Portugal 2 Germany 3: Ballack sends Scolari packing

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Played two, lost two: Luiz Felipe Scolari has had a worse start to life as Chelsea manager than even Avram Grant. His team are out of Euro 2008, trampled by the relentless Germans, and the triumphant announcement nine days ago of his impending arrival at Stamford Bridge now looks about as well-timed as a Paulo Ferreira tackle.

Scolari winced and groaned in the dugout at his team's disintegration, the second defeat since he told the world he was off to Chelsea.

At the final whistle, Cristiano Ronaldo showed that petulant side of his character, a side that seems ever more prevalent these days, by walking straight off the pitch. It was up to his team-mates to wave disconsolately to their own fans while the man who rates himself so highly tried to make a point. What that point was, no one was sure: all the rest of us knew was that Ronaldo had gone missing for most of the second half.

If you wanted to talk about the best in the world and £60m price tags then the only man who belonged in that category was the brilliant Michael Ballack who scored Germany's third goal but did so much more over the course of the evening. The Chelsea midfielder shaped the play and, with a crafty push of Ferreira created the space to head in the critical goal and ensure his side will meet either Croatia or Turkey in Wednesday's semi-final. There is no consolation for Scolari on a night like this, but at least Ballack will be playing for him come August.

Scolari will have to keep facing down the allegation that he was over-eager in announcing his departure to Chelsea. In truth, the Germans were just too good last night, especially when they were faced with a Portugal defence that is starting to look like a comedy ensemble.

Unfortunately for Scolari, three-quarters of that back four play for Chelsea. He joked they would have trouble with the height of the Germans and they did, but the Brazilian was not laughing last night.

Watching Scolari in defeat is not an experience with which the English are familiar but he was gracious last night. He complained half-heartedly to the fourth official that Ballack had shoved Ferreira for the third goal but you could tell he knew the game was up.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose has already punished his team with goals, and although Nuno Gomes scored to make it 2-1 at the end of the first half, the momentum always seemed to be with Germany and their manager Joachim Löw – exiled to a corporate box because of his touchline ban.

There was flourish at the end of the game when Helder Postiga pulled back a second goal for Portugal but the man to whom all eyes were drawn simply did not deliver. Ronaldo had played a key part in Gomes' goal but he faded badly in the second half, even when Scolari switched him to centre-forward.

You have to hope that there is some remorse in this brilliant young footballer for such a poor performance but the manner in which he stalked off suggested otherwise.

As soon as Ronaldo's Euro 2008 was at an end he set the wheels in motion for a move to Real Madrid. Perhaps that has served as a distraction for him this tournament.

Last night the Germans cut Portugal to pieces in the first 30 minutes and exposed the defensive inadequacies of Chelsea's new £13m right-back, Jose Bosingwa. The new Chelsea right-back looks great going forward; it is when he is forced to defend that the problems begin.

Germany's first goal was a beauty. Lukas Podolski exchanged passes first with Klose and then with Ballack in a thrilling sequence down the German left wing. Bosingwa came over to cover as Podolski headed for the corner flag but he simply bounced off the German who crossed to the near post where Schweinsteiger had timed his run perfectly to put the ball away.

If that goal was embarrassing for the Portuguese then worse was to come. On 26 minutes, Armando Petit was booked for a foul on Christoph Metzelder on the edge of the Portuguese area, Schweinsteiger hit the free-kick and Klose headed the ball in. Portugal's defence had completely misjudged their step forward, inadvertently playing the whole German line on side and leaving any one of three to head the ball in.

With Joao Moutinho off injured shortly afterwards this had the feel of a disaster for Scolari.

However, on 40 minutes Ronaldo seized on a mistake by Arne Friedrich to drive forward down the left wing. His shot was saved by Jens Lehmann – just – but it fell to Nuno Gomes on the edge of the area who picked his spot between the covering Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder.

Ballack, the game's outstanding performer, found himself just behind Ferreira when Schweinsteiger hit his free-kick on the hour and, with a cheeky shove for his Chelsea team-mate, he had the space to head the ball past a stranded Ricardo.

On as a substitute, Nani crossed for Postiga to head home on 87 minutes but the win was never in danger for the Germans. Once again they look ominously good. Scolari is all Chelsea's – although earlier than he hoped.

Portugal (4-2-3-1): Ricardo (Real Betis); Bosingwa (Chelsea), Pepe (Real Madrid), Carvalho (Chelsea), Ferreira (Chelsea); Petit (Benfica), Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Deco (Barcelona), Simao (Atletico Madrid); Nuno Gomes (Benfica). Substitutes used: Meireles (Porto) for Moutinho, 31; Nani (Manchester United) for Nuno Gomes, 67; Postiga (Sporting Lisbon) for Petit, 73.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Lehmann (Stuttgart); Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Metzelder (Real Madrid), Lahm (Bayern Munich); Hitzlsperger (Stuttgart), Rolfes (Bayer Leverkusen); Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Ballack (Chelsea), Podolski (Bayern Munich); Klose (Bayern Munich). Substitutes used: Borowski (Werder Bremen) for Hitzlsperger, 73; Fritz (Werder Bremen) for Schweinsteiger, 83; Jansen (Bayern Munich) for Klose, 89.

Referee: P Frojdfeldt (Sweden)

Booked: Portugal Petit, Pepe, Postiga; Germany Friedrich, Lahm.

Man of the match: Ballack

Comments