x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Euro 2012: Germany 1 Portugal 0

Mario Gomez, the Bayern Munich striker, makes up for Champions League final with decisive strike against Portugal. Paul Radley reports from Lviv.

Germany's Mario Gomez scores the only goal to beat Portugal at the New Lviv stadium. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Germany's Mario Gomez scores the only goal to beat Portugal at the New Lviv stadium. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

LVIV, UKRAINE // Thanks to one precision header by Mario Gomez, Joachim Loew, the Germany manager, can afford to set back and enjoy a cigarette with his espresso this morning. There was nothing to worry about after all.

The Germans, and their sophisticated coach in particular, have been unusually fidgety in the build up to Euro 2012.

With a golden generation incubating, and having won all 10 of their qualifying matches on the way here, they know expectations are high.

However, the wheels on their sleek BMW have shown signs of loosening just lately. Bayern Munich's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea was a bitter pill for a key contingent of their side to take.

When the national team were then thrashed in a warm-up match against Switzerland, the "group of death" suddenly seemed all the more precarious.

They can rest a little easier after Gomez's strike put paid to Portugal in Ukraine. Loew, a smoker who prepares for most matches with a coffee, can relax.

The decisive goal will also be a welcome one for Gomez, the striker whose failings in front of goal were much to do with that defeat for Bayern.

As Miroslav Klose, the veteran forward, always provides a compelling case for inclusion in finals matches, he had not been a definite starter before this game.

Indeed, as their side struggled for ideas, the German fans had been chanting Klose's name moments before Gomez scored.

It says much about the spirit in the German camp that Klose, with 63 goals in 117 caps, was the biggest cheerleader among the replacements after the goal went in.

This had all the ingredients of a classic, but failed to deliver. Two sets of Galacticos playing in a swish new Slavic chic stadium in front of an eager public.

Yet two sides who scored torrents of goals between them in qualifying struggled to get one between them on their Euro 2012 bow. And instead the mind was allowed to wander.

Given the charged build up to this tournament, the antennae have been primed for any hint of civil disobedience beyond the sidelines.

The atmosphere between these two sets of supporters had been highly convivial all day, to the extent that most shared buses to the ground from Lviv's town centre, despite the fact they were meant to be segregated.

The Germans did draw unnecessary attention to themselves shortly after kick off, though. When Miguel Veloso, Portugal's midfield schemer, went to take a corner in front of the opposing supporters in the third minute of the game, he was pelted with missiles from the stands.

It was a petty annoyance rather than anything sinister. The fans had lobbed scrunched up cards, which had been held up before the start in the usual fashion to display a patriotic motif.

Veloso and Nani were visibly angry that they were having to execute their planned corner routine from a children's ball pool. They had to put up with it for all of the first phase.

Despite the distraction, Portugal have far greater concerns now -namely clawing their way back into this tournament.

pradley@thenational.ae