Calm Lahm demands focus with Euro final in reach

Captain Philipp Lahm has demanded total focus from Germany ahead of Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy as they bid to reach their second consecutive European Championship final.

Updated: June 27, 2012 16:48 IST
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Warsaw: Captain Philipp Lahm has demanded total focus from Germany ahead of Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy as they bid to reach their second consecutive European Championship final.

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"Small things will separate the great teams that are left now," said the 28-year-old.

"There was no guarantee that we would get this far, but we want to stay here until the final, until the end."

It was Lahm who calmed German nerves with a sublime strike from the edge of the penalty area to open the scoring in Friday's 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece which confirmed Germany's place in Thursday's last four clash in Warsaw.

Victory over the Azzurri would put Germany in Sunday's final in Kiev against either Spain or Portugal, but Lahm needs no reminding of the Euro 2008 final.

The Bayern Munich stalwart was beaten for pace by Fernando Torres which allowed the Chelsea striker through on the German goal to hit the winner in Vienna four years ago in la Roja's 1-0 victory.

"Spain are still the team to beat, they are still the benchmark," admitted Lahm.

But the German skipper said all concentration is now on the Italians as Germany look to claim their first win over the Azzurri at a major tournament at the eighth attempt.

"By qualifying for yet another semi-final we have reaped the reward for our hard work," said the Bayern Munich captain.

"We have started beating big nations and that's the biggest indicator of progress you can get.

"We work well in defence and we have technically strong and robust players who can always score."

As one of the pre-tournament favourites, Germany arrived at Euro 2012 on the back foot after suffering a shock 5-3 defeat to Switzerland in a friendly then were subdued in their 2-0 win over minnows Israel at the end of May.

But the Germans proved they are a tournament team by hitting the ground running to beat Portugal, Holland and Denmark in their three pool games in Ukraine to win the so-called "Group of Death".

Having spent last season as right-back at Bayern, Lahm has switched to the left for Germany and his pace down the wing means he can fire in crosses while ensuring nothing passes him on the flank.

As the only German to have played every minute of their 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa, Lahm took over the captain's armband after Michael Ballack was ruled out on the eve of the tournament with injury.

Despite his baby-faced appearance, Lahm has a tough edge and had no reservations about criticising his former coaches in his autobiography, published last year.

He also made it very clear he would not have given up the captain's armband without a fight, even though Ballack's knee injury after the World Cup settled the issue.

Likewise, he has spoken out about the issue of homosexuality remaining a taboo subject in football, but also advised those players who are homosexual not to come out, because of the subsequent abuse he feels they would suffer.

Having made his debut in 2004, Lahm celebrated his 90th appearance against the Greeks in Gdansk with his fifth international goal.

It was a carbon copy of the first goal of the 2006 World Cup: a dazzling strike by Lahm from the edge of the area against Costa Rica.

Having spent his entire career at Bayern, apart from two seasons on loan at VfB Stuttgart, Lahm was a ballboy during the 1997 Champions League final at Munich's Olympic Stadium when Borussia Dortmund beat Juventus.

Now he's the one hoping to have European football at his feet after the final in Kiev, but Lahm admits to being intrigued by the silky skills of the Spanish.

"It is impressive how well they work against the ball and keep the opposition away from their goal," explained Lahm.

"The way they deploy players all over the place and put pressure on the opposing team is incredible.

"France didn't get to keep the ball for more than a few seconds, at best (as they lost the quarter-final)."

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