Germany Need Strategic, Personnel Adjustments to Beat Portugal | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.06.2008
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Germany Need Strategic, Personnel Adjustments to Beat Portugal

Portugal are favored in the first Euro 2008 quarter-final, after Germany stumbled through the group stage. But if the Germans make a few key changes, they could upset Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.

Germany's Torsten Frings lies on the field

Germany can recover -- with or without Frings

Germany coach Joachim Loew won't be on the sidelines after picking a one-game suspension for a minor referee fracas. But he can do more to help the squad before the match than during it.

Germany's main worry against the Portugese, who qualified easily in Group A, has to be slowing the offensive momentum of Ronaldo, Deco and Portugal's other attackers.

Obviously, to have a chance, Germany will need to play with more passion and precision than they did against either Croatia or Austria.

But a few alterations in strategy and personnel wouldn't hurt either.

Get the Defense Sorted

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, center, runs with the ball

German defenders need to be very attentive to this man

With Marcell Jansen now likely removed from the starting back four, it's time for Loew to address Germany's other main defensive deficit -- central defender Christoph Metzelder.

Coming off injury, Metzelder has looked too slow and cumbersome to be of much use against Portugal's speedy strikers, but Germany have some options.

One would be to move Arne Friedrich, who was decent against Austria, into the middle -- a position he often plays for his club Hertha Berlin. In that case, Clemens Fritz, whose pace might help him against Ronaldo, could be switched to right back.

Another would be to promote Heiko Westermann, who had a fine season with Schalke, to the starting eleven.

Security at back is essential for Germany to avoid getting pinned in their own half and help address another of the squad's problems.

Linking back and front

Germany's Michael Ballack, left, is congratulated by his teammate Arne Friedrich

Germany could use a more aggressive Ballack

Against Poland in their first group match, Germany were able to control the midfield and generate chances with their short passing game. Versus Croatia there was little link-up between defense and attack -- a problem that needs to be addressed.

A cracked rib could keep Torsten Frings out of the line-up, but Loew could voluntarily rest the Bremen midfielder, who has been ineffectual at freeing up captain Michael Ballack for forays into the opponent's half.

A possible replacement would be Thomas Hitzlsperger, whose high-velocity long-distance shot earned him the nickname "Der Hammer."

Germany's Miroslav Klose, left, celebrates with teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger

Schweinsteiger looks set to return to the starting eleven

Another option would be Simon Rolfes. He had eight goals for Leverkusen this year despite playing a classic stopper position in front of the back four.

Whatever tack Germany decide to take, their midfield needs to keep far enough up the field to be able to supply their strikers.

Thus, Loew will almost definitely give the offensively minded Bastian Schweinsteiger, who's coming off a one-match ban, his first start of the tournament.

The best way to stop Cristiano Ronaldo is to prevent him from getting the ball, and the best way to do that is keep the ball yourself.

Ace in the Hole?

Germany goalie Jens Lehmann (1) makes a save on the penalty kick during the shootout in the quarterfinal World Cup soccer match between Germany and Argentina

Lehmann could get a chance to repeat his 2006 heroics

Germany won't make its starting line-up known until shortly before the match. But Loew would probably like to move up Lukas Podolski, Germany's leading goal-scorer thus far, and replace Mario Gomez, who seems to have completely lost confidence.

But Podolski is also ailing so Gomez may get a chance at redemption. A few more opportunities in the form of precise passes and crosses from Germany's midfield might help Gomez and strike partner Miroslav Klose find their rhythm.

And if Germany can score first, they have an even chance of at least getting a draw -- and at reaching a stage of the match at which Germans are historically very good.

Germany are 5-1 in penalty shoot-outs in international competitions -- with their most recent win coming against Argentina, a side very similar to Portugal, in the 2006 World Cup.

Portugal are no slouches in this area, either. They're 2-0 in penalty shoot-outs, winning most recently against England at the 2006 World Cup, with keeper Ricardo saving three to send Portugal through.

Still, for an out-of-form Germany, just getting to a shoot-out would be a triumph against the odds.

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