Friday 20 June 2008

German joy at Basel triumph

Germany's players and coach expressed huge satisfaction after their 3-2 quarter-final win against Portugal as well as admitting that the victory was a huge boost to their confidence ahead of the next challenge against Croatia or Turkey in Basel on Wednesday.

'Enormous improvement'
"This was an enormous improvement compared to the last two games," said Clemens Fritz, referring to their stuttering progress through the group stage. His coach Joachim Lw was naturally delighted with the display, although he could not enjoy it from his usual position after his suspension from the dugout following the Austria match. "It was really bad for me, up there behind a glass window," said Lw. "I was far away. You can see a lot from up there, but the distance was bothering me."

Formation gamble
Lw gambled by changing the formation from 4-2-2-2 to what has proved to be a popular set-up at these finals 4-2-3-1 albeit a system he was trying out for the first time as national-team coach. In the new system, Michael Ballack was employed in a much more attacking role behind the sole striker Miroslav Klose, and it paid off as the captain exerted far more influence than in recent games. "Following our display against Austria it was clear that we had to make changes," added Lw. "We wanted to close down space and switch quickly from defence to attack, and we managed to do that."

'Tremendous joy'
Ballack, who scored what turned out to the winning goal after an hour's play, said: "Today the team has shown what it is capable of when it is playing freely." Meanwhile, Carlsberg Man of the Match Bastian Schweinsteiger, who opened the scoring and set up headed goals for both Miroslav Klose and Ballack, said: "I don't feel relief, I feel tremendous joy. I can't really describe what went through my head when I scored. But it was, of course, great to score the opener." His FC Bayern Mnchen team-mate Philipp Lahm then summed up the general mood in the Germany camp. "Belief is everything," he said. "The team believed in itself and showed courage. We've knocked out Portugal, we are in the semi-finals, what more can you ask for?"