Fidgety Germany coach Joachim Löw admitted his patience has long run out as he awaits his side's UEFA EURO 2012 opener against Portugal in Lviv, speaking for many as he intoned: "It's time to start."
"We're really looking forward to it all kicking off," he said on the eve of the game, wearing his heart on his short sleeves. "We've had a long preparation period, and there is lots of planning behind us – we feel ready for anything. We are in a very strong group but the challenge is to measure yourselves against the best in the world."
Germany will get plenty of opportunity to do that in Poland and Ukraine, with tough challenges against the Netherlands and Denmark looming large on the horizon. First, though, is a rematch with a Portugal team they beat 3-2 en route to the final four years ago – and Löw believes they still fit into the "best in the world" category even if they have struggled of late.
Three games into 2012 and the Selecção Quinas are still awaiting their first win, yet Paulo Bento says that has little bearing on what to expect over the coming four weeks. He echoes the sentiment of a popular Portuguese saying, 'Quando o ensaio geral corre mal, a estreia vai corer bem' (a good premiere always follows a bad final rehearsal).
"We hope to be at our best so we can compete with a high-quality Germany team," he said. "We have a great side; so do Germany. They had a brilliant qualification [winning ten out of ten] and their three [European] titles speak for themselves. But we played well to get here, and though we're in a strong group, we're well organised. We can get a result."
Bento faces a nervous wait on Nani, set for a late test on a foot knock, and knows his team will have to be at their best against a side that have finished no worse than third at the last three major finals. "Germany give few chances away but there's always a few. We must capitalise whenever they do. We can't let them attack all the time as they could make us suffer. We have to be aggressive, win the ball and use it."
Counterpart Löw has the luxury of a full squad to choose from, though with it the difficulty in paring it down to a starting XI. Questions remain over whether it will be Jérôme Boateng or Lars Bender at right-back and over the identity of the lone striker: the prolific Mario Gomez or, on his 34th birthday, tournament specialist Miroslav Klose.
The veteran is expected to get the nod, though the coach says whoever he chooses will be ready come 20.45CET on Saturday. "There is a nervousness about the squad, but it is always like that before a tournament – it is good for performance; we need that pressure. We have been having fun in training and we are ready to take this fun onto the pitch." So, however, are Portugal.
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