Germany set for opening match against Portugal
Philipp Lahm will not have sole responsibility for dealing with Cristiano Ronaldo in Germany's EURO 2012 opener against Portugal on Saturday after confirming that he will be playing on the left of the defence in Lviv. Instead, dealing with the Portuguese dangerman is going to take a team effort, and Germany are confident of succeeding.
The composition of Germany's team for their opening EURO 2012 group fixture against Portugal on Saturday is becoming clearer with the position of captain Philipp Lahm no longer a grey area.
Lahm out left
Bayern Munich and Germany captain Philipp Lahm has made a name for himself as one of the strongest full-backs in the world, only his versatility means he has never been able to say he is more at home on the left or the right. Lahm even started his career as a forward during his childhood with FT Gern, but his professional career, after a brief spell in the midfield, has focused more on the full-back position.
Enlarge image Germany's Philipp Lahm attends a press conference (© dpa) It was Felix Magath who first tried him out on the left at VfB Stuttgart, and once he returned to FC Bayern Munich after a two-year loan spell, Lahm had already made his Germany debut in that position. His self-proclaimed preference is on the right, but it was only last season, under Jupp Heynckes, when he finally got to play there on a regular basis. Things have just changed once again. "It has been decided that I will play left," confirmed Lahm. "I have discussed it with the coach and he sees me better on the left."
What this latest shift does mean is that he avoids Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday with the Real Madrid winger more used to coming down the left wing. But as one Portuguese journalist pointed out at today's press conference in Gdansk, Germany have always managed to tame the man who netted 60 times in 2011/12."
In general both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are among the best players in the world, but when we have played Portugal or Argentina, we've managed to keep them in check with good defensive organisation," said Löw. "That does not mean we don't still have the greatest respect for him, and with Nani and Moutinho just two or three passes can cut through a defence. We have got to be prepared for that because it takes more than one player to mark a player like Ronaldo or Nani out of a game. Ronaldo is the player who is capable of deciding a game by himself, but we are ready."
Once the threats of Ronaldo, Nani and Moutinho have been averted, Löw believes Germany can concentrate on their own strengths to prevail. "We are not overly self-confident and we're certainly not arrogant or getting carried away," he said. "But we are ready for every situation. The closer we get to a tournament, the more relaxed I am. I get the feeling my team has grown together more and is tuned up for this game. The time has come for it to finally get underway. We are highly-motivated."
Motivated, but also aware that getting through the group stage this year is going to be particularly challenging. Portugal, Holland and Denmark are all high-calibre rivals. "We know how hard it is," said Lahm. "We have finished 3rd (FIFA World Cup 2006), 2nd (UEFA EURO 2008) and 3rd (FIFA World Cup 2010), but that doesn't automatically mean we will win the title. We have a very difficult group against three teams in the top ten in the world. We have got to be ready from the first match. We have got the quality to win it, no doubt, but it won't be a walk in the park."