A stirring matchup in Group B will conclude Saturday’s action at Euro 2012. Pre-tournament favourites Germany and Portugal will open their Euro campaign with some compelling storylines.
The two sides met in 2008 in the quarterfinals with the Germans coming away with a 3-2 result. Both sides have high expectations in the tournament. Germany are considered by a host of experts to win the tournament. Portugal are thought of to be a darkhorse, and could very well make some noise in 2012.
Germany are expected to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to German club side Bayern Munich. It makes sense as there are 8 players from Bayern Munich on the German national team. Captain Philipp Lahm patrols the backfield, covering the right flank. Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker are the central defenders. Holger Badstuber will cover the left flank.
Expect Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos are the two holding midfielders. There are concerns about Schweinsteiger’s fitness as he has had hamstring issues since February. Schweinsteiger was labouring in the Champions League Final for Bayern against Chelsea. If Schweinsteiger can’t play the full 90 minutes, expect Andre Schurrle or 20-year-old Mario Gotze to see time on the pitch.
While head coach Joachim Low has not finalized his lineup as of yet, he has options for his 3 attacking midfielders. The Real Madrid tandem of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are plausible bets to make the starting eleven. Longtime international star Lukas Podolski could also see the field. Thomas Muller is another possible starter. Muller is inconsistent but can produce goals.
Mario Gomez is expected to start as the lone striker. Gomez had a brilliant season for Bayern Munich, netting 41 goals in all competitions. Gomez is brutally efficient and his deadly inside the 18 yard box. If he gets space, he will find the back of the net.
Manuel Neuer is an excellent keeper, and he will need to be on top of his game against a swarming Portugal attack.
Portugal mainly use a 4-3-3 formation, so expect the Portuguese to attack from the flanks. Especially with Cristiano Ronaldo surging down the right flank. There is no question of Ronaldo’s wondrous abilities. His pace and skill are second to none on the planet. Plus, Ronaldo possesses deadly accuracy around the net. His 46 goals in La Liga helped Real Madrid to the Spanish title in 2012. Nani and Hugo Almeida should join Ronaldo up front. Both are quality forwards, but lack the consistency of Ronaldo in terms of goal scoring. One, if not both players will need to find the back of the net with regularity if Portugal are to surprise the Germans.
The midfield is focused around Miguel Veloso. The holding midfielder is expected to keep an eye on the German attacking midfielders. Veloso is a hard tackler, who doesn’t mind the physical play. He also provides space for attacking midfielders Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles was on a Chelsea team that won the Champions League last month, but is prone to lapses in judgement. He is a mystery that could be solved rather easily by the Germans.
The back four is somewhat spotty. Bruno Alves, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao are the expected starters. The last spot will either go to Rolando, Ricardo Costa or Joao Pereira.
Eduardo is a solid keeper for Portugal. He will be a busy keeper as well, as both teams love to attack, which leads to some open football. The Benfica keeper will have to be sharp, for Portugal to succeed.
Prediction: Expect goals in this one. Both teams will attack in waves and both teams know how to finish. I do think there is more quality and depth on the German side which will lead to a 3-2 result in favour of Germany.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973