A night in Lviv that was more pragmatic than perfect on Sunday saw Germany go through with a 100 per cent record courtesy of a defeat of Denmark.
It was a game that raised a number of talking points, as Die Mannschaft booked a last-eight date with Greece.
Too much, too young?
The young Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen had been vaunted as one of Europe’s best young talents before Euro 2012, but at times during this tournament, that billing has looked too big for him. His creative talents saw him provide 17 assists last season for Ajax, however, playing on the right flank for Denmark against Germany, he was never going to have that seem kind of influence. At just 20, Denmark coach Morten Olsen may be slightly reluctant to build his team around the Ajax forward. Yet, that is probably the responsibility he needs to be handed for his country in order to flourish. Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea all stalked the starlet last term but his displays amongst Europe’s elite indicate he needs a little more time to bloom.
Has Euro 2012 revitalised Bendtner?
After an indifferent campaign on-loan at Sunderland in the Premier League, Nicklas Bendtner is emerging as a player with enhanced credentials from Poland and Ukraine. Known for his immense self-confidence, his displays for Arsenal have not always matched it. However, he has led the line well for his country over this last fortnight. He notched a brace in their defeat against Portugal and had an assist for Michael Krohn-Dehli’s goal against Germany. His all-round contribution to the team has also been impressive. He’s looked fit, sharp and always likely to score a goal. Could his displays for his country convince Arsene Wenger to give him another opportunity at Arsenal? It could well be a punt worth taking.
Krohn-Dehli catches the eye
It is always the beauty of international tournaments that players come to our attention who we otherwise may not have heard of. One such player that springs to mind is Michael Krohn-Dehli. He leaves the tournament having scored 50 per cent of his country’s goals in Euro 2012. The determined nature of the Premier League will mean his gutsy style of play will most certainly appeal to English fans. He ran himself into the ground for the cause but his two goals in the competition were also very well taken. He enjoyed a spell in Holland earlier in his career, playing for RKC Waalwijk, Ajax and Sparta Rotterdam. It proved to be an unspectacular period but aged 29, he now probably has the maturity to go with his talent. Brondby would not stand in his way if another crack at the big time came along. With his experience, heart and talent he could well be a valid option for someone in the Premier League.
Although quite rightly among the favourites to win the tournament, Germany are not without their flaws, and coach Joachim Low will need to address his side’s suspect defending from set-pieces. The ease at which Denmark exploited Germany’s zonal marking to equalise within six minutes of Lukas Podolski’s opener will have has set alarm bells ringing. Quarter-final opponents Greece will no doubt have taken note, as Bendtner knocked on for Krohn-Dehli to guide hope the simplest of headers.
Having scored five goals in six appearances in the last major international tournament, much had been expected of Thomas Muller at Euro 2012. However, despite having a helping hand in Germany’s opener, the 22-year-old has so far fallen well short of the standards he set himself in South Africa two years ago. Although he still carries a valid attacking threat, the Germans have been heavily reliant on the combination of Muller’s Bayern Munich club-mates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez to make things count. Two missed chances early on against the Danes suggest Muller is running low on confidence.
Despite possessing one of the tournament’s joint-top scorers in Gomez, Germany do not appear as reliable in front of goal as initially assumed. Gomez, Muller and Sami Khedira were all guilty of missing the target when better placed to score in the first-half and, had Lars Bender not killed off Denmark’s threat ten minutes from time, the Germans might well have invited an unnecessarily nervy finale. With six shots off target, this could have been a much more comfortable affair for Low’s troops.
Granted, Germany have taken three wins from three, but they’re yet to win comfortably and each victory has come by a slender one-goal margin. Quarter-final opponents Greece know all about winning by slender margins, and Germany must not underestimate the 2004 champions as Low’s side do not look like they have many goals in the tank, contrary to their exhilarating showing at the World Cup two years ago.
Our friends at Opta are always on hand to throw us a fascinating stat or two and tonight was no exception. Germany have scored at least one goal in each of their last 19 games, their longest run since 1989-1991 (20). With Greece up next in the quarter-finals there’s every chance Low’s side will equal that record on Friday. Having progressed to the last eight as the only side with a 100 per cent record Germany are being heavily tipped to win the whole tournament, but it’s worth remembering that only two of the eight teams to previously win all their Euro group games have gone onto win the tournament (France 84 & Spain 08).