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NEVER WRITE OFF GERMANY

By Mal Content

One of the cliches of international football tournaments is ‘never write off the Germans'.

And so that cliche came to pass once again, as last night, with manager Joachim Low banished to the stands, Germany secured their place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals with a 3-2 victory over a disappointing Portugal.

Prior to last night's quarter-final in Basel, Portugal's manager Luiz Felipe Scolari gave a press conference in which the soon-to-be Chelsea manager warned about the height advantage enjoyed by Germany.

Scolari was proven correct, as Germany scored two headed goals from set-pieces after Bastian Schweinsteiger's opening goal from open play.

Germany, a big, strong, efficient and powerful side that is blessed with several world-class players (notably Lukas Podolski and Michael Ballack), had Portugal reeling inside the first half-hour of last night's quarter-final.

On a pitch that resembled a patchwork quilt as a consequence of being re-laid only 48 hours before kick-off, Germany surged into a two goal lead, their first coming when the Germans raided down the left wing in the 22nd minute.

Michael Ballack combined with Lukas Podolski, who fizzed a low cross into the danger area, and Bastian Schweinsteiger raced in ahead of Paulo Ferreira to fire the ball into the net.

In the 26th minute Bastian Schweinsteiger turned provider, the midfielder's in-swinging free-kick finding an unmarked Miroslav Klose, who bulleted his header past Portugal's keeper Ricardo.

Desperately chasing the game, Portugal pulled a goal back just before half-time when Cristiano Ronaldo ignored the transfer speculation linking him with Real Madrid long enough to dash to the bye-line and cut the ball back for Nuno Gomes, who scored from close range.

However, Portugal's hopes of a second-half fight-back were decimated in the 62nd minute when Michael Ballack rose highest to meet another Bastian Schweinsteiger free-kick, the German captain heading powerfully into the net.

Plenty of endeavour from Portugal thereafter in the seemingly forlorn chase to recover from a 3-1 deficit, but Scolari's side did not hit the heights of their passing and movement game, resorting too often to long range shooting.

However, in the 87th minute substitute Helder Postiga headed in a cross from Nani to make the score-line 3-2, but Germany emerged as deserved victors.

Don't bet against Germany.

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