Much like today’s quarterfinal matchup between the Czech Republic and Portgual, tomorrow’s matchup between Germany and Greece will be an equally enthralling affair, but not for the same reasons. These two teams (and nations) are so intertwined there are many subplots to follow for 90, or even 120, minutes; unfortunately, I cannot cover them all in this preview. Germany comes into the match having taken care of business in the tournament’s “Group of Death.” Greece comes into this match having pulled off one of the big upsets of the tournament, getting a shutout against a nation, Russia, many pundits had coming out of, if not at the top, of a straightforward group.
How Germany can Win: The 2008 European Championship runner up cannot, under any circumstances, underestimate its opponent. As previously stated, Germany faces a much weaker team than anything it faced in Group B, but Greece is by no means a pushover. Assuming coach Joachim Löw keeps the attacking corps intact, expect to see Mario Gomez as the lone
striker, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller running the wings, and Sami Khedira, Bastian Schewinsteiger, and Mesut Özil pulling the strings in the middle. Gomez was active, but a tad subdued against Denmark, so he’ll need to find the form he had in the Holland game and put chances away, not waste them like he did Portugal (his goal in the 72nd minute of that game,
The midfield quintet has effectively commanded the center (and flanks) of the pitch against fellow powerhouses Portugal and Holland, and are likely to do the same against the Greeks. The back four of Lars Bender (or Jerome Boateng), Mats Hummels, Holder Badstuber, and Philipp Lahm have only allowed two goals this tournament. They will not give Greece many chances to take shots on goal, but if Greece gets through the defenders, keeper Manuel Neuer is there to do his job. This defensive quintet have the talent and mentality to stop anything Greece brings to them, but the Germans cannot afford any mental slipups or will fall victim to unexpected goals, just like Poland and Russia.
How Greece can Win: Two disappointing results (1-1 tie vs. Poland and 2-1 loss vs. the Czech Republic) led many to write out the Greeks; then they pulled off a miracle against the Russians. The Greeks defied the odds to win the 2004 European Championships (led by a German coach, Otto Rehhagel), and if they play the way they did against Russia, the Greeks could pull off the impossible once again. The Greeks are the underdogs going into this matchup, and this is their biggest strength. The onus of victory falls on Germany and for most pundits anything short of a win for Germany is a disappointment. However, as Greece has proven in the past, the expected outcome does not always occur.
Greece’s 2004 campaign, and upset of Russia, was built around a stoic defense; they will require the same strategy to have a chance against Germany. Expect to see Greece trot out the same 4-5-1 formation used against the Russians, though they will
play without 35-year old captain Giorgos Karagounis, who is unavailable due to yellow card accumulation. Coach Fernando Santos can opt to insert young midfielder Sotiris Ninis or opt for another veteran presence to replace the captain in midfielder Girogos Fotakis. Greece cannot attempt to outplay Germany, so to win they must stop everything Germany throws at them, make few to no mistakes, and make the most of the limited opportunities they will get in the course of the game.
Our Prediction: Count on Löw to instruct his players to not take Greece lightly; if the players respond, Germany could easily be up two or three goals by halftime. If this happens, expect a 4-0 result. However, I cannot completely write out the Greeks, and if they play the game of their life, this could be tricky game for the Germans. In that scenario, expect a 1-0 win for the Germans or even a surprise PK victory for the Greeks (just think Bayern Munich’s Champions League final loss to Chelsea).