Tuesday 24 October 2017

Bender swoops to crush Danish dreams

Denmark 1 Germany 2 Luke Edwards

Three wins out of three and in ominous form, it is going to take a special team to deny Germany a fourth European title.

Strong, powerful and always capable of getting the job done, they have been able to contain technically superior teams, grind them down and beat them.

This German side are strong and powerful but also skilful, bright and exciting. They looked unstoppable, Lukas Podolski giving them the lead after 19 minutes.

It had been difficult for Denmark to get out of their half, let alone worry Manuel Neuer in the German goal. Wave after wave of attacks left them chasing the ball, while they lost the men they were supposed to be marking.

Thomas Mueller had an early chance, unmarked at the far post, but his shot flew over the bar. The Bayern Munich man should really have scored moments later, Podolski's cross travelling across goal to him, but from three yards he failed to catch his shot properly, which allowed Stephan Andersen to make a good save.

A shot on the turn from Mario Gomez was just too high, but the goal was coming and, fittingly on his 100th appearance for his country, it fell to Podolski.

There was a small piece of good fortune about it, but such was their dominance, it was hard to begrudge Germany the goal.

Mueller's cross was aimed for Gomez, but his Bayern team-mate missed his kick at the near post. A slight deflection, though, carried it through to Podolski who had plenty of time to look up before slamming a shot in from eight yards.

Knowing a draw would be good enough to take them through to the quarter-finals as runners-up, Denmark had been content to sit back and hold on, but suddenly, with Holland beating Portugal, they could see the possibility of going out.

It cranked up the intensity of their game and they equalised just five minutes later. Germany had been given a warning of a new set-piece in the Danish armoury, Nicklas Bendtner pulling wide and deep to meet a corner which he headed back into the danger area.

The idea was clearly for another player to run in and get on the end of it, but on the first occasion it bounced harmlessly through to Neuer.

When Bendtner took up a similar position a second time, Germany's defenders still failed to recognise the ploy and this time the Sunderland striker not only won his header, Michael Krohn-Delhi was ideally placed to nod it past the goalkeeper.

wasteful

Germany moved up a gear in response, Gomez spurning another good chance when he failed to volley in Podolski's pinpoint cross. Sami Khedira was just as wasteful, shooting wide.

Denmark would have progressed with a point if Portugal had lost, but they knew at half-time the score in that match matched their own, so the onus was on them to win.

Germany also knew a draw would be fine, but if they conceded there was a risk they would be eliminated should Portugal win 2-1. To stick or twist?

That nagging fear for the Germans almost became a reality when Simon Poulsen and Bendtner combined to tee up Jakob Poulsen.

His shot seemed destined for the bottom corner before clipping the otuside of a post.

Joachim Loew appeared to have told his Germany side not to take any unnecessary risks. Denmark tried to attack them. Germany, though, did not look likely to concede a goal or even possession.

Andre Schurrle came on to replace Podolski and almost scored soon after, but his low shot was saved by Andersen.

Bendtner almost got on the end of a long ball from Christian Eriksen, but he could not beat Neuer as he stretched, not helped by sneaky tug on his shirt by Holger Badstuber. Yet it was a clever ploy from the centre-back.

A few moments later, the Germans scored the goal that guaranteed their progress.

They broke quickly quickly, Mesut Ozil playing the ball to Miroslav Klose, but when he missed his kick, right-back Lars Bender had galloped up to support and finished with coolness of a centre-forward. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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