Germany have beaten Portugal twice in their last two meetings at major international tournaments, but defender Per Mertesacker has warned his team-mates they "must do more" to make it hat-trick of triumphs when the pair meet in Saturday's Group B opener.
The Arsenal FC centre-back watched from the substitutes' bench as Germany defeated Portugal 3-1 to clinch third place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup before the Nationalmannschaft registered a 3-2 victory against the same opponents in the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008. Given that Germany marched imperiously through qualifying, winning every game, while Portugal reached the tournament via the play-offs, Joachim Löw's men start favourites. Mertesacker, however, told UEFA.com the past counts for little.
"Of course it must be worrying for them to have lost to Germany in crucial games before, but I think we must do more than in the last two meetings in order to beat Portugal," said the ex-SV Werder Bremen man, who also highlighted the danger of overly focusing on stopping Cristiano Ronaldo. "He's the superstar of the Portuguese side, but I think as a team they've gained more experience in the last few years."
While that may be true of Paulo Bento's men, it is also the case for Löw's players. The bulk of the squad who will travel from their Polish base camp to the opening game in Lviv were also part of Germany's run to the semi-finals at the 2010 World Cup. At just 27, Mertesacker is an elder statesman in a rich crop of German talent who could yet develop into one of the finest the three-time European champions have ever seen.
The squad's tremendous individual flair, embodied by the likes of Mario Götze, Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil, has – according to Mertesacker – been allied with more traditional German footballing traits of industry and teamwork to form a potent blend. "I think this is a process that's been going on since I started in 2006," he said. "We've tried to make best use of our qualities in the last few years. We Germans are living off the virtues that have been the last 20 or 30 years in the making. We try to put our stamp on the game with our style of play. We have a good chance of creating a sensation with this style."
The arrival of the German squad has already captured the imagination of people around the team's HQ in Gdansk. Training sessions have proven hugely popular with Polish-born forwards Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose the star attractions. "I think if you are originally from one of the host countries, you can feel the excitement during open training; it was very emotional for all the players to play in front of such a crowd," said Mertesacker, who is likely to form a central defensive partnership with Holger Badstuber against Portugal. "We are seeing the value of the EURO. We are trying to process all of this, and we hope to achieve positive results in order to really arrive here."
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