The script worked nearly to perfection for the tournament's underdogs for the first hour on Friday, with little to explain exactly how they were level with one of the favorites to win the whole thing. All that mattered was that they were, and given the manner in which they'd found their way to the quarterfinals, it wouldn't have been entirely too surprising had they back-assed their way into the semis. Quality eventually told, however, and now we're on to the marquee quarterfinal tie. Or at least marquee for everyone not camping out between Martin Samuel's third and fourth chins.
Germany 4, Greece 2
GER: Lahm 39', Khedira 61', Klose 68', Reus 74'
GRE: Samaras 55', Salpingidis 89'
For much of the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before Germany swept Greece aside and eased their way into a semifinal date with the winner of Sunday's England/Italy match. Chances were coming quick and fast, with Greece giving possession away almost immediately after winning it back. The Germans pressed, and pressed, and pressed, and created a number of chances for each of the three men selected to replace what had previously been a first-choice attacking contingent of Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski, and Thomas Müller.
And while each of Miroslav Klose, Marco Reus, and Andre Schürrle had their chances, more than justifying their inclusion, the opener would finally come with a little more than five minutes to play in the opening half, with Philllip Lahm finding space--which wasn't exactly at a premium in the Greek half--on the edge of the area and dipping a well-struck shot beyond Michail Sifakis. Job done, it seemed, as there was no way Greece would fight back after holding for so long with very little in the way of chances of their own.
So of course Georgios Samaras scores on the counter ten minutes after the break to level things up. It makes perfect sense, given that Samaras has been a complete shithouse for most of the tournament, and to that point had offered little in the match other than a nice five o'clock shadow. Given the way the match had gone, and the gap in quality between the sides, Greece had no business drawing level.
Thankfully Germany woke up and strolled from there, with Sami Khedira volleying past Sifakis, Klose heading in to extend the lead, and Reus adding a fourth in a match that could have very easily seen eight or nine goals from the Germans. A silly handball from an indifferent-seeming Jerome Boateng allowed a consolation penalty for Greece, which was expertly dispatched by Dimitris Salpingidis, but even a 4-2 scoreline flattered a Greek side that could very well have been on the wrong end of an historic loss.
Spain v. France
Saturday 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
There's an image of a free-flowing, attack-happy Spain that I have in my head, but there's little chance that we actually get to see anything close to that today. If anything--and assuming that France has enough possession to push forward--the French will be the side with a little more urgency, as this iteration of Vicente del Bosque's squad has proven to be perfectly content with playing a patient, verging on boring, brand of football to churn out results.
That Spain haven't really hit top form is either terrifying or encouraging for Laurent Blanc, but after the loss against Sweden on Tuesday, he'll have plenty of concerns of his own. Qualification wasn't guaranteed for Blanc's French side earlier in the week, but they turned in a lifeless performance against the already eliminated and lack of shit-giving Swedish. They conceded two decent-enough goals, the first a terrific volley from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but in general they looked lethargic and disinterested, and that won't be anywhere near good enough against Spain.
Personnel and tactics will again be the interesting storylines as kickoff approaches, with most of the intrigue on the Spanish side of things, as we've come to expect. We can expect that the French will do most of the reacting and Spain much of the pace-setting, and whether or not they decide to do that with a true number nine, they'll be the favorites to face Portugal.