Thursday, June 19, 2008

Germany - Portugal Quarterfinal Preview

The group stages are done at Euro 2008 and now it is time for the knockout rounds to begin. We can only hope that these games create the same excitement that the group stages did, and with the matchups that are set, I'd say there's a good possibility for more amazing soccer to be played. Today's game is a matchup between two titans of world soccer, Germany and Portugal. Both sides expect to win the whole tournament, but one is also guaranteed to go home much earlier than expected. Who is going to win this epic matchup? Lets break it down GDB style.

How they got here: Portugal were the winners of Group A, defeating Turkey and the Czech Republic. They lost to Switzerland in their last group game but got a chance to rest all of their major players, which means they should be fresh going into today's game. Their path to success was forged from a dominating midfield and solid defense. They have been a creative squad who have played attractive soccer while at the same time not making any major mistakes on defense. It is safe to say they have the momentum going into this game. Germany on the other hand have stumbled into the knockout round. They only finished second in their group, and have not looked anything like the squad that was termed the favorites to win the tournament. While Podolski has scored 3 goals already, other attacking players like Klose, Gomez and Ballack have been mostly dormant. Their defense has also not been what we would expect from a German side, making uncharacteristic mistakes to inferior competition. They also have major injury concerns with Torsten Frings and Podolski both questionable for today's game.

Possible Starting 11's:
Portugal (4-5-1 Formation)
G - Ricardo
D - Bosingwa
D - Ricardo Carvalho
D - Pepe
D - Paulo Ferreira
M - Joao Moutinho
M - Petit
M - Deco
M - Cristiano Ronaldo
M - Simao
F - Nuno Gomes

Germany (4-4-2 Formation)
G - Jens Lehmann
D - Marcell Jansen
D - Per Mertesacker
D - Cristoph Metzelder
D - Phillip Lahm
M - Torsten Frings
M - Clemens Fritz
M - Lukas Podolski
M - Michael Ballack
F - Miroslav Klose
F - Kevin Kuranyi

(If Frings can't play, he will probably be replaced with Hitzelsperger or Borowski. If Podolski can't play look for Schweinsteiger or Odonkor to fill his place.)

3 Keys for Portugal:

1. Win the midfield. This seems simple enough for a team with so much midfield talent, but today they will go up against the most physical and imposing group they have seen so far. All of Portugal's midfielders players are smallish, and could be knocked off their game by the bigger Germans. Petit is going to be the man who has to keep wraps on Ballack, and if he can slow the German captain down then it will greatly help the Portuguese defenders behind him deal with the German forwards. The other midfielders will have to create the right pace of play for Portugal and create the scoring chances because Nuno Gomes simply does not do enough up front to provide a threat to Germany. It will be imperative for Deco to create chances for Simao and Cristiano Ronaldo if Portugal is to score today.

2. Win the air battle. Germany is known for its heading prowess in the box, and frankly they are due for some goals of this variety. Therefore central defenders Pepe and Carvalho are going to have to be spot-on in their marking and not allow German aerial threats Klose, Ballack and Metzelder to get free in the box. Both central defenders are of a high quality and should do a solid job marking the German attacking players, but it only takes one mistake on a set piece to let all that work go to waste.

3. Be a hero Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite the urging of ESPN commentators everywhere, Ronaldo has yet to be the world's best player at this tournament. He did score an important goal against the Czech, but for long period's of time during each game he has vanished. This is a little shocking because he seems so much more aggressive when playing for Manchester United, yet so far for Portugal he has almost seemed passive in his approach. Its games like today however that cement your status of one of the world's greatest, and Cristiano will have to be the superstar everyone wants him to be for Portugal to advance. He honestly doesn't have to score to be a factor, he just has to be the man that is always a threat to score, which will open up the German defense for the rest of his teammates. Maybe if Cristiano puts up an epic performance i'll drink the Kool-Aid, but to be real with you I'm still waiting to see something more from him.

3 Keys for Germany:

1. Get production from the forwards. Its quite shocking how quiet Miroslav Klose has been so far this tournament. Every major competition i've ever seen he's always looked like the best striker in the world, and yet so far in Euro 2008 he's been about as effective as Eddie Johnson is for America. It doesn't really help that his strike partner Mario Gomez has looked completely unprepared for the occasion. I know he's young, but for someone with so much hype coming in, I expected much more. Today Germany cannot afford another no show from its striking pair. I'm already predicting Gomez to be replaced with the more experienced Kuranyi, and Klose and whoever plays beside him may have to make up for the lost production of Podolski if he somehow doesn't play today.

2. Get mean. I used to always hate German teams because they always seemed like the biggest group of assholes in world soccer. Players like Jens Jeremies and Cristian Ziege were not afraid to get yellow cards and intimidate the hell out of their opponents. Now it seems like Ze Germans have gone a little soft. Players are dying their hair blond, bitching about refs constantly and letting opponents waltz into scoring areas without punishment. One thing is for sure, they better not let Portugal do that or they will get toasted by the superb Portuguese midfielders. This is why its so important to set a physical tone to the game. Take a slide at Cristiano's ankles just to put it in his mind that he's not going to be able to run free all game. Knock Deco around every time he gets the ball so that he cannot freely distribute it around the park. And don't be afraid to throw some goddamn elbows around in the box. This is the evil Mannschaft we're talking about, not some fruitcake Scandinavian team for crying out loud.

3. Don't screw up Lehmann. I swear i cringe every time the German goalkeeper plays the ball, because you never know when you may see the dumbest soccer play in recorded history. He already gaffed once in the Croatia game leading to a goal, and any Arsenal fan can tell you he's about due for another embarrasing screw-up. At this stage of a major tournament against such a talented opponent, any mistake Lehmann will be fatal.


Everybody is burying Germany after such an underwhelming group stage, but the important thing is that they advanced. Now they are only 2 games away from the final and we all know its going to be difficult to knock them out once and for all. For some reason I feel like the Germans, despite their awkward play so far, match up really well with Portugal. The Portuguese love to play a finesse game with free movement and i don't think Germany is going to let them have this. They have so much talent all over the park that it is about time they play an excellent game, and sometimes when your back is to the wall is when teams truly come together to become what we expected them to be all along. Portugal will get some chances simply because their midfield is so full of quality, but I feel they are going to be few and far between. I also think Klose is going to step up for the Germans today and have a huge game. Look for a really tight game at first, with the Germans slowly turning the screws against Portugal. I'm feeling a Klose strike early in the 2nd half to make it 1-0 and then Germany proceeds to turn out the lights on a Portugal side that simply will not be able to match up with the German's physicality. Germany wins 1-0.


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