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Euro 2012 analysis: Loew's gamble pays off as youth has its day

The only numbers that mattered were on the scoreboard, writes Miguel Delaney in Gdansk.

IN THE END, the only figures that mattered were on the scoreline: 4-2. And, for all the talk of politics, Germany simply pummelled Greece.

Within all of that, though, there were a few other noteworthy and impressive numbers.

For one, there is the fact that 12 of this German side are 23 years or under, with Mesut Ozil’s lightning link-up play between the lines defining the team.

Before the game, it seemed that Jogi Loew was taking a massive gamble by leaving out Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski for two players – in Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle – who only 27 minutes of Euro 2012 football between them.

In the end, it was seamless.

All the changes did was illustrate the full depth and benefits of German’s supreme football infrastructure. There was absolutely no alteration to the awesome, breakneck style that has become standard at so many German clubs.

That was made known within four minutes, as both Schurrle and Reus were involved in incisive moves that cut a Greek defence that were dependent on tight offside calls apart.

Greece’s backline was on the edge in every sense, not least their hapless goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.

When a handling error was eventually involved in Germany’s opening goal, it was no surprise. The source of the goal, however, was… not to mention ironic. It came from the second oldest member of the starting XI, Philipp Lahm. That was only compounded by the scorer of the clincher: the oldest member, Miroslav Klose.

Of course, that is the one issue with such young teams. Their youthful vibrancy can be offset by the lack of savvy accrued from experience. And that may yet be an issue against the monolithic winning mentality of the Spanish.

At the very least, though, the Germans have got plenty of character. They illustrated that with extreme prejudice on responding to the Greeks’ shock equaliser.

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Within minutes, after the team in general considerably upped the pace of their play, both Sami Khedira and Marco Reus scored goals that almost broke the net. Awesome. In between, though, the young team did concede a goal that expose their one genuine flaw.

On the break

The only thing about playing football at such lightning speed is that, just as suddenly, it can leave you exposed at the back. Manuel Neuer has to play as an effective sweeper in order to fill the gaps. And, often, that isn’t enough. It certainly wasn’t enough on 57 minutes as Giorgos Samaras took advantage of a quick break to score what was then a shock equaliser. Swifter attackers – such as Antonio Di Natale or Theo Walcott – may well get even more joy.

In that, Germany aren’t unlike the team they’re trying to dethrone. Much in the manner of Spain, their use of possession often necessitates a line that presses very high and very precariously. It is, of course, the source of their danger. But, against the wrong team on the wrong night, it may be the source of their elimination.

Not tonight though. They go on to the semi-finals. And look likelier to go even further.

On figure, after all, remains just as important to this team: 16 years without an international trophy.

As it happened: Germany v Greece, Euro 2012 quarter-finals

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