Germany can kill two birds with one stone by winning their final Euro 2012 Group B game against Denmark on Sunday -- clinching top spot and setting up a quarter-final at their home base in Gdansk.
The Germans are in the driving seat after edging Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday to move on to six points with two wins from two matches and are just one point away from winning the group.
A victory against the Danes, who have three points along with Portugal, in Lviv on June 17 would ensure they would play the second team from Group A in a last-eight clash in Gdansk, a stone’s throw their team hotel in the lush suburb of Oliwa.
“Winning the group will be very important because we would be staying in Gdansk for our quarter-final match,” said Germany coach Joachim Löw. “That would be an advantage for us.”
The Germans play all their group games in Ukraine, meaning they are travelling several thousand miles from their Baltic sea base in the Polish port city.
Wednesday’s win over old rivals Netherlands in Kharkiv was played in hot and humid conditions, draining Löw’s players.
“The temperatures were extreme,” he said. “It was an intense game and there were phases where both teams were robbed of any dynamism.”
Löw is expected to start with winger Mesut Ozil, whose volley the post during Wednesday match and the ball rolled into the safe hands of Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
The three-time European champions are looking for their first title victory since 1996. “Each win gives us a push. We took the second step but we also want to win against Denmark. That is what we demand from us,” said midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“Schweini” is finding top form after a thigh injury in May and a broken collar bone and ankle problem earlier this year.
Löw said he would not reshuffle his team against the Danes but he must replace right back Jerome Boateng, who is suspended for the final group match following a booking on Wednesday.
“There are options for that. [Captain] Philipp Lahm could return to the right and I would bring in Marcel Schmelzer on the left. Lars Bender could also play on the right,” said the 52-year-old Löw. “We still need points. We cannot rely on Portugal and Netherlands drawing,” said Löw. “That is why I will not make many changes apart from maybe the odd player who could need a rest so that, if we make it, they will be fresh for the last eight.”
Denmark’s luck runs out
Denmark’s luck ran out at Euro 2012 against Portugal, leaving them short of players and worrying about their prospects in the run-up to their last Group B game against the powerful Germans.
Denmark started the tournament with a very fortunate 1-0 win over the Netherlands, who amazingly wasted 28 chances.
But against Portugal the Danes wiped out a 2-0 deficit with 10 minutes left and then suffered the heartbreak of conceding a goal in the 87th minute to lose 3-2 on Wednesday. If the team’s luck has run out that spells trouble against Germany, who are unlikely to be as profligate as the Dutch attack or as lax as the Portuguese defense, which dozed off twice to let Nicklas Bendtner head two goals. In truth, Denmark could and should have been 4-1 down by the time Bendtner equalized had Cristiano Ronaldo not wasted two straightforward second-half chances.
Olsen’s talk about the vagaries of fate may have been an attempt to obscure an uneven performance by Denmark, who can reach the quarter-finals with a draw against Germany if the Netherlands beat Portugal.
Defender Pepe lost his marker far too easily to head Portugal’s opening goal and striker Helder Postiga made Simon Kjaer look like an amateur when he slid in their second.
Apart from Bendtner, who has now scored five goals against Portugal in four competitive matches, Denmark showed little going forward.
Time is surely running out for 33-year-old attacking winger Dennis Rommedahl, who came off injured after his second anonymous performance at the tournament. Young playmaker Christian Eriksen was largely anonymous again and, to make matters worse, a muscle injury forced off midfield partner Niki Zimling.
“Our rhythm broke. Zimling is very important for our game and that was a turning point,” said Olsen, who was concerned about the possible mental effect of Portugal’s late goal. “These are the kinds of games I hope many players only take part in once, especially the young ones... now we have to pick it up, we have a few injuries, but we’ll pick it up before the game against Germany.”
Live on TRT1 and TRT HD
21:45 Group B:
Portugal vs. Holland (Kharkiv)
21:45 Group B:
Denmark vs. Germany (Lviv)
All times Turkish.