Euro 2008: Powerful Germans send Portugal packing

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Basel, Jun 20: Germany muscled its way past Portugal on Thursday, scoring an emphatic 3-2 soccer victory in the rain in Basel, Switzerland, to secure a semifinal berth for the seventh time in 13 European Championship tournaments.

Two first-half goals in a five-minute spell by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose, and another in the second half by Michael Ballack, left Portugal's title hopes in tatters. Nuno Gomes scored just before halftime for Portugal, which got a second goal from Helder Postiga in the game's dying minutes when the outcome had long been settled. Instead of the match being controlled by Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, as expected, it was Schweinsteiger who dominated proceedings, scoring once and creating the other two goals.

Portugal had reached the final of Euro 2004 as the host, but its Euro 2008 campaign was undone by several factors.

Portugal Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari became a lame duck when Chelsea announced that he would take over the English Premier League club on July 1, and the national team was hurt by Real Madrid's constant courting of Ronaldo despite protests from Manchester United.

Even without those distractions, Portugal failed entirely to cope with Germany's physical size and strength, not to mention the team's renewed commitment after a couple of lackluster displays in the first round. Afterward, Ronaldo revealed that he has been playing for several months with a foot injury.

"I'm going to have an operation now," he said after the match. "I have had a small problem for about three months, in my foot. I'll have the operation and then have a good recovery period."

He did not reveal the nature of the injury, which Manchester United had said nothing about while playing Ronaldo regularly en route to winning the English Premier League and European Champions League titles in May.

Scolari, meanwhile, was dissatisfied that his almost six years in charge of Portugal's team had resulted in no more than a runner-up finish behind Greece at Euro 2004 and a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Cup. "I feel frustration for failing in relation to what I had practically promised . . . that we would be among the best four teams in Europe," the Brazilian said. "Portugal has the quality to achieve that."

Germany, which has won the European Championship three times, was the better team on Thursday and Portugal's flair never materialized.

In the semifinals, Germany will play the winner of today's game between Croatia and Turkey.

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