Greece held out as best they could, but were eventually swept aside 4-2 in the Euro 2012 quarter-final by Germany, including a goal from Lazio’s Miroslav Klose.
This was not only a battle between underdogs and tournament favourites, but also a tense political situation fuelled by the Euro crisis and austerity measures partly imposed by Germany.
Joachim Low’s side won all 10 qualifiers and all three group games, but made surprise changes with Lazio’s Miroslav Klose making his first start of the competition and Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus replacing Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski. As well as ‘resting’ the first choice strikers, Jerome Boateng also returned from suspension.
The Euro 2004 winners squeezed through thanks to a shock victory over Russia, but captain Giorgos Karagounis was suspended after an extremely harsh yellow card for simulation, making way for Grigoris Makos. Parma-owned Sotiris Ninis stepped in for Fanis Gekas.
Germany thought they had taken the lead after three minutes, but Schurrle was flagged offside when turning in the rebound as Michalis Sifakis spilled the Sami Khedira snapshot.
Mesut Ozil should’ve broken the deadlock at the end of a fine passing move between Klose and Reus, but the Real Madrid midfielder side-footed it straight at the legs of goalkeeper Sifakis from point-blank range.
From that corner, Reus again tested Sifakis at the base of the near post, then a Reus cross-shot whistled across the face of goal with Klose just unable to get the final touch.
Greece had their first chance on 32 minutes with Parma-owned Ninis unleashing a strike that Manuel Neuer parried with some difficulty.
Ozil’s solo run through three defenders saw him pull back for Khedira, whose fierce snapshot was beaten away by Sifakis.
The breakthrough finally arrived as captain Philip Lahm hit a screamer from outside the box that swerved away from Sifakis so getting a finger to it was not enough to keep the shot out of the far post. For once, the Greek defence left a little too much space for the full-back to cut in from the left.
In first half stoppages there was almost a second, as Schurrle’s effort hit the near side-netting from a similar position to Lahm’s goal.
Gekas replaced Ninis for the second half and his first touch let him down in a two-on-two counter-attack. It was a warning that Germany did not heed, for moments later Greece got their equaliser. Gekas send Dimitris Salpingidis down the right, who rolled across for Giorgos Samaras to come sliding in from four yards.
It didn’t last long, as Germany restored their advantage thanks to a sensational goal from Khedira. Boateng crossed from the right and it went past Klose, but Khedira was ready with an unstoppable right-foot volley under the bar.
The third was added from a corner, as Sifakis mistimed his rush off the line and was left in no man’s land as Klose nodded in from seven yards.
Greece were being torn apart now their game plan had collapsed, so Germany scored a fourth. Ozil burst forward and threaded through for Klose, who forced the goalkeeper to rush out and parry at his feet, but Reus smashed the follow-up into the top corner of an empty net.
In the final minutes the Greeks were awarded a penalty for Boateng’s handling offence, although he had his back to the shot. Salpingidis stepped up and coolly sent Neuer the wrong way for a consolation goal.
Germany are in the Euro 2012 semi-final, where they will face the winners of England-Italy.
Germany 4-2 Greece
Scorers: Lahm 39 (Ge), Samaras 55 (Gr), Khedira 61 (Ge), Klose 68 (Ge), Reus 74 (Ge), Salpingidis pen 89 (Gr)
Germany: Neuer; Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Reus (Gotze 80), Ozil, Schurrle (Muller 67); Klose (Gomez 80)
Greece: Sifakis; Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, K Papadopoulos, Tzavellas; Makos (Liberopoulos 72), Maniatis; Ninis (Gekas 46), Katsouranis, Samaras; Salpingidis
Ref: Skomina (Slo)