Germany ready to play Greece
Few in Germany look back on EURO 2004 with any fondness. That Greece were crowned European Champions eight years ago was the cherry on top of what was a disastrous tournament for die Nationalmannschaft. Coming into the competition as huge underdogs the Greeks managed to spoil the party thanks to Otto Rehhagel and his rock-solid defensive tactics.
EURO 2012 is very reminiscent of that time. Once again no one gave the Greeks much chance of making an impact with their reliance on remaining tight at the back and once again they have a chance to knock out one of the tournament favourites in the form of the German national team.
"Logically the favourites"
That the quarter final tie has both sporting and political connotations surrounding it has created a tense atmosphere in both countries ahead of the encounter. Interesting will be how the Greek fans react to having German chancellor Angela Merkel in attendance in Gdansk, but head coach Joachim Löw was determined to keep the focus on the football. "The politics should be left out," said the 52-year-old. "I feel it will be a very tough game as Greece are very good defensive and counter attacking unit. We've got to prepare for this, but one thing we won't do is under-estimate the Greeks."
The Germany head coach is confident his side have the tools at their disposal to overcome their latest obstacle. "Teams maybe better at defending and therefore we've got to move the ball quickly in order to create pressure. You need patience so as not to open up the game," continued Löw. "I've heard people refer to them as the 'Chelsea of the Mediterranean', but I don't see it that way. Greece play good combination football and they'll obviously be aiming to keep a clean sheet."
Enlarge image Germany's coach Joachim Loew juggles with a ball (© dpa) The EURO 2004 winners biggest concern ahead of the match will be the loss of suspended captain Georgios Karagounis, but Löw is already prepared "for another player who will certainly have his own qualities." However, when asked about Germany's status as favourites, the head coach adopted a more cautious approach. "Tomorrow we're logically the favourites. We can deal with that, but knockout games have a character of their own so it won't always be case that the favourite automatically reaches the next round. We all saw what happened to Russia."
"Whoever plays against us will have to be spitting blood"
The DFB select need to be prepared to face a highly motivated team of players who will be willing to throw themselves in harms way for the sake of their side. Greece's head coach Fernando Santos put it in the most dramatic of ways. "We may not be the best, but whoever plays against us will have to be spitting blood by the end of the match if they want to beat us," said Rehhagel's 57-year-old successor.
Meanwhile his German counterpart, who is expected to reintroduce Jerome Boateng to the starting line-up in place of Lars Bender, wants his side to counteract their opponent's defensive set-up with neat attacking football. "The vision and philosophy of our forward play will remain unchanged," stated Löw.
Germany: Neuer - Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm - Schweinsteiger, Khedira - Müller, Özil, Podolski - Gomez
Greece: Sifakis - Torosidis, Papadopoulos, Sokratis, Tzavellas - Katsouranis, Makos, Maniatis - Salpingidis, Samaras - Gekas
• Germany have never been eliminated in the quarter finals of the European Championships since the knockout stage was first introduced in 1996. That year they beat Croatia 2-1 and in 2008 they secured a 3-2 victory over Portugal.
• Greece have reached the knockout stages of a major tournament for only the second time. In 2004 the Greek national team remained unbeaten after the group stages courtesy of 1-0 wins against France, the Czech Republic and Portugal en route to winning the title.
• Germany have never lost an international encounter with Greece (five wins, three draws). Die Nationalmannschaft only possess longer unbeaten streaks against Poland (17), Albania (14) and Malta (9).
• The last time these two sides met was eleven years ago during the qualification stages of the 2002 World Cup. Germany won 2-0 in Hamburg (Goals: Deisler, O.G. Eleftheropoulos) before recording a 4-2 win Athens in March 2001 (Goals: Rehmer, Ballack, Klose, Bode - Charisteas, Georgiadis).
• The only remaining players from those squads are the suspended Giorgos Karagounis, Nikos Liberopoulos and Miroslav Klose who scored in the 82nd minute to put Germany 3-2 ahead.
• Manuel Neuer has been on the winning side in each of his last 13 international appearances to equal a DFB record set by Bernd Schuster. The FC Bayern Munich keeper can set a new best mark by achieving a similar feat against Greece.
• Greece will be without one of their key players in the form of the suspended Giorgos Karagounis. The 35-year-old has been directly involved in eleven of Greece's 22 shots on goal at EURO 2012.
• Greece have only conceded three goals thus far in Poaldn and Ukraine all of which came before the 17th minute. Germany are yet to score before the 19th minute.