The Germans came out firing on all cylinders, but the Greek traffic was heavy. Their defence did exactly what they have become known for: massed ranks at the back, no one in midfield and a very lonely striker. They managed to put the brakes on a German team that desperately wanted to make an early statement. But danger was always lurking.
Löw brought in three players to the starting line-up who had seen little or no playing time in the group round (Marco Reus, Andre Schürrle and Miroslav Klose). In his post match interview, the German manager said he inserted them to offer a fresh alternative to the earlier matches. After three victories, it was important for the German manager to go with a particularly offensive-minded tactic.
Georgios Samaras, who plays for Glasgow Celtic, got away with several hard fouls in the opening quarter hour, but was finally shown a yellow card for stomping on Bastian Schweinsteiger's ankle. Despite this and other punishing tackles, there was plenty of exquisite passing on display from Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil. Again and again, they weaved their way through the Greek roadblocks.
Despite Germany's pole position for most of the first half, it looked as if Hellas was succeeding in disrupting the German game plan. All that was missing was the breakthrough goal. Every scoreless minute seemed to make die Mannschaft increasingly nervous. Near the end of the first half, Philipp Lahm finally broke the gridlock and fired home a sweet opener that harkened back to his rocket in the opening game against Costa Rica in the 2006 World Cup here in Germany.
André Schürrle not only had a goal disallowed as early as the 4th minute, but the first half was filled with him taking shot after shot. He came back after the break and along with Marco Reus continued attacking relentlessly.
The Greeks shocked the Germans when Samaras scored an equaliser in the 55th minute. Suddenly, David created an opportunity that Goliath simply had not been prepared for. The German fans were struck silent. An entire nation seemed to be imagining this fixture going to penalties, where the outcome is never sure. The next six minutes seemed to last an eternity, but finally Sami Khedira came to the rescue with a rasping volley from yet another German cross.
The finely-tuned engine that was the German offence went on to score two more with increasingly beautiful goals from Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus. In the closing minutes, Dimitrios Salpingidis converted a penalty to make it 4-2 after a handball by Jérome Boateng, yet by then the game had obviously been decided.
The Germans seemed to shift into an even higher gear that they had not needed to display thus far in this year's European Championship. One has to wonder if they have reached their potential, or if they can still accelerate to an even higher speed. This victory puts the German side firmly in the driver's seat as a favourite in this tournament.
Michael Owens contributed to this report.
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