GDANSK: UEFA president Michel Platini is expanding the Euro football finals from 16 to 24 teams for the tournament in his native France in four years’ time.
This means that a further eight no-hoper teams will be brought into play to lower the general standard of football. The awful prospect of that was laid bare by the unambitous negativity with which Greece tried to defy Germany in their Euro 2012 quarter-final here.
Happily, Germany eventually won 4-2 after looking baffled briefly after having been pulled back to 1-1 early in the second half.
Platini defended the expansion decision earlier this week and tournament director Marten Kallen was also called up to state the case for the defence hours ahead of the Germany-Greece game.
He said: “At the moment we have the best teams here, but there are great teams who are not,” he said, listing Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovenia and Norway as examples.
“The Scots are also not here – they bring a lot of emotions, a lot of atmosphere with them. We need to see how 2016 will be. For sure this tournament will be more and more looked at because more nations can participate.”
English not being Kallen’s first language he may, under media pressure, have been seeking a less ‘expansive’ word than ‘great.’
Germany certainly are a great footballing nation and coach Joachim Low risked swingeing changes in attack against the Greeks, resting Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski. Replacements Marco Reus, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Schurrle were all narrowly off target in the opening halfhour as Germany had more possession than even Spain usually dream.
Eventually skipper Philipp Lahm, tired of watching his forwards and midfielders waste their opportunities, cut in from the left and unleashed a right-foot drive which seared into the net in the 39th minute.
The Germans had put in 13 efforts on goal in the first half and the only danger to them was complacency – to which sin they succumbed 10 minutes into the second half.
Dimitris Salpingidis, best of the Greeks at Euro 2012, raced away on a right-wing counter-attack and crossed hard and low to the six-yard box where Giorgios Samaras slid in to prod the ball beyond startled keeper Manuel Neuer.
German swarmed forward in retaliation and, five minutes later, struck back. Outstanding Mesut Ozil chipped to the right where Jerome Boateng powered forward on the overlap to deliver a square cross which Sami Khedira converted with a magnificent running volley.
Another five minutes and Klose headed home an Ozil corner for his 64th international goal to edge within four of Gerd Muller’s all-time German record. A further break forward by Klose prepared the way for Reus to crash home No4.
Salpindis slid home a last-minute penalty after an unlucky handling offence by Boateng but Germany were already heading safely towards a Warsaw semi-final against England or Italy.
= = = =