Germany stumbled out of Group B but their ability to step up a gear against Portugal and then hold off Turkey illustrated their status as a "tournament team".
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Route to the final
Germany started promisingly enough, defeating Poland 2-0 through goals from Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski. However, they looked far from impressive in their subsequent 2-1 loss to Croatia, with Podolski's 79th-minute goal scant consolation and Bastian Schweinsteiger's late dismissal was an added blow. Germany recovered sufficient composure to defeat co-hosts Austria 1-0 in Vienna, through a stunning Michael Ballack free-kick, and grab second place in the section.
After surviving the group stage for the first time since 1996, Germany knocked Portugal out of their stride in their Basel quarter-final. Although coach Joachim Löw had to watch from the stands after his sending-off against Austria, he saw his team prevail 3-2 through goals from Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Ballack. Klose and Schweinsteiger were on target again in the semi-final against comeback kings Turkey but – after Semih Şentürk had made it 2-2 with four minutes left – it was Philipp Lahm's 90th-minute strike that proved the difference.
Germany have won three and lost two of their five previous UEFA European Championship finals. Mannschaft supporters of a superstitious bent may want to avoid studying their sequence of results, given each final victory has so far been followed by a defeat.
• 1972 USSR W 3-0
• 1976 Czechoslovakia L 2-2 aet, 3-5 on pens
• 1980 Belgium W 2-1
• 1992 Denmark L 0-2
• 1996 Czech Republic W 2-1 aet
Schweinsteiger returning from suspension to score the opening goal against Portugal – and send confidence coursing through the team. Lahm's winner against Turkey was pretty timely too.
It has to be Ballack. If his influence was less evident at the start of the finals, he showed his leadership qualities by delivering when it mattered most. His brilliant strike against Austria secured Germany's passage to the last eight and he then showed his strength in the air by heading the decisive third goal against Portugal just when their opponents were threatening an equaliser.
Having employed a 4-2-2-2 formation with Torsten Frings and Ballack as the midfield cornerstones, Löw switched to a 4-2-3-1 set-up for the Portugal game. This meant wing slots for Podolski and Schweinsteiger and, moreover, a much more attacking role for Ballack, capitalising on his goal threat and reviving memories of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Löw retained the same side against Turkey, but Frings replaced the injured Simon Rolfes at half-time and the Werder Bremen man is likely to start against Spain.
Germany having won five out of six penalty shoot-outs – including victories at the semi-final stage of EURO '96™ and the 1982 and 1990 World Cups. Their only defeat came in the 1976 UEFA European Championship final against Czechoslovakia when Antonín Panenka's legendary chip denied them the trophy in their first ever shoot-out.
Route to UEFA EURO 2008™
Germany were the first side to secure qualification for the finals with a 0-0 draw in the Republic of Ireland on 13 October 2007, although a couple of aberrations took some of the gloss off a generally impressive campaign by Joachim Löw's side. Draws with Wales and Cyprus as well as a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic were somewhat eclipsed by a 13-0 triumph in San Marino on 6 September 2006 – the biggest ever UEFA European Championship win. It featured four goals from Podolski, becoming only the second German player to manage that feat after Gerd Müller put four past Albania in 1967.
• "If I was the coach, I'd pick me". Frings hints that, after coming on as a half-time substitute in the semi-final, he is ready to start against Spain.
• "I had a bet and said today we would score from a set-piece. There were two of them, so maybe I should double the stake." Germany assistant coach Flick after Klose and Ballack both strike with headers against Portugal.
• "She told me what to do and I took her advice. She first told me not to do anything stupid again, which I did not do. Then she said I should play in the same way I did two years ago. What can you do? If the chancellor asks you to do something, you have to obey!" Schweinsteiger takes on board the advice of German chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he was sat beside for the Austria game.
What the papers said
• "Now take the chance and write history." Franz Beckenbauer writing in Bild after Germany scrape past Turkey.
• "Schweinsteiginho – two more wins to Europe's peak." Abendzeitung heralds man-of-the-match Schweinsteiger as Germany reach the last four by beating Portugal.
• "Please continue to stumble." Süddeutsche Zeitung welcomes a return to the good old days of seeing Germany grind out results after their win against Austria.
• "Kroatastrophe." Bild does not take defeat against Croatia lightly.