Germany advanced to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 on Sunday when defender Lars Bender scored his first international goal to seal a 2-1 win over Denmark which put the Scandinavians out.
After Portugal’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Kharkiv, another three points at Arena Lviv confirmed Germany as Group B winners with three victories, while Portugal progressed as runners-up from the so-called “Group of Death.”
“The match was just as tough as we thought it would be,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “We lacked the killer instinct in the first half, which would have made it easier, and then Denmark scored. We knew we could have gone out if we had gone behind, so nerves crept in. We showed maturity in the second half, but we can still improve.”
Germany are set next to play a quarter-final on Friday against Group A runners-up Greece in Gdansk, Poland, their Euro 2012 base.
“We have to be disappointed, but I am not disappointed with the team,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. “It was a fantastic performance and we have played against one of the world’s elite, but unfortunately we paid the price for our carelessness.”
Lukas Podolski, who was making his 100th appearance for Germany, celebrated his century with the opening goal on 19 minutes, but it was canceled out by a Michael Krohn-Dehli just five minutes later, before Bender’s late winner.
“Independent of the goal, that was my first start [for Germany], so it was something special,” Bender said. “We were trying to get that second goal, I just saw the goal in front of me and it was a bit lucky. I am not used to being in that position, but it felt good to be there.”
Having made his debut in the 2-2 friendly draw with Poland in September last year, the 23-year-old Bender was making only his ninth appearance for Germany, while twin brother Sven, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, was cut from the squad.
Both coaches made only essential changes to their starting lineups.
Loew opted for Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Bender at rightback for Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng, who was suspended after picking up a yellow card in the 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Wednesday last week.
Likewise, Olsen brought Jakob Poulsen into the midfield for veteran forward Dennis Rommedahl, who damaged his hamstring in their 3-2 defeat to Portugal.
Germany started at pace and got the breakthrough when Mueller fired his pass across the Denmark goal and Mario Gomez let the ball roll for man-of-the-match Podolski to drill his shot home for his 44th international goal.
Germany held the lead for only five minutes before Nicklas Bendtner headed back from a corner and Krohn-Dehli, who also scored in the Denmark’s shock 1-0 win over the Netherlands, got his head to the ball before the defense.
It was 1-1 at the break, but midfielder Poulson clipped the post with his shot on 51 minutes.
The game’s tempo dropped in the second half, with Germany’s midfield star Mesut Ozil looking flat as the Denmark defenders constantly thwarted Germany.
Podolski was brought off with 25 minutes left as Leverkusen’s Andre Schuerrle was given his chance and he soon tested Andersen with a shot.
With 10 minutes to go, Germany counterattacked at pace. Ozil squared for the grateful Bender and the rightback calmly slotted past Andersen to seal the victory.