Only four games remain at UEFA EURO 2012 and with the prospective semi-finalists all having performed admirably so far, Germany captain Philipp Lahm believes "Spain are still the team to beat".
Some have suggested that Spain's performances in Poland and Ukraine have lacked a little in terms of a wow factor, but left-back Lahm was mightily impressed with La Roja's display in their 2-0 win against France, a victory which set up an encounter with Portugal. "They are still the benchmark," said the 28-year-old at a press conference on Sunday.
As a defender, Lahm has been paying particular attention to the high-tempo pressing game Spain deploy to regain the ball on the rare occasions that they do not have possession. "It is impressive how well they work against the ball and keep the opposition away from their goal," explained the FC Bayern München man, on the losing team against Spain in the UEFA EURO 2008 final and the last four of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "The way they deploy players all over the place and put pressure on the opposing team is incredible. France didn't get to keep the ball for more than a few seconds, at best."
However, while Lahm acknowledged Spain's incredible level of consistency – "they have shown their quality over and over again in recent years" – he was quick to underline Germany's own achievements. "By qualifying for yet another semi-final we have reaped the reward for our hard work," he said. "
We have started beating big nations and that's the biggest indicator of progress you can get. We work well in defence and we have technically strong and robust players who can always score."
With Germany many people's favourites for the title before the tournament began, Lahm said "the pressure is still there, even though we have reached the semis", adding: "Small things will separate the great teams that are left now. There was no guarantee that we would get this far, but we want to stay here until the final, until the end."
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