Euro Cup 2012: Germany vs Greece - Preview
Warsaw (Poland): Greece progressed from their group against all odds. Poland and Russia were both easily recognizable as the teams with far greater quality. The fact that Greece benifited from qualifying on the basis of the head-to-head rule implies that they did so by the skin of their teeth. Germany on the other hand faced the "Group of death" and came out unscathed. In fact, they dominated their group by winning all three games. The manner in which these two sides advanced is as dissimilar as their styles of play.
Since the 2006 World Cup, the Germans have moved from strength to strength pursuing a footballing philosophy that they now seem to have conquered. Their dedication to a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation coupled with their desire to pass the ball quickly has been a breath of fresh air. Their defense has improved significantly in the past couple of years too. However, so far in the competition we have only seen glimpses of the swashbuckling football we know they are capable of. The frightening truth is that Germany have managed to overcome Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark without really getting out of second gear. Having said that, history teaches us that the Germans don`t often take a tournament by storm but rather steadily improve and gain momentum as the competition draws closer to its conclusion.
Greece achieved the impossible at Euro 2004 when they beat Portugal in the final to register their biggest and most memorable night in football. Since then, Greece have failed to reach similar heights but haven`t drifted off into obscurity either. On the contrary, they have certainly made their presence felt at this year`s tournament. They were quite literally the least favoured team to progress but yet again that fighting quality and determination came to the fore and the Greeks pulled off an upset to qualify for the next round where they meet the Germans.
The political subplot brings additional intrigue to this encounter as the debt-stricken Greece will have an opportunity to knock Germany out of the tournament, their most critical creditor. Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis admitted after their final group game that the financial hardship in their country is an added motivation for the players to succeed.
Style of play:
The Greeks adopt a simple and efficient system perfectly suited for a team lacking in quality. The objective is to run hard, defend resiliently and break quickly on the counter. It`s simple enough to understand but the execution demands complete dedication to the cause and a work ethic that some some of the best players in the world would struggle to match up to. On paper they set up in a 4-3-3 formation but in actuality it is a 4-5-1 for most of the game considering they don`t see much of the ball. The backline works tirelessly to track their runners and block shots coming in while Katsouranis operates as a sweeper in front of the defense. Karagounis is their captain and driving force from midfield. Gekas plays as the lone striker feeding on scraps whose priority is to hold the ball up and wait for the support of his wingers.
Threat: They never stop running and if the Germans aren`t careful they could be outmuscled by the Greeks rather than outplayed. They have an incredible desire to get up the pitch quickly on the break and if the Germans don`t retreat with similar enthusiasm they could be made to pay. They are good from set-piece situations, something which the Germans aren`t comfortable with.
Weakness: For all the hardwork and determination, if you don`t play football every now and then you won`t win matches. They will be massively outclassed by the Germans and their chances of advancing to the semi-finals will be riding on a prayer. Karagounis is suspended for the quarterfinal and that could hurt them bad.
Style of play:
Germany`s latest generation has brought with it a revolutionary style of playing football. Joachim Low`s philosophy of releasing the ball quickly and keeping it moving has benifited the side`s attacking threat and ensures that they dominate possession. The fluidity of the 4-2-3-1 system allows their attacking players to flourish. The triple threat of Podolski, Muller and Ozil are notorious for pinging the ball around with speed before spotting the right opening and threading a ball through it. The two central midfielders support the build up play in attack and work hard in defense. Their style of play is largely possession based and they even bettered Spain in that department in the Euro 2008 final in which they registered 54% of possession but lost the game 1-0. They remain the only team to achieve that in Spain`s last twenty encounters in tournaments.
Threat: Their quick passing and interplay can leave any team chasing shadows. Ozil drifts out to the right or left, often losing his marker and creating havoc down the flanks. In Gomez they have a striker in form who will definitely not be lacking in service.
Weakness: The goal they conceded against Denmark came from a set-piece where they have been unconvincing in defending. Taking advantage of a dead-ball situation may be Greece`s best chance of defeating Germany.