GDANSK, Poland -- Three thoughts on Germany's 4-2 victory against Greece in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, sending Germany to the semifinals next Thursday against England or Italy:
• The Germans dominated. Aside from a totally unexpected Greek counter-attack goal that tied the game at 1-1 early in the second half, the Germans were in complete control of the game. Hoarding possession, moving smartly as a team and displaying the stamina that comes with top-level fitness, Germany overwhelmed a scrappy but talent-deficient Greek team that had trouble merely taking the ball into the German half of the field. Of all the Germans who played well, Sami Khedira was my man of the match. Not only did he cover a tremendous amount of ground in the midfield, but he played quickly, moved forward and even scored on a delicious volley off a free kick that ended up being the game-winner. The final score was an accurate reflection of what took place on the field.
• Joachim Löw shuffled the deck. It was stunning when word first leaked early Friday: German coach Jogi Löw was sitting three of his top attackers (Mario Gómez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller) and starting Miroslav Klose, André Schurrle and Marco Reus instead. But Löw comes out of the game looking like a clever coach who knows how to use his extraordinary team depth. Reus and Schürrle are true wingers in a way that the men they replaced are not, and that width helped Germany stretch out a Greek defense that would have been even more packed in otherwise. Klose ended up bagging a "Klose goal," a header that wasn't all that aesthetically pleasing but was ruthlessly efficient. Reus scored on a screamer, and Schürrle was active albeit a bit careless with the ball. I don't buy that this was a move to get rest for the A-squad attackers (there are six whole days before the next German game, after all), but Löw's move will keep his players on their toes. The one question I have is whether Gómez's confidence might dip after not getting the start.
• I love unexpected soccer moments. Germany deserved this win, plain and simple, but the sheer surprise of seeing Greece tie the game in the second half (completely against the run of play) brought a jolt of energy to a game that honestly needed one. The way Greece took its goal was something to behold: a brilliant pass by Giorgos Fotakis, a pinpoint cross by Dimitris Salpingidis and an imperfect but effective finish by Giorgos Samaras. For a few stirring moments, the Greek section of the stadium came to life, and the pride of a nation was clear for everyone to see. Khedira's goal a few minutes later restored order, and the Greeks will now go home from the tournament, but their moment at 1-1 is something I won't soon forget.