It might have been a slow start from Germany, but Joachim Low’s team began their campaign with a win by defeating Portugal on Saturday night.
The victory in Lviv came courtesy of Mario Gomez’s fantastic header as the striker delivered an example of his career. Here, we look at some of the other major points of discussion
Even Jose Mourinho cheering on from the stands was not enough to help Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal avoid defeat in Group B.
Gomez’s 72nd-minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides in what, in truth, was a forgettable encounter. Low will not be bothered, though, after Germany started with a win in their quest for a first European crown since 1996. What lessons can be taken from Saturday’s match in Lviv?
Gomez’s goal-den touch
Mario Gomez provided a snapshot of his career in the 80 minutes he spent on the pitch. He is often criticised for his lack of mobility and pace, but that is not what his game is about. He is a goalscorer.
With Germany struggling to break Portugal down in the first half, he had just eight touches. After the break, he was similarly isolated.
However, his match-winning header was a superb piece of skill, displaying powerful neck muscles and predatory instincts. Gomez had three shots in total against Portugal. Two were on target and one was scored. He further underlined why he will be a contender for top goalscorer at Euro 2012.
Change in style
Before kick-off, Portugal had drawn 0-0 in three of their last five matches. It is easy to see why. Gone are the dynamic, attacking side so often associated with the Portuguese. Paulo Bento has his team exceptionally well-drilled, at the expense of attacking threat.
Their shape and system dictates that Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani immediately drop deep from a three-man attack with Helder Postiga into midfield when without possession. Supporting Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho, they formed a five-man barrier which Germany found very difficult to break down.
Pictured happily smiling before the game, Mourinho’s attention had been captivated by his mobile phone by the second half. Was it a text, a funny Instagram pic or a football app? Who knows, but it appeared infinitely more entertaining than what was unfolding before the Real Madrid coach and Portuguese on the pitch.
The real Ronaldo?
Cristiano Ronaldo has just enjoyed a phenomenal season at Real Madrid where he plundered 63 goals in all competitions to help claim the Primera Liga title. At Madrid, he has the luxury of playing with team-mates like Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso and Gonzalo Higuain.
At international level, however, his team-mates are not of a similar ilk. If he is off form, like he was against Germany, the whole team struggles. His creativity, pace and goals are a major part of this team’s attacking arsenal. If Portugal are to advance out of this group, they will need Ronaldo at his mesmeric best. It is no exaggeration to say the hopes of a nation rest squarely on his broad shoulders.
The tournament may only be four games old, but there have already been some abject performances from the main strikers. Aleksandr Kerzhakov had a shocker for Russia, Robin van Persie had an off-night for Holland – on the back of what an unnamed colleague described as a ‘lucky’ season for Arsenal – and Postiga joined the club after offering little to the Portugal attack.
Ozil pulls the strings
Germany coach Low has challenged his talented playmaker to score more goals for his country. Ozil has only scored eight times and for a player of his ability, his boss has a valid point.
However, Low would have again been impressed by the Real Madrid star against Portugal. Deployed in the hole behind the burly Gomez, Ozil was a joy to watch. His spatial awareness was excellent and his ability to thread delicate passes was on display all evening. Unfortunately, he was unable to crown his display with a goal, but it is only a matter of time before he adds those to his already formidable game.
The latest Portuguese whizzkid?
The 20-year-old Benfica striker Nelson Oliveira is reportedly being tracked by Real Madrid and Chelsea. His cameo appearance against Germany gave us a fleeting glimpse of his ability.
His darting run and clever reverse pass to Silvestre Varela almost produced the equaliser late on. He definitely looks like one to watch for the future and now.
Coentrao v Muller
Fabio Coentrao might want to be a winger, but he is undoubtedly talented as an all-round footballer. The Real Madrid man, playing at left-back, did a superb job in shackling the dangerous Thomas Muller. He collected a harsh booking, but also completed two excellent tackles. He forced forwards when possible, covering 9,906 metres in total and managing one shot on target. That intent consequently caused Muller to track back.
Like Danish counterpart Stephan Andersen earlier on Saturday, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was also quick to make a meal of a challenge from an opposing striker. Portugal’s Postiga certainly caught Neuer with his trailing leg, but the way the Bayern Munich goalkeeper writhed around, you did not think he would get up again. Hopefully this is not a trend of goalkeepers mimicking outfield players.
Calm in a crisis
It may just have been the interpretation of the tackle, but Joao Pereira’s challenge on Ozil after 11 minutes was a particular eye-catcher. Ozil had skipped into the box and, as Pereira slid in to make the tackle, it also looked as if the right-back had made the conscious effort to pass the ball to a team-mate at the same time. Impressive stuff.