Joachim Low must start the same front four in the Nationalelf's Euro 2012 semi-final, after they effortlessly put Greece to the sword
Most people were surprised when Germany's team-sheet was announced and not one of Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski or Mario Gomez were included in the starting line-up. Up to this point in the tournament, die Mannschaft had not played up to their usual standards, but Greece presented Low with the opportunity to rekindle the dynamic offensive game that made them so enjoyable to watch at the 2010 World Cup and in qualifying by completely reshuffling his front three.
In contrast to their slightly more conservative and defensive approach in the 'Group of Death', Low needed his team to fire on all cylinders to get past a well-organised and defensive Greece. That paved the way for quicker, more creative players like Andre Schurrle, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus. Sure enough, Germany put in their best offensive performance of the tournament and set a new record for most consecutive competitive wins, with 15.
From the get go, die Nationalelf were quicker in their step and more fluid in their movement. The energy of Schurrle and Reus was refreshing compared to the more static Podolski and Muller, while Klose and Ozil picked up where they left off in qualifying and combined effortlessly.
Low's new-look Germany
|3.4||Germany created a goalscoring chance with impressive regularity - under four minutes per effort|
|12||Low will be pleased with the attacking display, but his side could quite easily have doubled their tally after registering a dozen shots on target|
|15||Die Mannschaft set a new world record for the most consecutive competitive victories in international football|
|26||Their huge amount of shots on goal dwarfed those of Greece, who offered up just 10|
|300||The Nationalelf completed a staggering amount of passes in the final third alone. For comparison, Greece completed 78 in total in the first half|
They created 26 goalscoring chances, more than they did in their last two games combined, and completed a whopping 300 passes in the attacking third alone. Those statistics were of course bolstered by Greece's defensive tactics, but 12 of those chances were on target. Technically, Germany created a goalscoring opportunity every 3.4 minutes and could have doubled the scoreline by the end of the night.
Ozil, whose form was a hot topic going into this game, had by far his best performance in the tournament and looked reborn with Klose ahead of him. Also notable was the interchangeability of Reus and Schurrle, who often switched positions and made runs into the centre, something that was missing in the group stage. In fact, on Friday night the front four combined a total of seventy-one times and never looked stale or incapable of threatening the Greeks.
Reus and Klose made a particularly good case for starting in the semi-finals because they make Germany more unpredictable and, more importantly, because they get the best out of Ozil. If Germany are going to go all the way in this tournament they will need the playmaker at his absolute best.
If there is a negative to take away from this game it is the few moments where Germany looked vulnerable when the Greeks countered, a lapse in concentration that captain Philipp Lahm admitted after the game, but the positives far outweigh the negatives here. Low now has a tough decision ahead of the semi-finals; does he revert back to the more cautious line-up from the group stages, or is the improved offensive performance, with Reus and Klose in particular, worth maintaining?
Joachim Low had described Greece as the ultimate "survival artists", and when Giorgos Samaras scored the equaliser on 55 minutes the Germany boss must have bitten his tongue. However, his team survived Greece's fairytale (and turned it into a nightmare) by managing to regain the lead quickly, capitalizing on the many changes Fernando Santos made at the interval.
The Portuguese coach realised at the end of the first half that Sotiris Ninis was a liability on the right flank and brought on Fanis Gekas. It left Dimitris Salpingidis free to play in his favorite position on the right, and he quickly penetrated die Mannschaft's defence by setting up Samaras' goal.
But to beat this Germany, Greece needed to have all the luck on their side and that was not the case on Friday.