Group B
Germany 1-0 Portugal



Germany striker Mario Gomez climbs above defender Joao Pereira to head in the only goal of the game to give them a winning start as the Portuguese players watch on 


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Arena Lviv, Ukraine

Red hot favourites Germany kick-started their Euro 2012 campaign with a narrow victory over a resolute and stubborn Portugal in Lviv.  

It had been a game to quickly forget until the final twenty minutes came around with the Germans nicking all three points in a closely fought match courtesy of a well-directed header from Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez in the 72nd minute readjusting quickly after Sami Khedira's cross took a wicked deflection off the back of Miguel Veloso. The Portuguese struck the woodwork twice during the game however once again, similarly to recent friendly matches, their attacking threat wasn't on full view as they are now left trailing in the hotly anticipated chase for finishing in the top two in Group B- described as the Group of Death.

Germany head coach Joachim Loew admitted earlier in the week that he had pondered over the right-back position choosing Jerome Boateng rather than playing midfielder Lars Bender out of position up against the world-class Cristiano Ronaldo despite claims in the media this week that the former had been seen outside at a nightclub on Thursday night. 

The starting line-up contained seven Bayern Munich players- still stewing over the disappointment of losing the league title to Borussia Dortmund and Champions League final to Chelsea- and included ten of their 2010 World Cup squad with only Dortmund defender Mats Hummels making a tournament debut. The 23-year old began instead of Gunners defender Per Mertesacker who hadn't trained fully all week. Birthday boy and prolific goalscorer for his country Miroslav Klose was left on the bench.

Portugal named the team expected to play with no fresh injury concerns for boss Paulo Bento to contend with. Manchester United's Nani started on the right hand side recovering from a foot injury picked up during last week's final warm-up match against Turkey otherwise the line-up was full strength including the irrepressible Ronaldo- the wideman playing in his fifth tournament for his country at the age of 27.

After Holland's shock 1-0 defeat to Denmark earlier in the day, it presented both Germany and Portugal- the group's two other leading contenders to qualify for the quarter-finals- with the ideal chance to move ahead in the standings after round one by claiming three points.

The Germans had won all ten of their qualifying matches but started this match slowly. Having said that, in the second minute Boateng bombed forward down the right sending in a cross towards Gomez who met it with a clean header bringing a cushioned save out of Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Rui Patricio between the sticks for the Portuguese.



Portugal have never been knocked out of the European Championship finals at the group stages.


It was a quiet match played out mainly between the two sets of midfielders. The game's first moment to keep the viewers on their toes arose after thirteen minutes when Helder Postiga slid in to prevent Manuel Neuer from clearing the ball however caught the goalkeeper with his trailing leg giving French referee Stephane Lannoy an excuse to brandish the game's first yellow card.

Arsenal's only summer signing so far Lukas Podolski shot with the outside of his left boot running onto a cutback from the right wing by Thomas Mueller which had travelled all the way over to the left, although Rui Patricio fumbled, he gathered at the second attempt. 

The game was not living up to its billing thus far contested primarily in the centre circle as Germany were attempting various long cross-field passes rather than keeping the ball on the deck in order to stretch the play and open the match up while Portugal looked to their main man Cristiano Ronaldo- scorer of 62 goals last season with Spanish champions Real Madrid- for inspiration.

Podolski had another half chance fall his way on the half hour mark after a simple array of passes from the Germans in the build-up with Phillip Lahm providing the pass into feet for the former Cologne man on the edge of the penalty area in space although he got caught underneath the ball and the effort travelled miles over the crossbar. 

Coach Loew was rallying his German troops from the touchline hoping to lift their spirits. Throughout the first period, soft missiles in the shape of paper balls were being thrown in the direction of the pitch by German fans with UEFA issuing a warning over the PA system that the match will be stopped if it was to continue.

While the Germans were edging possession, they were unable to use this to their advantage in the first half with the Portuguese content to contain keeping their shape and structure well while looking to utilise the counter-attack as their best form of hunting for a goal themselves. Another sighting of the goal was made when a mishit cross from Podolski skipped of the surface evading two Portugal players before making its way to Mueller on the right side of the penalty area who glided wide and didn't trouble the goalkeeper at all.

The best moment arguably of the first half came in its final minute with Portugal coming the closest to finding the elusive first goal as Nani fired a corner into the heart of the penalty area with centre-back Pepe controlling the ball with a deft first touch before sidefooting goalwards towards the top corner of the net. Much to his disbelief, it bounced down off the underside of the crossbar and not over the goalline as the Germans hacked the ball to safety from their perspective.



Germany scored 34 goals in the qualification process (only Holland with 37 managed more) while they only conceded seven (bettened only by Greece who let in five) in the ten matches played.


The Portuguese- knocked out by Germany in the quarter-final stage at Euro 2008- came out of the traps in a more vibrant mood with a short stint of offensive co-ordination at the start of the second half with Ronaldo looking lively as he and former United team-mate Nani switched wingers in the hope of confusing the German full-backs. However, despite the pressure being placed on the Germans, Portugal still couldn't give Neuer anything to worry about as they couldn't find an effort to work the German goalkeeper.

Neither team were really pulling out all the stops or going for broke however there was almost an opening for Ronaldo when the Portuguese winger instantly brought Joao Moutinho's fine through pass under his spell but before he could even blink, former Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng appeared from nowhere to apply a superb block to deny him the chance of shooting and ultimately scoring.

As the match wore on, there was more action for the crowd to get excited about although the balance of play followed a similar pattern to the first half. With a goal looking unlikely, Germany broke the deadlock on 72 minutes when Sami Khedira's cross deflected against the back of Genoa's Miguel Veloso before dropping kindly onto the head of Mario Gomez- who scored 41 times in all competitions for his club Munich last season- who planted a firm header into the bottom right hand corner leaving Rui Patricio with little chance of getting across to keep it out. 

It was a moment which could be vital come the end of the group stages while it also saved him from being substituted for a few minutes at least as Miroslav Klose was prepared to take his place. Nevertheless, the Lazio striker celebrating his 34th birthday on the day was introduced eventually for the goalscorer.

The goal though failed to knock Portugal back despite their Plan A being torn to pieces as they came back stronger desperate for an equaliser responding positively. A wobbling Cristiano Ronaldo effort worried Neuer who got everything behind it including a strong wrist to turn the ball behind as the fiercely low shot moved in the air. Minutes later, Nani's overhit cross was unsuccessful in finding his colleagues stationed in the penalty area but almost flew into the net itself with German hearts in mouths as it spun towards goal and smacked the junction of crossbar and post.

Portugal were just looking for one more opportunity with the clock ticking towards full-time and they got one as a drilled cross along the ground by Nelson Oliveira dribbled through Badstuber to find fellow young substitute Sylvestre Varela of FC Porto who seemingly had all the time in the world until Neuer rushed out to close down the angle making a smothering stop with Hummels going to ground in a state of desperation. 

Nani saw an effort hit against the back of Badstuber after he opened his foot to turn Ronaldo's pass towards goal while from the resulting corner Bruno Alves trotted forward from the back to meet the delivery but his header flashed over the bar. Consequently the Germans, tipped by many to prevail as winners, began with a victory as the Portuguese look ahead to an important clash with Denmark on Tuesday while Joachim Loew's men face the Netherlands also in four days time looking to build on a result picked up without playing the champagne football which was so effective in the 2010 World Cup.



EURO 2012 ANALYSIS:  Germany 1-0 Portugal
Adam Higgins-  Chief Football Editor reporting in Lviv

"The match was a very even one and not thoroughly entertaining on the eye from the neutral perspective mainly played between the two midfields in the first half with the missiles thrown onto the pitch and the Pepe effort against the crossbar in the final few minutes being the best moment of the first 45 minutes. Portugal came back into it in the second period with one or two half chances but ultimately their game plan of containing and playing for a point backfired somewhat- it is understandable against one of the favourites of the tournament having said that they have some realy good players themselves and with the game being tight for so long they could have gone all out and got the three points. The Germans played far from their sparkling best which we saw in the World Cup two years ago but after the earlier result, it was important for them to get a victory. The result was the most important thing."





Saturday 9th June                 UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                Group B                  Arena Lviv, Ukraine

Germany 1-0 Portugal                                    KO 7:45pm                 Live on BBC1/HD                (HT 0-0)

Gomez 72






1 Manuel Neuer-  7/10   Dealt with what he had to do in an efficient manner saving a fine effort from Ronaldo while punching away a number of crosses to safety. 

20 Jerome Boateng-  7.5/10   Preferred to Bender having a generally solid match up against the mighty Cristiano Ronaldo denying him a chance at goal with a superb block in the second half.

5 Mats Hummels-  8/10   Making a first appearance for his country at a tournament- started nervously but grew into the match performing well.

14 Holger Badstuber-  7/10   Quiet match but snuffed out the danger when required reading the game well throughout with some terrific interceptions.

16 Phillip Lahm (C)-  7/10   Got forward from the back but didn't get involved as much as he would have liked. Kept Nani quiet for most of match as well.

6 Sami Khedira-  7.5/10   The Real Madrid star provided the deflected cross for the winning goal by Gomez- mopped up well in the middle of the park passing the ball confidently albeit to players closeby.

7 Bastian Schweinsteiger-  7.5/10   Covered a lot of ground in midfield for the Germans rarely giving the ball away although wasn't in his usual influential stride in terms of his involvement.

13 Thomas Mueller-  7/10   Got stuck in down the right hand side- slid a decent chance wide of the post in first half and got the beating of Coentrao a couple of times in second period.

8 Mesut Ozil-  8/10   Even though he did not have the best of games by his standards, he was man of the match for his efforts in trying to introduce the Germans' passing rhythm and gallop forward with ball at feet taking on the Portuguese midfield trio.

10 Lukas Podolski-  7/10   Had first two shots of game which didn't trouble Patricio with the new Arsenal signing finding it difficult to impose himself up against Pereira down left for Germans.

23 Mario Gomez-  7.5/10  Scored the goal to win the game for Germany although didn't get much of a kick throughout but held up the play quite well working hard off the ball too.

Substitutes bench:-
12 Wiese (GK), 22 Zieler (GK), 3 Schmelzer, 4 Howedes, 17 Mertesacker, 2 Gundogan, 9 Schurrle, 15 Bender, 18 Kroos, 19 Gotze, 21 Reus, 11 Klose.


Subs used:     

Klose (for Gomez- 79 mins)-  3/10  Came on a little later than he expected and went on one fantastic run but didn't contribute much.

Kroos (for Ozil- 86 mins)-  2/10  A skilful playmaker brought on to stop Ozil from tiring ahead of a crucial match with Holland in the next fixture. Barely got a touch of the ball.

Bender (for Mueller- 90+3 mins)-  0.5/10  One of those pointless subs made in an attempt to eat up seconds in stoppage time with the Bayer Leverkusen player on the field for precisely thirty seconds.


Booked:      Badstuber (42), Boateng (69)

Sent-off:      None





12 Rui Patricio-  6.5/10   Didn't have many saves to make during the match while he had no chance in keeping out the Gomez header for the goal. 

21 Joao Pereira-  6.5/10   A full-back who normally loves to get forward and did so a couple of times in first half but mainly he didn't travel over the halfway line.

3 Pepe-  7/10   Good game for central defender who barely put a foot wrong although his position was brought into question for the goal. Hit the underside of crossbar at end of first half.

2 Bruno Alves-  7.5/10   He got about his business without really being noticed- had a nasty bang to the head right at the end after heading over. Was a threat in the opposition box and wasn't really tested in his defensive roles to the maximum.  

5 Fabio Contreao-  7/10   Wasn't afraid to show the attacking side of his game and linked up well with Ronaldo at times down the left. Defensively though, Mueller did get past him once or twice quite easily.

4 Miguel Veloso-  6/10   Gave the ball away a lot in the second half but was alright in the first in terms of keeping his shape and staying in position. Not his greatest display though.

8 Joao Moutinho-  8/10    Put in a lot of important and well-timed tackles while nullified the threat of the likes of Schweinsteiger and Ozil overall.

16 Raul Merieles-  7.5/10  The Chelsea midfielder helped form a midfield trio which did well to stop the creative Germany midfielders getting a grip on the game.

17 Luis Nani-  7/10   Clipped the crossbar albeit from an unsuccessful cross in the second half- wasn't at his astonishing best however still had enough about him to pose a genuine threat.

23 Helder Postiga-  7/10  Harshly booked for a challenge on Neuer early on. One or two efforts at goal throughout and was later substituted but encouraging signs from him for next two games.

7 Cristiano Ronaldo (C)-  7.5/10  Couldn't make his usual impact on the match. Came close in the second half and went on a couple of tricky runs but generally they lacked service to their key man.

Substitutes bench:-
1 Eduardo (GK), 22 Beto (GK), 13 Costa, 14 Rolando, 19 Miguel Lopes, 6 Custodio, 15 Ruben Micael, 20 Viana, 10 Quaresma, 9 Hugo
Almeida, 11 Oliveira, 18 Varela.


Subs used:    

Oliveira (for Helder Postiga- 69 mins)-  4/10  A man with a bright future ahead of him- had one or two decent moments where he looked to get in good areas.

Varela (for Merieles- 79 mins)-  2.5/10  Had a great opportunity to level late on while he saw one or two attempted crosses headed out. Tried to make an impact but ultimately failed.


Booked:      Helder Postiga (12), Coentrao (60)

Sent-off:      None


My Man of the Match:   Mesut Ozil (Germany)- Rating 8/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Miguel Veloso (Portugal)- Rating 6/10 



Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)- 8/10
Attendance: 33,951



Match Facts:

Possession: Germany- 50%              Portugal- 50%

Shots at goal: Germany- 12                Portugal- 11

Shots on target: Germany- 6                  Portugal- 7

Shots off target: Germany- 6                  Portugal- 4

Corners: Germany- 2                    Portugal- 11

Fouls: Germany- 15                   Portugal- 17

Offsides: Germany- 1                   Portugal- 1

Assists: Germany- 1 (Khedira)                   Portugal- 0 





Germany head coach Joachim Loew:  "Gomez has lots of different qualities - one chance, one goal. The important thing was to win. The European Championship is like a Formula One race but without a warm-up. "I spoke with Miroslav (Klose) and he still needs maybe a few per cent at this moment. He hasn't played for quite a while in the preparation. They both trained really well but Gomez has been playing for the whole season, scoring lots of goals. You have to be ready straight away because every team is incredibly strong. There is no team like in the World Cup where you can acclimatise yourself [against them] - Portugal were right there straight away. It's very important not to chase your own shadow - you have to win the first game. Both teams knew the team that lost would have a lot to do in the next game - kind of like a knockout situation. We could have attacked a bit better, but we will do that. The main thing is that we won and we've got these three points." "   

Portugal head coach Paulo Bento:  "It was a very complicated game. We have to do everything to recover now. We have to pick ourselves up quickly, forget about the defeat and move on. We have important matches coming up against Holland and Denmark where we must target to win them both. The Dutch have also been beaten today which nobody expected so they will be up for it in the next match but we have to do what we have to do. I thought there was not a lot between the teams for most of the games and we were doing well until we conceded. We came out to play a bit after that clipped the crossbar and Sylvestre (Varela) had a decent chance to equalise. But it wasn't to be for us today- we have to remember that they are favourites to win the whole tournament and in their first game they will always want to send out a message that they are worthy of winning it. For us to come away disappointed from a 1-0 defeat against a quality team like the Germans shows how much we are improving as a team."


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