GDANSK: Joachim Loew’s bold decision to completely overhaul his forward line will be viewed as a resounding success after Germany crushed Greece 4-2 on Friday to claim a place in the last four of Euro 2012.
Replacing Mario Gomez, the tournament’s joint top scorer, with Miroslav Klose and omitting the experienced Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller in favour of the relatively green Marco Reus and Andre Schuerrle may have raised eyebrows in some quarters.
But Klose responded with his 64th international goal on his 120th appearance, while Schuerrle and especially Reus gave the Greek defence a torrid time, the latter crowning his seventh cap with a fine volleyed goal.
The 23-year-old winger, who recently signed for German champions Borussia Dortmund, particularly caught the eye with his darting runs down the right and as well as a number of attempts on goal in the first half he also provided a neat layoff for Mesut Ozil.
Loew’s surprise starting line-up for the quarter-final at Gdansk’s PGE Arena underlined the depth in the German squad and it was an accomplished performance from a strong, physical team who will pose a stern test for Italy or England in the semi-finals.
“I had a feeling after three wins that we had to make some changes to breathe some fresh life into the team,” Loew told reporters.
“The time was ripe to do something different. I think Miro and the others did it very well.”
Klose, now four short of Gerd Mueller’s German scoring record of 68, added: “It’s amazing if you look at how many good players can come off the bench and play.
“We can now relax and watch the England-Italy match and see who we’re going to be playing against.”
While there was much to please Loew and suggest Germany are serious contenders for the title there was also a sense, especially in the first half, that sloppy passing and wasteful finishing might have been punished by a more accomplished side than Greece.
Playmaker Ozil squandered a clear opening from the Reus layoff when he struck a poor shot straight at the goalkeeper and he seemed to lack the zip and creativity he has shown during a fine season helping Real Madrid win the Spanish league title.
A pass completion rate of 79 percent is well below what Ozil would normally achieve in La Liga, although he did provide the assist from a free kick for Klose’s header.
The performance of defender Jerome Boateng on his return from suspension may also have given Loew food for thought after he let Giorgos Samaras nip in front of him to score Greece’s equaliser and gave away the late penalty for handball for their second.
“We made it unnecessarily difficult for ourselves,” said captain Philipp Lahm.
“We were too slow at times and made too many easy mistakes,” added the 28-year-old, who put Germany in front with a swerving, long-range drive just before halftime.
“But the important thing is that we’re in the semi finals. I think we’re finding our rhythm more each match.”