Germany progressed to the semi-finals of the UEFA European Championship for the first time since 1996 as goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack secured a 3-2 victory over Portugal in Basel.
The Mannschaft ended up lifting the Henri Delaunay Cup that year and the way they raised their game to meet the challenge of a Portugal side that refused to lie down – halving a two-goal deficit twice through first Nuno Gomes and then, in the dying minutes, Hélder Postiga – augurs well for Joachim Löw's team.
By contrast, it was a night when the worst fears of Portugal's Chelsea FC-bound coach Luiz Felipe Scolari were realised, his pre-match nightmares about Germany's aerial superiority materialising in the form of headed goals by Klose and Ballack. Portugal were semi-finalists in 2000 and runners-up in 2004 and Scolari had hoped to take that final step at UEFA EURO 2008 but his farewell party fell flat at St. Jakob-Park, where Portugal were overpowered by opponents who shrugged aside impressively their occasional first-stage torpor.
With Simão probing down the right, Scolari's men appeared to be finding their stride as they offered the first threat on goal when Bosingwa crossed and João Moutinho, free of his marker but seemingly caught in two minds, steered the ball over at the near post with his knee. Yet in the 22nd minute they fell behind.
It was a wonderfully worked goal too, swift passing between Philipp Lahm, Ballack and Lukas Podolski advancing the ball down the left, with Podolski bursting clear to drive in a low cross which Schweinsteiger converted with a sliding finish. Schweinsteiger's coach Löw had told the midfielder he had a "debt" to his team-mates after his red card against Croatia and here, in his first start of the finals, he resembled a man on a mission.
Scorer of two goals against Portugal at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Schweinsteiger was the architect of their second here too, drifting a free-kick into the Portugal box which Klose, ghosting clear of the red shirts, headed past Ricardo. Raul Meireles replaced the injured Moutinho and Portugal went in search of a lifeline. It came via captain Nuno Gomes five minutes before the break.
Simão's crossfield ball sent Ronaldo racing clear of Per Mertesacker down the inside-left channel and though Jens Lehmann blocked his shot, Gomes was first to the rebound, striking first time into the net via the foot of Christoph Metzelder, defending desperately on the line. It was Gomes's sixth goal on the European stage over three tournaments – a scoring span only achieved by Jürgen Klinsmann, Thierry Henry and Vladimír Šmicer before him.
Ronaldo was a whisker away from an equaliser moments before half-time, flashing the ball past Lehmann yet just wide of the far post. Deco did find the net shortly after the interval but was in an offside position and the little midfielder then flicked on a Simão corner to set up Pepe, only for the defender to nod over.
Ballack showed him how it should be done in the 61st minute when – to the displeasure of his future manager – he shrugged off Chelsea FC team-mate Paulo Ferreira and beat Ricardo to another Schweinsteiger free-kick to head home. Scolari sent on Nani and Postiga as Portugal chased the game and the pair combined to ensure a nervy finale when Postiga headed in from Nani's left-wing delivery but the glimmer of hope was soon extinguished.