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They have clicked into gear

Spain plays tonight with a challenge thrown to them. They are joint favourites with Germany and the nationalmannschaft throws down the gauntlet with a dominating display which sent Greece home. The 2004 winners tried to compete but once the Germans clicked into gear, there was ever only going to be one outcome. Germany are in the semi final and it’s pretty much as we expected.

The surprise was thrown right from the very start with Joachim Loew making 3 changes from his side that won all 3 group games. Out went Podolski, Muller and Gomez with Schurrle, Reus and Klose getting their first start of the tournament. To many it seemed like Loew were underestimating Greece by weakening the side but that couldn’t be more further from the truth.

It was in fact about Loew being wary and adjusting his tactics to play Greece. He knew that Greece was going to sit deep and be very discipline in their tactics. He needed players who are more mobile and more intricate in their play. It’s a big sign on the quality that the Germans have in their squad. The ability to switch things around, not be rigid with their style of play and still have quality players coming in to do it. If it showed anything, it’s the hallmark of potential champions.

In truth, the contest could have been over by half time had Germany been more accurate with the shooting. Couple of long rangers from Khedira warmed the hands of Sifakis in the Greek goal but the rest of the shooting from clearer and better positions were wayward to say the least. When the opening did come, it was another belter from outside the box. Philipp Lahm cutting in field and delivering a sumptuous shot. At first, it looked like a curler but on second viewing, the swerve of the ball took Sifakis out of the equation.

When play resumed in the second half and Germany were once again on the front foot, it looked very comfortable for them. Santos made his changes early to try to look for the equaliser and it did come for them. A breakaway down the right with Samaras converting from close range a very fast counter attack. The 2nd hallmark of potential champions were shown, Loew’s side did not have a single head drop and they were back in front within 6 minutes.

Khedira who has been impressive all night long with his running and intelligent all round play volleyed one in. Then Klose capped another run-out for his national side with a perfectly executed header from a corner. All these before Reus capitalizing from a rebound and smashing one in to make it 4-1. Such is the confidence of Reus that he chose a humdinger instead of taking a touch and calmly slotting it into a keeper-less goal.

The late penalty by Salpingidis did nothing to dampen the mood in the German camp. The job was done and their progress in the championship continued. This was a display of power, pace, technical virtues and more than most, spirit and desire. The other teams must fear facing up to Loew’s team. The bar has been set.

One of those who could challenge them is Spain, who will be playing tonight. They will come up against a French side shrouded with news of in-fighting. Vicente del Bosque has a full side to select on, and based from their group games, the question centres around whether he will play a striker or not from the start. If he does, that is most likely to be Torres.

The ammunition will be provided by the usual group of men behind him. Xavi, Iniesta and Silva will be the usual buzz and busy self with their specific style of play. The French cannot be easily frustrated and put in silly tackles. They need to have 11 men on the field at all times if they are to think about having any chance of winning this match.

Blanc will be hoping that his team’s motivation will be lifted by the trouble that came after that defeat to Sweden. Players being unhappy with the contribution of others is not new but normally these things are not done in public nor leak out to the media. Some people respond to these by forging a stronger bond and fight to prove everyone wrong. Some are disheartened by confrontation such as these and shy away on the pitch. Which France side will turn up is anyone’s guess.

Koscielny will play his first game in these championship and he will come up against familiar foes that he has faced twice already. Both times which he did very well, all things considered. His style of defending is also much more suited against the intricate play of Spain than the hard tackling style of Mexes, who is suspended for this game.

Key battles are all around the pitch. Ribery v Arbeloa, Nasri v Alba, Iniesta v Diarra, M’Villa v Silva. Plenty of quality all over and it should make for a very interesting watch. However, as we’ve seen before, sometimes these match-ups negates each other and makes it a very congested midfield battle without much pattern of play. Let’s hope it’s the former rather than the latter.

Enjoy the match.