Germany Euro 2012 Focus - A tricky opener
On Saturday, Germany open their Euro 2012 campaign in Group B with a tricky but enticing match against Portugal. Whilst in confident mood, the Germans despite being one of the favourites are trying to down play expectations, being in the clichéd Group of Death.
Germany appear to have overcome their injury concerns and may have a full strength squad to select from, but have already warned against underestimating Portugal. There should be no doubting that Portugal’s main threat will come from their traditional strength - the flanks. Cristiano Ronaldo will probably play on one the left wing with Nani right.
Interestingly, the German captain, Philipp Lahm, in confirming he will play at left-back during the tournament, revealed there are no special plans to deal with the Real Madrid star. Lahm told FIFA.com: "[Ronaldo] is a complete player and we have got to defend him as a team. You cannot go one on one against Ronaldo."
Whilst understandable to a degree, keeping Ronaldo quiet may be an important element to the whole match. The Portuguese midfield, without Hugo Viana, who is likely to start on the bench, has little creative threat, and Nani or Quaresma on the right have not had the greatest of seasons. Ronaldo by contrast has been in fantastic form. Likely to line up on the left, he has a great understanding with club mate and left-back Fabio Coentrão, whose forward runs give Ronaldo space to cut inside.
Germany will probably line up Jerome Boateng, a centre-back by trade, against him at right-back. Germany will be looking to support Boateng, depending where the play is on the pitch, through the covering Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira or Per Mertesacker, though if Ronaldo can isolate Mertesacker, Germany may have problems.
Despite the threat from the flanks, Germany in their customary 4-2-3-1 formation may have too much for Portugal in the midfield. Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger will anchor defensively, allowing Mesut Őzil, Muller and Lukas Podolski more freedom in their attacking midfield roles, supporting the lone striker - either Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez. They will be helped by the fact that while Portugal may deploy three central midfielders they only have one true defensive midfielder - Custodio, who is unlikely to start.
Under Joachim Lőw, Germany have constantly evolved their style; with the emphasis on quick, one-two touch passing and pace - especially on the counter attack and on pressing the opposition. Arguably, two years ago, Germany were more prepared to sit back and hit opposition on the counter attack. Now the team has more mobility, more energy and play a pressing game from higher up the pitch, recovering the ball in the opposition half to start attacks, an advantage against the combative but less mobile Portuguese centre-backs.
Die Mannschaft look a better balanced team than the Portuguese and carry more threat throughout. While Portugal will be tricky opposition, the expectation would be for Germany to take an opening victory.
Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.