Germany started their Euro 2012 campaign with a vital 1-0 victory over Portugal on Saturday. After a sluggish first half, a goal by Mario Gomez was enough for the win.
Germany maintained their reputation for starting slowly in major tournaments on Saturday evening in Lviv, Ukraine. The dynamic, care-free attacking football that marked Germany's play in the World Cup in South Africa 2010, for instance, was strangely absent on a slightly damp night, especially in the first half.
Only attacking midfielder Mesut Özil seemed to offer any creativity in the midfield for the Germans. One of his killer passes set up Germany's best chance on the 30th minute, when he cut a low ball to Lukas Podolski at the back of the Portuguese penalty area, rather than sending in a high cross to the far post. But Podolski miscued and the ball sailed high into the Ukrainian night.
The Germans might also have been aggrieved when French referee Stephane Lannoy stopped play for a foul on Sami Khedira, whose pass sent Mario Gomez – preferred to Miroslav Klose – clear on goal. Gomez scored, but the whistle had already gone.
But if the Germans looked ponderous, Portugal looked no better. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo – who carries extra burdens for his national team – only rarely showed glimpses of his genius, and the only other source of danger for the Germans was the winger Nani.
Germany started brightly in the second half, when Thomas Müller suddenly found himself in space on the right within a minute of the kick-off. But the chance went begging, and Germany soon found themselves bogged down once again for the best part of the second half.
The goal then came by the simplest means in the 72nd minute. Bastian Schweinsteiger had just been denied a cross from the right, when Khedira picked it up outside the penalty area. His cross was deflected off Joao Moutinho, and Gomez steered a perfect header back across the goal and into the far corner.
Portugal then poured forward in the final 18 minutes, and created several good chances – it took heroic blocks from defender Jerome Boateng and particularly goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to save the day.
German coach Joachim Löw said afterwards he was happy with the German team's performance as a whole, but he recognized that the first half was relatively cagey.
"You're always under pressure in the first game," he told state broadcaster ARD. "You don't want to go behind in the first game."
Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Spencer Kimball