat. With a questionable spot of gamesmanship by Arne Friedrich, in which he intentionally stood on Ronaldo’s foot after a strong challenge, it was clear to see the threat he was now beginning to pose.
But that was wiped away thanks to some erratic goalkeeping by Ricardo. Ballack, who looked to have pushed his club team-mate Paulo Ferriera to gain an advantage, was there to header in from a Schweinsteiger free-kick that Ricardo failed to deal with.
Scolari later threw on Nani, who consistently threw possession away with thirty-yard efforts and misguided passes — apart from the one moment he actually used his eyes. With Helder Postiga also thrown on, Nani picked him out perfectly with three minutes remaining.
Yet by now, it was too late. Portugal and the world now awaits the talk of where Ronaldo will end up to re-emerge in earnest; while Germany expects once again, with Ballack — perhaps the best leader the Germans have had since a circa. Italia ’90 Lothar Matthaus — only growing in confidence.