Germany v Portugal Preview









Germany will want to demonstrate why they are considered by some to befavourites to win Euro 2012 when they begin their Group B campaign against Portugal in Lviv on Saturday night.

After getting their campaign under way, Joachim Low’s team face Holland in their second group game, while Portugal take on the Dutch in their final fixture after meeting Denmark next Wednesday.

Losing on Friday could therefore have serious repercussions, which Germany forward Thomas Muller is particularly keen to avoid.

“Making a good start is crucial because you avoid a pressure situation with the game against Holland,” said the Bayern Munich forward.

“We don’t want to go into the Holland game, against a nation who finished second at the last World Cup, with a bad feeling and being nervous that we might not make the quarter-finals.

“You only get three games in the group phase and all three opponents are very strong, so you really cannot afford to slip up.”

Yet while Germany may have one eye on Holland, their coach Low does not want them to lose their focus against one of the sides he believes will have a big say in where the title goes this summer.

“Portugal are a team who can beat anybody,” warned Low. “They have very good players who play for big clubs, and they have always been a top nation in tournaments.

“I don’t just mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course has fantastic skills and can decide games on his own, but also Nani, Pepe; Portugal have a strong backbone and are technically very strong.

“Ronaldo is definitely the star who can decide matches, but they have many other world-class players in their team.”

Ronaldo returned the compliment, but made it clear that Portugal’s game plan will not be based on trying to contain the Germans.

“When we enter any competition, we do so with the intention of winning it,” he said. “We know it will be very difficult, but maybe this will be our turn.

“Germany are very strong opponents and they have great players, but I think that Portugal are a team who can always play well against top opponents.

“We are facing one of the best opponents, but we have to concentrate on our strengths and be organised and keep our concentration, then we will see what result comes out of it.”

Portugal coach Paulo Bento echoed Ronaldo’s sentiments, reiterating that the focus must be placed on winning, without making any calculations about the rest of the group stage.

“We will remain faithful to our own style of play,” he said. “We always try to win and we will try this from the very first minute.”

Germany have 23 fully fit players, but the selection of the starting XI will remain secret until shortly before kick-off, with a few question marks to be resolved.

The only doubts are at the back, where Per Mertesacker is a minor concern after taking a knock in training, while Jerome Boateng faces competition from Lars Bender and Benedikt Howedes for his place at right-back.

Either Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez will lead the attack ahead of midfield trio Muller, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

Bento has one injury doubt, with Manchester United’s Nani unable to train in recent days.