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Germany tries to slow rested Portugal


Basel, Switzerland (Sports Network) - The first quarterfinal of Euro 2008 will be a heavyweight clash between Group A winners Portugal and Group B runners-up Germany on Thursday.

Portugal enters the match as an extremely well-rested team after winning its first two group contests and sitting most of its regulars for the final match against Switzerland.

Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Simao Sabrosa and Nuno Gomes will have had a week to rest, while Germany will have just two days between its final group stage match and Thursday's quarterfinal.

Germany manager Joachim Loew, who is suspended for Thursday's game after being sent to the stands on Monday, will have some tired players on his hands for the Portugal game, while both Lukas Podolski and Torsten Frings are question marks with injury issues.

Podolski is the team's leading scorer with three goals in three games, but he is battling a calf problem and may not be at full strength by Thursday. Frings is also a big part of Germany's team and will be expected to slow a talented Portugal midfield, but he suffered a broken rib in Monday's 1-0 win over Austria, leaving his status up in the air.

Portugal looked like one of the best teams in the tournament in their first two matches, beating Turkey and the Czech Republic by a combined 5-1 score.

Ronaldo looked sharp with a goal and an assist in those two games, and a balanced attack emerged with five different players scoring goals.

The five-man midfield has been the team's biggest strength with playmakers like Ronaldo, Simao, Deco and Joao Moutinho, while Armando Petit has been charged with the defensive responsibilities and should see plenty of Germany's Michael Ballack on Thursday.

Striker Nuno Gomes has been less impressive, and the Portuguese attack would be even that much stronger if he finds his form ahead of Thursday's game.

Although Loew will not be on the bench for the contest, he could still make a few changes to the German lineup to spice up the attack.

Striker Mario Gomez has been a big disappointment in his first three games, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Gomez on the bench in favor of Podolski, who has occupied a spot on the left in midfield.

If Podolski pushes up to striker to join Miroslav Klose, expect Bastian Schweinsteiger to return from suspension and claim Podolski's spot in midfield, with the expectation of Schweinsteiger delivering some dangerous crosses to Bayern Munich teammates Klose and Podolski.

Portugal is certainly the in-form team, while Germany has not lived up to expectations at this point, but it is hard to count Germany out in a big match.

The Germans are certainly capable of returning to top form and knocking off Portugal, but the question will be whether or not their tired legs can keep up with a loaded Portuguese midfield that has yet to be slowed down.

















06/18 17:16:58 ET

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