As a matter of course, Germany clinched a berth in the semi-finals of a major International tournament. Such a feat has transformed from achievement into expected manifestation of perpetuity for the Germans; this their fourth consecutive major semi-final. Achieved, it was, with what appeared, on the surface, a routine and comprehensive victory over an ordinary Greek outfit. Ultimately, though, the Greeks were left to rue and regret their own initial hesitancy and fear.
The first half of the second quarter-final resembled something of a training drill. The only concepts missing were cones and fluorescent bibs. For all intents and purposes, the first half in Gdansk was an elaborate attack-versus-defence drill, with German potency and variety contrasted and countenanced by Greek closed eyes and outlandish hope. Essentially, it was a mismatch of the highest order, owing, most pertinently, to the Greeks own lack of ambition.
It was as a matter of principle that Greece had behind the ball a unit of eleven men consistently, but, once, after twenty-five minutes of incoherent and utterly unfathomable indifference, it was their devolution into reliance on a flat back nine that instigated great sadness. Rather than attempt to enforce upon the game any kind of attacking stimulus, Greece took the recently-developed tactical policy of Chelsea-versus-Barcelona fame to the very end of its potentiality. Whenever the Germans did relinquish possession, Greece were lucky to harbour and contain it for ten seconds, before squandering it back into the midfield, or plundering it deep into an opposition half devoid of blue shirts.
Though it was, as dictated by the law of averages, a near-certainty, once it did arrive, the German goal was right out of the top drawer. One lapse in the erected defensive wall allowed Phillip Lahm to coast and ghost into a pocket of space on the edge of the penalty area. There, unimpeded, the left-back unfurled a swerving and diving drive deep into the far corner of the Greek net. Easy. Excellent. Efficient.
However, when all instincts indicated that this quarter-final was, as a contest, practically over, Greece rose from the ashes. In their jubilation, however, was born a deep and lasting regret. If only their team had, throughout the games entirety, demonstrated such a willingness to counter-attack when presented with the opportunity as when Giorgios Samaras bundled home a shocking equaliser, perhaps Greece may still have been in the competition.
In stark contrast to their first half showing, Greece, somewhat strangely, looked fairly positive and dangerous once unleashed from their ultra-conservative stance. Samaras and Salpingidis were, once fed with possession on a regular basis, persistent in their creation of havoc for a lackadaisical German defence. Once pushed into a higher and more forthright position, the Greek midfield was able to hustle and hurry even the most gifted of midfielders, inducing from Bastian Schweinsteiger several stray balls. Therefore, Greek fans must, upon their exit, leave with a modicum of deep regret.
Germany rose to the challenge. Don't they always? With goals of incrementally more punishing connotations from the industrious Sami Khedira, the tireless Miroslav Klose and the lively Marco Reus, Joachim Loew's team secured their existence in the semi-finals of European Championships 2012. A late Dimitris Salpingidis penalty represented not a gateway to bailout for Greece, who now, regretting defensive austerity, have been expelled from the Euros.