Saturday, 23 June 2012

Day Fifteen

Germany 4 Greece 2


In a tournament that also featured Poland v Russia, this was politically the sharpest fixture by some margin. I usually stick up for the Germans, as I hate that whole thing, you know the thing I mean, but even I was going for Greece in this one.

That this amounted to deliberately backing the losing horse for no substantial reason was apparent by the second minute, as Klose stood alone in the box waiting for Reus' cross. Only a slip robbed him of a clear chance. On the other hand Samaras managed to kick Khedira in the shins, stopping the game for him to get some attention, so on some level it was all square.

Two minutes later it was still all square. Khedira had a shot, it came back off the keeper and Ozil and Klose both rushed in. Klose put it in, but offside was given. It was unclear which of the two had been penalised, but clear even then that it wouldn't ultimately matter.

Things carried in in this vein for the rest of the game. Well I'm sorry, but what do you want me to say? Do you want me to start listing all the times a German player had a shot? Tell you what, here's a list of the players that didn't. Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber. I made that list by typing in all the starting German players and deleting each one the first time they struck the ball towards the Greek goal on purpose. Actually I think Hummels may have had a header early on. Even Boateng found himself up the byline putting crosses in.

By the time they'd been at it for half an hour I was developing false hope. Surely we'd seen Greece win like this before? We knew the script from 2004. The stronger team shoot and shoot and shoot, and it doesn't go in. It hits the post, it flies just over the bar, it bounces back from the keeper to a defender. Finally Greece sneak into their half inside a giant horse and bang! 1-0 to Greece. It worked against Russia, after all.

That wasn't what happened, obviously. There is no script but the action of Maths in the tangible world that we call physics. Philip Lahm wasn't worrying about narrative twists. He placed the ball and his foot in juxtaposition by swivelling his right femur through a vertical plane, simultaneously and rapidly adjusting the angle between femur and tibia. The chemical energy thus released was imparted to the ball, which, being light, accelerated rapidly, and travelled along the vector Lahm's foot had placed it on to cross the line before the goalkeepercould get into an intercept path. Of course it did. That's how these things work.

By half time the Greeks must have been glad to get in only one down. We feared for them after the resumption.

They only went and equalised though. Greece have wiped out the debt, shouted the commentator. Distaste for the world of international finance has infitrated the zeitgeist, and is turning up in some surprising places these days. Salpingidis got free down the right, to the apparent surprise of the German defence, and put a cross in. It looked like he'd hit it too hard at first, but Samaras got on the end of it and squeezed it under Neuer. It was still physics, it's just that physics can surprise you sometimes.

It couldn't last, so it didn't. Khedira restored the German lead 5 minutes later. A cross from Boateng was coming through to Maniatis, but he was a bit slow to it, and Khedira got in a lethal volley. If you can get dip and pace on them they're almost impossible for the keeper to adjust to, and so it proved here.

Low took Schurrle off for Muller. He'd looked good, Schurrle, energetic and skilful. He hadn't played in the tournament before, apart from 25 minutes against Denmark while we were mainly watching Portugal v Holland, and to be honest I'd never heard of him. Apparently he shares the honour with Gotze of being the first players born after German reunification to play for the national team, which only goes to show how ridiculously fucking old I am. Before I know it I'll be watching the first German player to be born after I wrote this. I expect he'll be better than anyone we have.

It was Germany's oldest player that sealed it though. Papadopoulos gave away a free kick by the corner flag, and then couldn't get to it before Klose. That was the third, and it was looking like it could get away from Greece now. Klose scores in the land of his birth, said the commentator, archly. Klose was born in Polish Silesia. His dad is German, but his mum, wife and first language are Polish, and the Poles regard him roughly as Greeks regard the Elgin Marbles.

Reus got the fourth. Klose's shot was well saved, after an excellent ball from Ozil, but it bounced out to Reus who hammered it home with force and precision. Angela Merkel was there, and by this point she was probably hoping they'd stop. A win is one thing, but there's a limit to the humiliation any nation can bear at the hands of another. I found myself wishing the Greek election had been this weekend instead.

As things turned out that was as bad as it got for Greece. In fact they got a goal back just before the end when Samaras's shot hit Boateng on the arm and a penalty was awarded. He was looking away at the time, so it seemed harsh, but no-one complained too much. The refs have headpieces, so maybe Christine Lagarde came on the line and told him to give it.

Salpingidis scored, which was nice for him, but that was that. Greece go home, with no money, no trophy, no Marbles, nothing. Germany have now won 15 games in a row.

The game also marked the triumph of the west in the tournament of the east. Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Croatia, Greece, the Czech Republic, they've all fallen. The six surviving teams are Portugal, Spain, France, England, Italy and Germany. Holland and Denmark lost to western opponents, so Croatia v Ireland is the only eastern triumph over a western team.

Meanwhile, that's 26 games without a goalless draw. 5 left. One of which could be an England Germany semi-final. First, Italy, and first before that, France v Spain.

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