Germany eyeing Greece in quarters
Germany were on Sunday hoping to finish top of Group B at Euro 2012 by beating Denmark to set up a symbolic quarterfinal with surprise qualifiers Greece, as the Netherlands sought to avoid a humiliating exit.
Joachim Loew's side top the group with six points, after beating the Netherlands and Portugal, and go in to the match in Lviv, eastern Ukraine, knowing that at least a draw will see them qualify in top spot.
But the Germans are still not assured of qualification, given the possible permutations of results from their match and the second between the Netherlands and Portugal in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The beaten Euro 2008 finalists could even go out if Denmark win by anything other than a one-goal margin in which Germany score at least two and Portugal win.
For the other teams, Denmark – on three points after beating the Dutch in their opening match – will qualify if they win but they will only progress with a draw if Portugal lose.
Portugal, also on three points following their win over Denmark, will be through with a win unless Denmark beat Germany by a one-goal margin other than 2-1 or 1-0. A draw will be good enough unless Denmark win.
The Selecao could even go through if they lose by a one-goal margin and Denmark are beaten.
The odds are stacked greatest against Bert van Marwijk's misfiring Dutch, who are languishing bottom without a single point. They need to beat Portugal by at least two goals and hope that Germany beat Denmark.
The winners of Group B will play Greece, who qualified second from Group A, in the northern Polish city of Gdansk next Friday, while the runners-up from Group B will play Group A winners the Czech Republic in Warsaw on Thursday.
The prospect of a Germany-Greece quarterfinal is an enticing prospect with the political and economic backdrop of the eurozone crisis, which has seen Berlin lead the calls on Athens to impose unpopular cuts to offset crippling national debt.
Greek sports dailies on Sunday appeared to relish the prospect, with Goal News headlining its article on the previous evening's 1-0 triumph against Russia: "Bring us Merkel."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is unpopular in Greece for pushing the government in Athens to introduce harsh austerity measures in return for International Monetary Fund and European Union rescue loans.
"You will never get Greece out of the Euro, Europe once again delirious about bankrupted Greece," the paper said.
Loew, however, is refusing to look beyond the Denmark match, assessing that the game will be tight and warning that "they're compact and very dangerous on the counter-attack".
His Danish counterpart Morten Olsen, meanwhile, insisted that his team, including Nicklas Bendtner who scored twice in the 3-2 defeat to Portugal, would be going all out to win.
"Nothing is impossible and we'll be going for victory," he said.
Statistics make depressing reading for the Netherlands, with no team ever reaching the knock-out phase of a European championships after losing their first two matches.
Infostrada Sports even estimates that the Oranje's chances of going through are just 9.5 percent.
Nevertheless, Van Marwijk said: "We have to go for it. In the hope that Germany win, we know from the start that after 90 minutes we will need to have won by a two-goal margin," he said.
Portugal, meanwhile, are expecting the tactics and refused to write off the Dutch.
"We have to try to control the game, not only in terms of our defending but also by having possession of the ball and looking for shots at goal," said coach Paulo Bento.
"We want to win the game and take the three points, and then we'll see what happens.