Germany caps perfect group stage
The Group of Death claimed its last victim, as Lars Bender finished off a German counterattack to make it 2-1 and kill off an admirable Danish team which had become synonymous with the word “plucky.” For all of its hype, this Group of Death ultimately contained a hot mess of a Dutch side and an admirable Denmark side that simply fizzled out.
In its final group-stage game, Germany did not impress. It didn’t have to. This was the first competitive meeting for these two teams since Denmark shocked the continent in the Euro 1992 final. The Danes offered little to make anyone believe history could repeat itself.
They fielded a conservative five-man midfield to counter the threat of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Despite this precautionary tactic, Ozil still found the space to perch on the edge of his opponents' area and slid angled passes behind the Danish defense. After just four minutes, the Real playmaker lofted a cross for Muller, only to see him drill the ball straight at Stephan Andersen.
Muller had a frustrating night in front of goal, but it was his assist that opened the scoring in the 19th minute. A rolled ball across the face of the goal allowed Lukas Podolski to celebrate his 100th cap by thrashing the ball home. Germany and Arsenal fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
Enjoying just 40 percent of possession, Denmark knew it would have to make its set pieces count. Nicklas Bendtner was the target man, and the controversial Dane played with a mischievous confidence largely absent when he dons a Premier League jersey. In the 24th minute, the German defense switched off on a deep corner, and the underwear-abuser rose up to knock the ball back across the box, and tiny talismanic Michael Krohn-Dehli reacted quickest to head home his second goal of Euro 2012.
Briefly emboldened, Denmark began to push forward with Bendtner eager to torture the diminutive Philipp Lahm, but the more ambition the Danes displayed, the more they left themselves open in the back. The Germans eagerly dumped the ball into Mario Gomez inside the Danish area, but the hot-footed striker replicated his sorry Champions League final form, with his touch a tad heavy all night long.
In the second half, Germany sought to slow the game down but its possession lacked the cohesion and movement it had previously displayed. But the Danes were unable to take advantage. They came closest in the 50th minute when Jakob Poulsen finished off a sharp interchange with Bendtner by clipping the outside of the German post with a crisp drive. Bendtner then had a solid shout for a penalty ignored by the fifth official when Holger Badstuber appeared to haul him down to prevent a rare Danish break.
Germany survived and began to smother the game, which came to stylistically resemble a training scrimmage with incredibly high stakes. The 79-degree weather took its toll on Denmark’s ambition. In the 79th minute, the Germans' relentless patience paid off as Bender clinically finished one of countless Ozil-inspired breaks.
How good is this German team? It won Group B comfortably. While its mechanical counterattack carries a real threat, it will have to be more clinical if it’s to threaten at the business end of the tournament.
Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles
For the first time, Germany won all of its three games in a Euro group stage.
Man of the Match: The avante-garde Ozil twisted and turned all night long to manufacture the German fast break. If his teammates had been more clinical, the languid midfielder could have earned a hat trick of assists.
What's next: The Danes are eliminated. Goal hero Michael Krohn-Dehli will be linked to countless transfer rumors and hyped young midfielder Christian Eriksen will return to Ajax to wonder what went wrong.
Germany will play Greece on June 22 in a game in which it will be overwhelming favorites. Prepare to be overexposed to a barrage of global economy puns about the “Euro,” “debt,” “austerity” and “Merkel.”