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Germany in semi-finals

Schweinsteiger shines, Klose off the mark

Germany sealed a berth in the Euro 2008 semi-finals on Thursday evening as Bastian Schweinsteiger turned in a man of the match performance, Miroslav Klose struck his first goal of the tournament, and Lukas Podolski delivered another plucky display in a stirring 3-2 victory over Portugal. Schweini thus more than made amends for a red card against Croatia and subsequent one-match ban. “Belief is everything, otherwise results like this aren’t possible. We believed in ourselves and showed lots of courage,” Philipp Lahm beamed afterwards.

Schweinsteiger’s opening goal midway through the first half stemmed from arguably the slickest move of the tournament so far, as Podolski exchanged passes first with Klose and then with former FCB playmaker Michael Ballack. Poldi hared clear down the left touchline before swinging over a slide-rule cross into the onrushing Schweinsteiger’s path, where the midfielder crashed the ball home from close range.

Energetic Klose

Schweinsteiger, scorer of two goals against the Portuguese in the 2006 World Cup third-place play-off, confirmed his reputation as the man Luis Filipe Scolari’s side least like to meet just four minutes later with an inch-perfect dead-ball delivery to the unmarked Klose, the Bayern striker confidently heading past keeper Ricardo to double the advantage. Klose’s first goal of the tournament clearly lifted a burden from the 30-year-old’s shoulders as he went on to give his best performance so far.

The German gameplan of countering Portugal’s dangerous midfielders with two holding players and Ballack in a free role worked to perfection for long spells, as neither playmaker Deco nor superstar Cristiano Ronaldo found space to impose their silky talents.

All Bayern men involved

The need for utter concentration was underlined on the two occasions the German defenders lost their bearings, Nuno Gomes (40) and Helder Postiga (87) cutting the arrears from close range. However, Ballack had more or less ended the game as a contest after 62 minutes with a trademark header to make the score 3-1, Schweinsteiger again providing the assist with a beautifully flighted free-kick. “Everyone’s seen we’re capable of playing football as well as battling,” he enthused afterwards.

Lahm turned in another convincing display on the left side, while assistant coach Hansi Flick’s decision to bring on Tim Borowski (73) and Marcell Jansen (89) as substitutes meant all six of Bayern’s Germany contingent featured in a famous victory.

Flick enjoys limelight

Flick’s debut as stand-in head coach thus goes down in the annals as a great success. The former Bayern player, who won the league four times and the Cup once at FCB, took over the touchline duties for the suspended Joachim Löw. The head coach will be back in his normal seat for next Wednesday’s semi-final, where the Germans meet either Croatia or Turkey.