Euro 2008 – Germany edge sloppy Portugal

Eurosport

Germany became the first side to qualify for the semi-finals of Euro 2008 when they beat Portugal 3-2 at St Jakob-Park in Basel.

FOOTBALL 2008 Euro 2008 Portugal-Germany Ballack - 0

Bastian Schweinsteiger finished a flowing move to put his side 1-0 up midway through the first half before setting up Miroslav Klose for Germany’s second shortly afterwards, but Portugal cut their lead in half through Nuno Gomes minutes before half-time.

Michael Ballack made the most of generous Portuguese defending to increase his side’s lead on the hour mark, before substitute Helder Postiga gave Portugal hope with a late header.

Germany will face either Turkey or Group B foes Croatia in the last four while Portugal, for whom Cristiano Ronaldo was largely anonymous, are left to reflect on the defensive lapses that spelled their downfall.

German coach Joachim Loew – forced to watch from the stands after being sent from the touchline in the 1-0 win over Austria – made three changes to his side, with Simon Rolfes, Schweinsteiger and Thomas Hitzlsperger coming into the team in place of the injured Torsten Frings, Clemens Fritz and goal-shy striker Mario Gomez.

Portugal fielded the same eleven that started their two group stage victories, and they began in enterprising fashion with new Chelsea right-back Jose Bosingwa getting forward down the right at regular intervals.

First he teed up Nuno Gomes, but the Benfica forward could not make meaningful contact with his head, and after Simao Sabrosa had driven a shot straight at Jens Lehmann, Joao Moutinho kneed a superb Bosingwa cross over the crossbar from just outside the six yard box.

Germany, though, looked assured in possession, and on 22 minutes they went ahead in glorious fashion, when Lukas Podolski exchanged passes with Ballack before sprinting away down the left and centring for Schweinsteiger to slide the ball past Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo at the near post.

Four minutes later it was 2-0, with Klose slipping away from his marker to head home Schweinsteiger’s curling free-kick from the inside-left channel, but Portugal’s response was impressive, and on 40 minutes Nuno Gomes lashed the ball home after Lehmann had saved from Ronaldo to halve the Germans’ advantage.

Ballack then tested Ricardo with a low drive from the left-hand corner of the penalty area, before Ronaldo came inches away from levelling the score when he curled a shot just wide of the right-hand post after cutting in from the left in first-half injury time.

Portugal began the second period on the front foot, and shortly before the hour Pepe should have equalised when Simao’s right-wing corner was flicked into his path by Deco, but from five yards he put his header over the crossbar.

Within minutes Germany had regained their two-goal cushion, and again Portugal’s defence was undone by a straightforward set-piece, with Schweinsteiger’s left-wing free-kick being headed past a floundering Ricardo by Ballack.

Portugal felt the German captain should have been penalised for a push on Paulo Ferreira, but the best they could offer in response was a series of hopeful long-range efforts until Postiga headed Nani‘s left-wing cross past Lehmann to set up a tense but ultimately fruitless finale.

Tom Williams / Eurosport

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