Warsaw (Poland): Greece progressed from their group against all odds. Poland and Russia were both easily recognizable as the teams with far greater quality. The fact that Greece benifited from qualifying on the basis of the head-to-head rule implies that they did so by the skin of their teeth. Germany on the other hand faced the “Group of death” and came out unscathed. In fact, they dominated their group by winning all three games. The manner in which these two sides advanced is as dissimilar as their styles of play.
Since the 2006 World Cup, the Germans have moved from strength to strength pursuing a footballing philosophy that they now seem to have conquered. Their dedication to a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation coupled with their desire to pass the ball quickly has been a breath of fresh air. Their defense has improved significantly in the past couple of years too. However, so far in the competition we have only seen glimpses of the swashbuckling football we know they are capable of. The frightening truth is that Germany have managed to overcome Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark without really getting out of second gear. Having said that, history teaches us that the Germans don`t often take a tournament by storm but rather steadily improve and gain momentum as the competition draws closer to its conclusion.
Greece achieved the impossible at Euro 2004 when they beat Portugal in the final to register their biggest and most memorable night in football. Since then, Greece have failed to reach similar heights but haven`t drifted off into obscurity either. On the contrary, they have certainly made their presence felt at this year`s tournament. They were quite literally the least favoured team to progress but yet again that fighting quality and determination came to the fore and the Greeks pulled off an upset to qualify for the next round where they meet the Germans.
The political subplot brings additional intrigue to this encounter as the debt-stricken Greece will have an opportunity to knock Germany out of the tournament, their most critical creditor. Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis admitted after their final group game that the financial hardship in their country is an added motivation for the players to succeed.