Germany know it must curb Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s dizzying runs down the left in the two teams’ Euro 2012 Group B opener on June 9 but the team’s shaky defense has yet to show it is up to the task.
Coach Joachim Löw has a wealth of midfield talent but far fewer options in defense with a final decision on his center backs still pending as Germany bids for a fourth European crown in a group that also has Netherlands and Denmark.
While Holger Badstuber looks set to start at the heart of the German
backline, speculation over his partner continues. Fellow Bayern Munich man Jerome Boateng is likely to switch to the right, a position he is uncomfortable with, to make way for central defender Per Mertesacker. Lars Bender could also an option at right back, Löw said. Mertesacker, however, has hardly played since an ankle injury in February and looked completely out of place in the 5-3 friendly defeat by Switzerland in late May.
“We will need to talk a lot on the pitch and to support each other,” Mertesacker said. “We have angered him (Ronaldo) a few times in the past and we must do it again. What we should not do is give him too many one-on-one situations.”
The defense will rely on holding midfielders Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger to get early tackles in on Ronaldo, though Schweini is far from his best after nursing a thigh problem for two weeks in a season sprinkled with injuries.
“We have to go to him (Ronaldo) early and take away any space he has,” said his club teammate Khedira. “Basically, we need to spoil his enjoyment. The Portuguese do not function that well when they do not enjoy themselves.”