Germany and Portugal survive the Group of Death | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.06.2012
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Germany and Portugal survive the Group of Death

Germany have beaten Denmark 2-1 in their final Group B game at Euro 2012. Portugal overcame the Netherlands by the same scoreline in the other fixture. The two winners on the night also progress to the quarters.

German coach Joachim Löw celebrated his first ever perfect showing in a tournament group stage on Sunday evening. Germany scored a second-half winner against Denmark to win their third game of the competition 2-1.

The Germans top Group B with a maximum nine points and will go on to face surprise qualifiers Greece in the quarter finals. Germany's overall record might be flawless but the Danish game itself was anything but easy.

In Sunday evening's other game, Portugal beat the highly-favored Netherlands 2-1 - definitively knocking the Dutch out of the tournament. A pair of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference for Portugal after Rafael van der Vaart put the Oranjes into an early lead. The Netherlands finish with no points, after losing every match they played in the so-called "Group of Death."

Germany's coach Joachim Löw and Lukas Podolski

Poldi had come under some criticism but loyal Jogi had his back

Denmark have also been eliminated; they finished third in the group.

Strong German start

Jogi Löw called upon Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender to fill the hole at the right of defense, with the impressive Jerome Boateng suspended for Sunday's game - otherwise he fielded the same eleven that has started every game in Euro 2012.

The German side raced out of the starting blocks, seeking to mark their superiority even in the knowledge that a draw would have sufficed in Lviv.

The first two major chances fell to right-winger Thomas Müller at the far post, after crosses from Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski. Müller missed the first narrowly, while Danish keeper Stephan Andersen smothered the second.

Germany dominated the early going in probably their strongest single phase of the entire match, though Denmark settled in to provide staunch resistance. A long shot narrowly off target from Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner definitively heralded the Danes' arrival in the game about 13 minutes in.

Poldi scores on his centenary

Germany's Lukas Podolski (R) celebrates after scoring

And the coach's trust was once again repaid, Poldi has 44 goals in 100 Germany games

Arsenal-bound attacker Lukas Podloski became the youngest European in history to reach 100 international appearances on Sunday.

Poldi, who turned 27 earlier this month, marked the occasion by opening the scoring. A low cross from Müller was redirected by Mario Gomez in front of goal, and Podolski was on hand to tidy things up at the back post.

Despite the early deficit, Denmark fought on, and pulled level within five minutes. Bendtner, who headed a brace against Portugal last time out, rose highest to head a set piece towards the goalmouth. Michael Krohn-Dehli redirected that lay-off with a header of his own from close range that left Manuel Neuer no chance in the German goal.

Denmark's equalizer was by no means against the run of play, as the well-organized Scandinavians set about containing German possession and then making the most of their own.

Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner reacts after losing

The Danes go home empty handed, but fought bravely in the toughest group at Euro 2012

Though Germany enjoyed 60 percent of the ball over the course of the match, both sides were similarly efficient with their passing and the shot-count was nearly a dead heat. As against the Netherlands and Portugal before, Denmark proved themselves more than a match for their top drawer opposition.

Long-standing deadlock

As the rather even game threatened to stagnate, both coaches looked to their bench, with Löw introducing Andre Schürrle and Miroslav Klose mid-way through the second period.

Yet the first notable moment in the more tepid second half took place in the German penalty area. Center-back Holger Badstuber appeared to tangle with striker Bendtner, but Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo allowed play to continue. Bendtner got a shot away but couldn't trouble Neuer; Danish fans wanted a penalty instead.

Shortly thereafter, Germany broke away and scored from the most unlikely source. An over-hit pass aiming for Mirsolav Klose ran through the Danish defense and suddenly right-back Lars Bender appeared at the head of the foot-race. The Boateng replacement took the ball in his stride and side-footed it into the bottom corner to put Germany back ahead.

Germany's Miroslav Klose (L to R), Mesut Oezil and scorer Lars Bender celebrate the winning goal

Stand-in defender Lars Bender showed his attacking instincts and scored the winner

Bender was in the German starting lineup for the first time ever, and picked up his first ever German goal from defense.

"I am happy to have had this chance and to have scored - that's a massive present for me, but I am not yet thinking about whether I will be in the first team next time out," Bender said after the game.

The defeat meant that the brave Danes needed the Netherlands to beat Portugal to have any chance of reaching the quarters.

Portugal recover to win, and progress

The Netherlands knew it was all or nothing against Portugal and fielded a suitably attacking side. Creative midfielder Rafael van der Vaart used his chance early and scored the opener. The Dutch needed to win by at least a two-goal margin, so they had to continue pushing forward.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his second goal against Netherlands

Cristiano Ronaldo broke his Euro 2012 duck in style to book a spot in the last eight

Portugal were able to exploit the resultant gaps at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv. Star forward Cristiano Ronaldo went a long way towards exorcising his big tournament demons, scoring a pair of goals to turn the game around.

He latched on to a Joao Perreira pass on 28 minutes to tie the game, and then scored a 74th-minute winner thanks to an assist from winger Nani.

Portugal thus secured second in the group with two wins in three games, Denmark finished third with three points, the Netherlands scored none.

After playing all their group games in Ukraine, Portugal and Germany will now head across to Poland for the next round.

Portugal take on the Czech Republic in Warsaw on Thursday. Germany, meanwhile, face Greece in Gdansk, just a few miles away from their training resort.

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Richard Connor