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Semi-finalist profile: Germany

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012, 9.25CET
Three-time winners Germany have lost some of the flair they displayed in South Africa in 2010, but a newfound maturity and defensive rigour makes them real contenders.
by Steffen Potter
from Gdansk

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Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012, 9.25CET

Semi-finalist profile: Germany

Three-time winners Germany have lost some of the flair they displayed in South Africa in 2010, but a newfound maturity and defensive rigour makes them real contenders.

By reaching the semi-finals, three-time winners Germany have underlined their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites. They are the only team at UEFA EURO 2012 to have won all four matches so far and while their play was perhaps more stylish at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, there is very deliberate thinking behind their more mature and cautious approach this time around.

Tactics: This Germany side might not be as exciting as they were two years ago in South Africa, but that is not entirely their own fault. Impressive performances in recent seasons have earned Germany respect and coach Joachim Löw has had to cope with teams – even attacking sides like the Netherlands – sitting very deep against them. As a result Germany no longer enjoy the space they were granted in 2010, even if their 4-2-3-1 formation has not changed since the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008.

In addition, the 5-3 warm-up loss to Switzerland highlighted defensive deficiencies and Löw has asked his wide midfielders to track back more than they used to, knowing that his team's attacking potential remains strong enough to almost guarantee goals.

Key man: Seen as Bastian Schweinsteiger's junior partner in South Africa, Sami Khedira has become the dominant figure in Germany's midfield. Besides winning a tremendous amount of balls and carrying them forward with attacking runs, he either sets up important goals (as against Portugal) or scores himself (Greece). "He has become a real leader; he is very good, very dynamic, very present," said Löw. "It is good for the others that he's there."

EURO semi-final record:

14/06/1972 Belgium 1-2 West Germany (Deurne, BEL)

17/06/1976 Yugoslavia 2-4 West Germany (aet) (Belgrade)

21/06/1988 West Germany 1-2 Netherlands (Hamburg)

21/06/1992 Sweden 2-3 West Germany (Solna)

26/06/1996 Germany 1-1 England (aet, 6-5 pens) (London)

25/06/2008 Germany 3-2 Turkey (Basel)

Basecamp: A fantastic atmosphere appears to reign within the squad and that can only bode well. The depth in Löw's travelling party means that difficult decisions have to be made each matchday and there is inevitable disappointment for some excellent players, but so far everyone has put the team first. "We get on well with each other," said Marco Reus. "We enjoy training together a lot and also enjoy our time off the pitch together."

Record in Warsaw: Germany have good reason to relish a game in Warsaw, where the national team have played four times without losing; they won 5-2 in 1934, drew 1-1 in 1936, triumphed 2-0 in 1961 and – in their only previous competitive game in the Polish capital – recorded a 3-1 UEFA European Championship qualifying victory back in 1971. The three German clubs who have played Legia Warszawa in the city also had an easy ride: TSV 1860 München won 4-0 here in the 1964/65 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals, before an FC Bayern München side featuring Löw's assistant Hans-Dieter Flick won 7-3 in a UEFA Cup first-round game in 1988. More recently FC Schalke 04 won 3-2 at Legia in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup second round, meaning no German side have ever lost a game in the Polish capital.

Room for improvement: All three group stage matches featured moments when Germany could have fallen behind and it is still unclear how Löw's troops would react to that. That said, they coped well after Greece conjured an equaliser in the quarter-finals and after the Netherlands pulled a goal back during their Group B meeting. Germany move forward quickly and are prone to taking risks, leaving them potentially vulnerable to counterattacks.

The view from home: "No one can stop us now" is the view of Bild, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has adopted a line closer to the thinking of most Germany fans: "The outstanding progress of this team is no guarantee of the title. [Löw's] team is the youngest here, and golden times lie ahead for German football. The differences between Europe's top sides are too small to have any guarantee of winning the title. But the Bundestrainer has done everything he can to win it. You cannot ask for more – you can only hope."

Mission statement: "So far we have rewarded ourselves for our hard work in the last few years and weeks. But we have always maintained that we want to play the final on Sunday. We want to win it and want to stay here until the very end." Germany captain Philipp Lahm will accept nothing short of victory.

Last updated: 26/10/12 15.37CET

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