Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann believes his side coped with "enormous pressure" and "passed a test" to overcome co-hosts Austria in Vienna and reach the quarter-finals at UEFA EURO 2008™.
Joachim Löw had suggested before the game that Germany's opponents were under just as much pressure but, once victory and progress had been safely secured thanks to Michael Ballack's fine second-half free-kick, the coach's No1 admitted his team had, as Ballack suggested, "had everything to lose" at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. "The pressure yesterday was enormous," Lehmann said. "It was a big challenge playing in front of that amazing backdrop, and I'm satisfied that we have passed that test. We had some tough periods but the only thing that matters in the end is the result."
'Can't plan fitness'
A partisan crowd in excess of 50,000 made for a deafening atmosphere and Lehmann, who was winning his 58th cap, played a crucial role in steadying his defence in the face of mounting pressure from the co-hosts. "I got a bit louder [then] but that is just normal. We started the game a bit too fearful and cautious, I wanted to stop that – and it worked." The goalkeeper and his team-mates can now look forward to a quarter-final against Group A winners Portugal in Basel on Thursday, and he anticipates an even encounter against opponents who rested most of their first-choice lineup for Sunday's defeat by Switzerland. "We only have three days to recover, but you cannot plan fitness. Sometimes you're better if you're rested, sometimes when you just recently played. We'll see what happens."
Rein in Ronaldo
At 38, Lehmann is Germany's oldest player at the tournament and, after spending five years in England at Arsenal FC, he has plenty of first-hand experience of several members of the Portugal squad, including perhaps their greatest threat. "My team-mates at Arsenal always had a good way of stopping [Cristiano] Ronaldo – just about – but he can still decide games in one moment. Portugal have a lot of other top players and therefore it will be extremely difficult for us, but I still believe that we have a good chance of going through," said Lehmann, who will play for VfB Stuttgart next season.
"Winning a game like this always depends on how the physical condition, the psyche and the tactics fit together. The team that combines those better will win," added Lehmann, who famously had a list of penalty-kickers and their preferred target areas when Germany beat Argentina in a shoot-out in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals two years ago. He is preparing for such an eventuality again. "When I walk on to the pitch, I will know already about Portugal's penalty-takers. Our goalkeeping coach, Andreas Köpke, will make sure I'm fully prepared. Of course we'd rather win the game in 90 minutes, but if it has to be decided from the spot then I am ready."
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