Germany manages their way around Portugal

The German national team

For most of the first 71 minutes in Germany's opening Euro 2012 match against Portugal, nothing much happened. Then Mario Gomez, who has a bit of a reputation of not having played well at the international level, deftly headed in a deflected ball fed to him by Sami Khedira. It was sweet vindication for Gomez, who has shined in the Bundesliga (at Stuttgart until 2009, and since then at FC Bayern Munich), but for years has had to play behind Miroslav Klose on the national team.

The world's most expensive footballer, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, was quiet for most of the game, aside from a few tantrums when his team-mates failed to get him the ball. There were moments that Portugal pressed forward and set up opportunities, so Germany's defence has to be credited. If there was anything that had German fans concerned in the buildup to this competition, it was the relative inexperience of their back four. Holger Badstuber plugged the middle at centre back, and Mats Hummels, aside from one small blunder, played quite well, and may have earned a permanent spot in the starting 11.

The Dortmund defender was a surprise in the starting lineup, as Bundestrainer Joachim Löw chose to rest Per Mertesacker, who is still recovering from injury. There was talk that Jérôme Boateng
would have to sit out the match as punishment for some midweek carousing, but luckily he played and did some top-notch defending of Ronaldo.

The game Portuguese squad was dangerous in the opening 10 minutes, but then seemed to settle into an uncreative game of wait and see. It was only after Germany's goal, that they appeared to decide to get serious. Those last 20 minutes were on a much different level of excitement. Portugal's manager Paulo Bento made two substitutions late in the second half that almost made a huge difference. First Nelson Oliveira came on in the 70th minute and only 10 minutes later was followed by Silvestre Varela. These two nearly provided the Portuguese with the equaliser they so desperately wanted.

Oliviera had an astounding run up the central left side and made a reverse pass into the middle where Varela was waiting. Germany's goalkeeper Manual Neuer skillfully smothered the shot and deftly handled what seemed to be Portugal's last gasp effort.

Next up for the German side is the Netherlands, who lost earlier in the day against Denmark. The match on Wednesday will be crucial for the Oranje, who must feel their backs are now against the wall. The Germans might have beaten the Dutch 3-0 in a recent friendly, but they are aware of the danger of underestimating their neighbours to the west.


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