Schweinsteiger takes Merkel’s tip, atones for red card


Berne : Bastian Schweinsteiger repaid the faith placed in him by coach Joachim Loew with a match-winning performance Thursday in Basel as Germany stunned highly fancied Portugal 3-2 to reach the Euro 2008 semi-finals.

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The Bayern Munich midfielder scored one and laid on two goals with free-kicks badly defended by the Portuguese to put his side into the last four against either Croatia or Turkey.

Schweinsteiger’s tournament had seemed to be floundering after a red card in the 1-2 defeat to Croatia which earned him a one-match suspension.

Dropped at the start of the tournament, Loew had unusually announced in advance that Schweinsteiger would start against Portugal.

It was, he said, an opportunity for the 23-year-old to pay something back to the team for his lack of discipline against Croatia, when he shoved Jerko Leko shortly after coming on as a substitute and was shown a red card.

He did that against the Portuguese with a tireless display and an important first goal for the Germans in the 22nd minute, after excellent work along the left and a fine low cross into the danger zone by Lukas Podolski.

Schweinsteiger revealed that he got some tips from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who sat near him in the stands to watch Germany’s last game against Austria, a lacklustre 1-0 victory.

“The chancellor told me what I had to do today – ‘Don’t do something stupid like that again and play like you used to.’ I took her advice,” he said. “If the chancellor says it, you have to do it.”

Bayern team-mate Podolski had kept his place on the left side of midfield, a position usually filled by Schweinsteiger, as Loew and his assistant Hansi Flick – acting coach in place of Loew, who was suspended for his altercation with the fourth official during the Austria match – chose a similar 4-2-3-1 formation played by Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Portuguese.

“I am totally happy. We are in the last four, and that’s sensational,” Schweinsteiger said. “We have put out what I think is the best team in the tournament. We played for our coach today.”

Schweinsteiger was exhausted by the time he was substituted in the 84th minute, but by then Germany had done enough, despite a goal three minutes later from Helder Postiga to pull Portugal within 3-2.

“I trusted in my abilities. The coach and the team had placed their confidence in me,” Schweinsteiger said.

The game could be the making of Schweinsteiger in the tournament, at the end of what has been a frustrating season in which he saw France’s Franck Ribery dislodge him from the left of the Bayern Munich midfield and Podolski preferred in the same role for Germany.

“He had had time to rest (as a result of the suspension),” Flick said. “We had talked to him and made it clear he couldn’t let the team down like that. Today he gave a really good display.”

Now Schweinstieger would like a rematch with Croatia in the semi-finals, and the opportunity of collective atonement for the team’s 2-1 defeat in the group game.

After this performance, the change of tactics could now be the way forward for Loew, who had seen both Portugal and the Netherlands play similar strategies to great effect. He had, at least, a good view from his position in the stands of Germany’s best display of the tournament.