The Portuguese perspective: Ben Shave
After a somewhat torrid build-up to Euro 2012, the idea that Portugal coach Paulo Bento will be looking forward to a meeting with many people’s tip for overall glory is perhaps a strange one – all the more so when you consider that Portugal have only tasted victory against Germany once in seven meetings.
The Selecção were eliminated from Euro 2008 at the quarter-final stage by Joachim Löw’s side, and two of the goalscorers on that day, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose, are likely to be involved for Germany once again. But despite only managing a 0-0 against Macedonia and a 3-1 home defeat to Turkey since convening his squad, Bento and his squad remain bullish about their chances.
Bruno Alves, restored to the starting line-up after Ricardo Carvalho’s controversial departure from the international scene, has kept it simple, declaring “to be the best, you must beat the best.” Alves’ central defensive partnership with Pepe, first established during their time together at Porto, will be a vital tool in containing Germany, who are currently at 1.15 to score the most goals in the tournament.
Indeed, the defensive side of the game will likely prove a defining factor tomorrow evening. Turkey punished sporadic lapses in concentration last weekend, and with Löw’s side presenting a far more potent threat, Bento’s assertion that “against a team like Germany you need to be organised” looks like a no-brainer.
Although expectations at home have been severely dampened of late, Bento will undoubtedly base his hopes on the ability of Portugal’s attacking stars to come up trumps. Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious focal point, with the captain having netted nine times since his former teammate’s appointment in September 2010. The ability of of full backs João Pereira and Fábio Coentrão to contribute going forward whilst also covering their defensive duties will also be telling.
In the tournament’s most competitive group, Portugal must avoid defeat in order to maximise their chances of progressing. A draw (3.30) would represent a solid result, whilst a victory (3.75) would obviously silence the dissenting voices back at home.
Score prediction: Germany 3-1 Portugal
Germany 3-1 at 18.00; both teams to score at 1.67; Ronaldo to score at 2.75.
The German perspective: Terry Duffelen
Despite a couple of unconvincing performances in pre-tournament friendlies, Germany have a settled and confident team, with only a few areas uncertainty.
Joachim Löw is well known for his loyalty and will be divided as to whether to pick Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez. Klose has the international pedigree but has recently been injured, while Gomez has picked up a reputation for choking on the big stage despite his impressive club record. At the back, the excellent form of Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels should see him get the nod over Per Mertesacker as Holger Badstuber’s defensive partner.
It is in midfield, though, that Germany will beat Portugal. In Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Özil, the Germans have a strong blend – Schweinsteiger is the engine room; Özil the artist.The Real Madrid player is not prolific in front of goal for his country but is always capable of producing moments of great quality.
Other key figures will be wide men Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller. Podolski’s pace will unsettle Portugal, while Müller is a more tactically disciplined player and may spend more time helping out his own full-back (probably Jerome Boateng). This is of particular importance since the young Bayern player will most likely be going toe-to-toe with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Score prediction: Germany 2-1 Portugal
Özil to score at 12.50; Germany 2-1 at 8.75; Gomez to score a header at 5.00.