Germany too strong for Greece
By George Georgakopoulos
Germany thrashed Greece 4-2 to advance to the semifinals of the European Championship on Friday, with the Greeks returning home with bittersweet memories from this quarterfinal at Gdansk, northern Poland.
The 15th straight win for the Germans in a competitive game came in relatively easy fashion, as in the first half Greece chose to defend without asking any questions at its opponent's defense, while in the second half the Greek defense showed little of the quality the world of soccer has associated it with.
In fact, German coach Joachim Loew fielded his second-choice strikers, keeping Mario Gomez, Lucas Podolski and Thomas Mueller out of his starting 11, with Gomez and Mueller coming on late in the second half.
Greece, on the other hand, definitely missed the spirit and creativity of suspended Giorgos Karagounis. The Greece captain would have rallied his troops much better when Giorgos Samaras's equalizer in the 55th minute temporarily pointed to yet another Greek miracle.
The Germans missed plenty of chances in the first half and would have felt hard done by had they not got to score before the interval.
Eventually, Philipp Lahm opened the score six minutes from half-time with a spectacular swerving shot from 20 meters out that beat Greece keeper Michalis Sifakis, to the joy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who rose on her feet to clap with her hands up high.
It was most telling that German keeper Manuel Neuer spent about one minute standing near the halfway line as there was absolutely no threat to his goal by the Greeks at the time.
Greece's only real challenge to the German defense came from a Sotiris Ninis shot that Neuer dealt with in two times.
In the second half Greece coach Fernando Santos withdrew left-back Giorgos Tzavellas, who had picked up a light injury in Thursday's training and brought on Giorgos Fotakis, while Ninis came off for Fanis Gekas to step in.
The changes had an immediate impact on the national team that started believing in itself and got to score from its first chance: Fotakis tried a long ball for Dimitris Salpingidis down the right, and he crossed the ball into the box with Samaras getting to the end of it to beat Neuer. Delirium followed among the 5,000 Greece fans at the stands, but it proved to be short-lived.
Sami Khedira made it 2-1 six minutes later with the best goal of the match as his one-time volley from inside the box was simply impossible for Sifakis to handle.
Worse was to follow for Greece as Miroslav Klose scored heading the ball in from a freekick near the corner spot in the 68th minute as the Greek defense was left stranded.
German debutant in the tournament Marco Reus sealed Greece's fate with the fourth German goal in the 74th, although Greece did pull one back in the 89th through a well-placed Salpingidis penalty.
It was the only match in which Greece scored twice in this tournament, in the course of which it had one win, one draw and two defeats.