Four-star Germans blast Greeks to reach Euro semis
GDANSK, Poland - Agence France-Presse
Germany booked their place in the last four of Euro 2012 as Joachim Loew's side hammered Greece 4-2 on Friday after dominating their quarter-final.
Germany ran riot as captain Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, veteran striker Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus all got on the score-sheet to cancel out Giorgos Samaras' and Dimitris Salpingidis' second-half strikes for the Greeks.
The Germans will now play England or Italy, who meet in Sunday's Kiev quarter-final, in the semi-final at Warsaw's National Stadium on Thursday as they inflicted Greece's heaviest defeat at a European championships, eclipsing the Greeks' 3-1 defeat at the hands of Czechoslovakia in 1980.
"I would like to congratulate the Germans, they were really good," said Greece coach Fernando Santos.
"They certainly have the game worked out.
"We should have had a few more chances, but they had more possession and put us under pressure." The Germans dominated at Arena Gdansk and their ball possession never dropped below 60 percent.
"That was a class performance from the team to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time in a row," said Loew with the Germans having reached the semi-finals at both the last two World Cups and lost the Euro 2008 final.
"We can be proud of the team, it was clear that the Greeks could make something out of nothing.
"We failed to take an early lead, but we did not panic.
"There were a few changes and I thought I had to change things after three wins." Loew pulled off a pre-match triple surprise by leaving out striker Mario Gomez, plus forwards Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller in a bold move.
Klose won his 120th cap to come in for Gomez to claim his 64th international goal leaving him just four short of Gerd Mueller's all-time Germany record.
Borussia Dortmund-bound Reus capped his first Euro 2012 appearance with a goal at Mueller's expense to win only his seventh cap while Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schuerrle took Lukas Podolski's place on the left wing.
Santos brought in Grigoris Makos for suspended captain Giorgos Karagounis, who scored the winning goal against Russia which put the Euro 2004 winners in the last eight, with midfielder Kostas Katsouranis named as skipper.
The Germans had the ball in the net after only four minutes as Khedira's shot was only parried by Greek goalkeeper Michaelis Sifakis, who was soon beaten, but Schuerrle was flagged for offside.
Celtic's Samaras earned the first booking when he ran his boot down the back of Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger's ankle on 14 minutes while Sotiris Ninis forced Germany's Manuel Neuer into a rare save on 31 minutes.
With the Germans in control, the goal they had been threatening came on 39 minutes when Lahm burst through the left side of the Greek defence and fired home from the edge of the area.
It was a carbon copy of the goal Lahm scored against Costa Rica, the first of the 2006 World Cup, and his fifth for his country on his 90th appearance.
Santos added an extra forward after the break with Sotiris Ninis making way for Fanis Gekas and midfielder Giorgos Fotakis on for defender Giorgos Tzavellas.
The switch paid off when Samaras slipped his marker Jerome Boateng to bundle the ball home from the cross of Salpingidis, who outpaced Lahm on the right flank on 55 minutes.
But Germany reclaimed the lead thanks to a volley from Real Madrid's Khedira whose late run connected with Boateng's cross to leave Sifakis with no chance.
Klose added to his impressive tally with a header from a Ozil free-kick on 68 minutes, while Reus scored the fourth when Klose latched onto Ozil's pass, forcing Sifakis into a save.
But the ball fell to the Dortmund man, who hit the net on 74 minutes.
With time almost up Salpingidis scored from the penalty spot after Boateng's foul, but it was too little, too late.