Portugal 2 Germany 3
All eyes may have been on Cristiano Ronaldo but it was his opposite number seven Bastian Schweinsteiger who stole the show on Thursday to book Germany’s place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals and dump Portugal out.
Bayern Munich star Schweinsteiger scored one and set up two more – for Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack – to render Nuno Gomes’ effort at the end of the first half and substitute Helder Postiga’s towards full-time little more than consolations.
The result sees Germany, who only clinched their spot in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over Austria on Monday, advance to a last-four clash with either Croatia or Turkey next Wednesday.
It also brings Luiz Felipe Scolari’s five-year reign as Portugal coach to an inglorious end before he heads off to become Chelsea manager on July 1.
Joachim Low, unable to sit in the Germany dugout due to the one-match ban imposed following his touchline bust-up with Austria coach Josef Hickersberger in the last group match, made three changes to his starting XI.
Schweinsteiger – back after suspension – Thomas Hitzlsperger and Simon Rolfes came into the line-up with Clemens Fritz, Mario Gomez and rib injury victim Torsten Frings missing out.
Scolari stuck to his pre-match word and named the same starting XI which beat Czech Republic and Turkey to win Group A for this match on the newly-laid turf at Basle’s St Jakob-Park.
Low’s team, under the temporary guidance of his assistant Hans-Dieter Flick, controlled the tempo and bossed the possession in the early stages.
Hitzlsperger had the first shot with a ninth-minute free-kick but it did not get very far before Deco got the block in, and the Stuttgart midfielder lashed another left-footed effort goalwards moments later which rippled Ricardo’s side-netting.
Simao Sabrosa made Jens Lehmann work for the first time just before the quarter-hour mark when he found himself well place on the right-hand side of the area following good build-up play from Pepe and Deco, but the former Arsenal stopper was equal to the Atletico Madrid winger’s effort.
Nuno Gomes then looked to put Cristiano Ronaldo through but Arne Friedrich got across swiftly at the expense of a corner.
Jose Bosingwa fired in a cross from the left towards Joao Moutinho but it arrived at an awkward height for the Sporting Lisbon midfielder, who ended up diverting the ball over the bar with his thigh.
That miss proved costly as shortly afterwards the Germans forged ahead.
Podolski, who had been doubtful with a calf injury, burst down the left and sent in a dangerous low cross which Schweinsteiger tapped home at the near post in the 22nd minute.
Four minutes later, Germany doubled their advantage when man of the match Schweinsteiger floated in a free-kick and Klose glanced a tidy header past Ricardo.
Portugal then suffered a further blow when Joao Moutinho hobbled off with a knee injury, to be replaced by Raul Meireles.
Ronaldo and Simao combined well just after the half-hour to force Per Mertesacker into a scrambled clearance, but the initially shell-shocked Portuguese were beginning to find their feet again.
Gomes picked a fine time to bag his first goal of the tournament to halve the deficit in the 40th minute, reacting first to fire into the bottom-left corner via the right boot of Christoph Metzelder after Lehmann had parried a Ronaldo blast.
Germany almost immediately restored their two-goal cushion when Ballack cut in well from the left onto his right foot, but Ricardo got down well at his near post to save.
Ronaldo then had an opportunity to level matters in first-half stoppage time, only to see his effort drift just wide of Lehmann’s right-hand upright.
Friedrich and Philipp Lahm were both shown yellow cards in the opening minutes of the second half for lunges on Ronaldo and Simao respectively.
Hitzlsperger had a sight of goal five minutes after the restart but lashed his left-footed strike wildly over the top.
Pepe then passed up a great chance to restore parity when headed over in the 57th minute after Deco had flicked on a corner.
Once again, the Portuguese immediately paid for their profligacy when Ballack met Schweinsteiger’s free-kick from the left and – with the help of a slight push in the back of his Chelsea team-mate Paulo Ferreira – made space to head past Ricardo.
Scolari threw attackers Nani and Postiga into the fray in a bid to turn the match around, but the Portuguese were struggling to test Lehmann.
Deco played a fine ball through to Nani but the Germans defended resolutely to prevent his cross reaching its target.
Podolski almost made it 4-1 12 minutes from time when his fierce long-range drive whizzed just past the right-hand post with Ricardo merely an onlooker.
Schweinsteiger lapped up the applause of the buoyant German fans when he was replaced by Fritz in the 83rd minute.
Four minutes later, Nani set up fellow substitute Postiga to head home a second and give Portugal hope.
But there was to be no grand finale for Portugal and Scolari, as Germany – even without their coach on the touchline – held on.