In the balance

  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 19 Jun 2008

TENERO: Portugal have had a wary eye on Germany since Euro 2008 began but their meeting in today’s quarter-final in Basel could not have come at a better time for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side.

Portugal have effectively had a week’s rest since qualifying with two wins against Turkey and the Czech Republic.

While Scolari had the luxury of changing his entire midfield and attack against Switzerland, in an irrelevant match they lost 2-0, Germany were scrapping for their lives to beat co-hosts Austria 1-0 and go through as Group B runners-up behind Croatia.

Germany are now counting the cost of those Monday night exertions, with top scorer Lukas Podolski, who has a calf injury, and Torsten Frings, who has broken a rib, fighting to be fit in time for the match on a re-laid pitch at St Jakob Park.

German coach Joachim Loew will trust the step-up in class can inspire his team to reproduce the form of a 2-0 win over Poland rather than the inept display in a 2-1 defeat by Croatia.

“Tactically, I’ve seen no one better than Germany,” Scolari said after their win over Poland.

If Germany are to make progress towards what would be a fourth European Championship they will need their forwards to show greater sharpness in front of goal, while the defence keeps the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo under close watch.

Germany’s last meeting with Portugal in the European Championship was a humiliating 3-0 defeat in the group phase in 2000 but they did get a measure of revenge with a 3-1 victory in the third-placed match at the last World Cup.

Bastian Schweinsteiger scored twice in that game and Loew hinted that the midfielder would be in the starting line-up on Thursday, after sitting out the Austria game through suspension.

The hope in the German camp is that Portugal will play a more adventurous game than any of their previous opponents, thus giving them the chance to attack on the break.

That seems a safe bet, with Portugal’s forwards looking a constant danger in their two wins, 2-0 against Turkey and 3-1 over the Czechs.

“We have had two very good second halves,” said Scolari, who is likely to field the same team that started the first two games. “Principally we have played football. We’ve worked with the ball. That is our quality.”

With Portugal determined to play the ball around and Germany eager to launch swift breaks, it has the makings of an excellent match, with the Portuguese looking slight favourites.

“For me being favourites doesn’t count,” Ronaldo said ahead of the match. “I just hope Portugal can play their best game.” – Reuters

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