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Article:Euro 2008 Germany 3 - 2 Portugal comment

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This was all about the importance of the physical game:

Deco 1m74 Moutinho 1m70 Petit 1m78 Simao 1m70

-vs-

Ballack 1m89 Rolfes 1m89 Schweinsteiger 1m81

(heights from wikipedia, so they're probably all a bit wrong, but it makes the point). That height difference (and this is just the midfield - the German CBs are ridiculously massive, and even some tallish Portugeezers like Bosingwa have got no meat on them) is pretty much the story of the game - two German goals from set-pieces put it away. In football, you can play with a small, tricky, ball-playing side against a load of giants, but your lot had better be sharp and lively and energetic, and they'd better compete like bastards every time there's a free-kick. Portugal didn't really fulfil either of those conditions and so, very much like Argentina in the last world cup, they went out to the size and power of the Germans. Cristiano Ronaldo's great in the air, but any international side that has him as their third-best defensive marker has problems. Early on, the Germans bravely pressed really high up, and Portugal didn't have the time and space to play the expansive, long-passing game that makes their wingers dangerous, so when Ronaldo or Simao did get the ball they were getting it stationary with men around them, and they couldn't do anything. By contrast, the Germans were running pretty freely and fluidly off the ball, especially Lahm from LB, and I was very impressed with Rolfes, who was neat and unfussy but still always looked for the forward pass. I'm not convinced that Moutinho, Deco and Petit are as committed to the defensive side of the game as they need to be - tracking a runner 25 yards at full pace is tiring and boring, but it's necessary if the team's going to survive. So Ballack played really well, though with more space than he ought to ever have, and the German strength and power made it hard for the Portuguese to get anything (they weren't even beating players). Credit must go to the referee, too, because if he'd got it wrong the Portuguese would have controlled the game with diving.

It'd be really interesting to see how everyone reacted if Capello picked an English side like this German team. I suspect an almost-all-6-foot-plus line-up would be ridiculed for being basic and old-fashioned, but it WOULD work (in an ugly sort of way and as long as the refereeing was sensible). I would genuinely love to see a team of gigantic beastmen banging in set-piece goal after set-piece goal against the Brazilians (as, indeed, Norway used to do back around 98). Somewhere in Germany there must be lots of neglected, really skillful 5-foot-6 players, because there's certainly nobody like that getting a shot at the national team (and the impressively not donkeyish 1m94 Tim Borowski even came on late to make the point further).

Germany really still aren't that hot, and I don't fancy Podolski or Klose, but I do like seeing clashes of philosophy like this game, and you'd think the Portuguese ought to learn something from it. Scolari is over-rated and I think there is a significant possibility that his time at Chelsea could be volatile and short (it is also possible he will be given ridiculous money to spend and will buy players he knows and likes, of course, but he's not the banker he's being pointed as).

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