Three-time champions Germany scored the winning goal against 2004 finalists Portugal to take a 1-0 victory in their opening Euro 2012 Group B match in Warsaw on Saturday.
AP - Mario Gomez made a surprise start and headed in the lone goal for Germany on Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Group B of the European Championship.
Gomez was moments away from being substituted, with Miroslav Klose already waiting on the touchline, when he rose to knock in a deflected cross from Sami Khedira in the 72nd minute.
Germany coach Joachim Loew delayed the substitution and Gomez nearly got another goal before Klose finally came on in 80th and got to play on his 34th birthday.
Nani hit the crossbar in the 84th, the second time Portugal struck the frame in the match. And Silvestre Varela shot straight at Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from close range in the 89th.
Although Germany nearly monopolized possession and chances, Pepe had the best opportunity of the first half, hitting the underside of the German crossbar late in the half after a Portugal corner. The ball hit the line and bounced out.
Despite indicating before the match that he would start the veteran Klose as striker, Loew went with Gomez.
In another move against expectations, Loew also picked Mats Hummels as his starting center back in place of Per Mertesacker.
Both Mertesacker and Klose came into the tournament after long-term injuries. Mertesacker had only two friendlies after surgery on his right ankle in February and Klose also played little after a thigh injury in March. The striker also had been complaining of back problems ahead of the tournament.
Jerome Boateng played at right back although Loew had been upset about newspaper stories on his night life.
In the end, Loew’s decisions proved right. Hummels had a good game, Boateng dealt reasonably well with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gomez got the decisive goal.