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“I have two successful seasons behind me but it was a hard road for me,” Gomez said about usually being second choice to Klose. “I am very happy that the coach had confidence in me and with the goal I could pay something back.

“The ball was deflected and landed exactly on the front of my head. It wasn’t that difficult.”

Despite indicating before the match that he would start the veteran Klose as striker, Germany coach Joachim Loew went with Gomez.

“Clearly, Miroslav was going to come in at that moment, but Mario scored the goal then,” Loew said. “We waited a few more minutes.”

Gomez was the Bundesliga’s top scorer over the past two seasons and had 12 goals in the Champions League this season to help Bayern Munich reach the final, where it lost to Chelsea on penalties.

Germany was the better team Saturday but found it hard to break down a defensive Portugal. The Germans, seeking their first title since 1996, are considered one of the favorites of the tournament despite being in the toughest group along with the Netherlands and Denmark.

“They scored when we were improving a lot,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. “We fought back and created some good chances. Success in football requires you to take your chances and we didn’t do that.”

Although Cristiano Ronaldo did little until late in the match, Portugal had a chance to equalize in the 84th when Nani hit the crossbar with a misdirected cross — the second time the team struck the frame in the match. And Silvestre Varela had another opportunity in the 89th but he shot straight at Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from close range.

“Everyone knows the class of Ronaldo. You can’t shut him down completely but we did well as a team. I think he had no more than two or three shots at goal,” said Germany defender Jerome Boateng, who had been denounced by Loew after newspaper stories about his private life surfaced. “The criticism from the coach helped me and the whole team stood behind me.”