Germany’s new generation give hope to the nation with blistering Euros start

Published June 16, 2024
MUNICH: Germany’s Niclas Fuellkrug (second L) scores during the Euro 2024 Group ‘A’ match against Scotland at the Allianz Arena.—Reuters
MUNICH: Germany’s Niclas Fuellkrug (second L) scores during the Euro 2024 Group ‘A’ match against Scotland at the Allianz Arena.—Reuters

MUNICH: Germany’s young attackers sent a clear message that they are ready to lead the team into a new era, with 21-year-olds Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala putting on a sparkling display in their country’s opening 5-1 Euro 2024 win over Scotland on Friday.

The two wingers scored the opening goals in the Group ‘A’ victory, while Kai Havertz, 25, converted a penalty and substitutes Niclas Fuellkrug and Emre Can scored in the second half against the reeling 10-man Scots.

But it was Wirtz and Musiala who drew the eyes of the expectant, yet anxious, home fans who had been chastened by Germany’s underperformance in the past decade — with the team going out of successive World Cups (2018, 2022) in the group stage and losing in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

Wirtz underlined his status as one of European football’s most exciting young talents with his goal, having already tested goalkeeper Angus Gunn in the opening minutes of the match.

His 10th-minute strike was a perfect example of his play this past year, with 11 goals and 12 assists for Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen, ghosting in at the edge of the area to power the ball home, despite Gunn getting a hand on it.

It meant Wirtz became the youngest scorer for Germany at a Euros at 21 years and 42 days old, beating the previous record of Havertz who was 22 when he scored at Euro 2020.

Musiala, who grew up in England and played for their youth team but then opted to represent the nation of his birth, got a much cleaner strike when he smashed the ball high into the net nine minutes later having been teed up by Havertz in the box.

The forward, given the prestigious No. 10 shirt by Julian Nagelsmann, is only 67 days older than Wirtz and ran Scotland’s defence ragged with his deft technique while travelling with the ball, which has earned him the nickname “Bambi”.

With five different players scoring goals, Germany delivered their best showing so far under Nagelsmann — and one of their most convincing team performances in some time.

“I’m pretty far away from being a killjoy,” Nagelsmann said, adding “it doesn’t make much sense to step on the brakes now.”

COLOGNE: Hungary’s Attila Fiola (L) vies for the ball with Ruben Vargas of Switzerland during their Euro 2024 Group ‘A’ match at the Cologne Stadium on Saturday.—AFP
COLOGNE: Hungary’s Attila Fiola (L) vies for the ball with Ruben Vargas of Switzerland during their Euro 2024 Group ‘A’ match at the Cologne Stadium on Saturday.—AFP

Nagelsmann, who at 36 is the youngest coach in Euros history, has turned around a side which won just three of 11 games in 2023.

Germany impressed acros the park against the Scots and Thomas Mueller, one of three 2014 World Cup winners in the side alongside Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer, said “it was a perfect evening for us.

“We want to keep going like this,” he added. “This was one game on the way to much, much more that we want to achieve.”

With a month to go until the July 14 final in Berlin, Nagelsmann could have found the perfect balance between youth and experience to take his country to glory and an elated Fuellkrug, who scored Germany’s fourth with a powerful strike and had another chalked off for offside, said things were falling into place for the hosts.

“When you look at the past few years, that was very important for us. Hopefully it continues like that and we’ll score a few more goals. We’ve also had good quality in the past few years, but we couldn’t put it all together. Now, we’ve got a team on the field.”

BERLIN: Spain’s Dani Carvajal celebrates after scoring during the Euro 2024 Group ‘B’ match against Croatia at the Olympiastadion on Saturday. —AFP
BERLIN: Spain’s Dani Carvajal celebrates after scoring during the Euro 2024 Group ‘B’ match against Croatia at the Olympiastadion on Saturday. —AFP

SWITZERLAND MAKE STRONG START

Switzerland moved level with Germany on three points, making a flying start to their campaign on Saturday as Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer scored their first international goals in a 3-1 victory over tournament dark horses Hungary in Cologne.

Striker Duah put Murat Yakin’s Swiss ahead in the 12th minute from Aebischer’s defence-splitting pass — the goal initially ruled offside but allowed after a VAR check.

Aebischer then opened his own international account with a superb curler on the stroke of halftime to put his side firmly in control.

Hungary, who qualified impressively under Italian coach Marco Rossi, were a different proposition after the break and got a lifeline in the 66th minute when Barnabas Varga stooped to head in Dominik Szoboszlai’s inswinging cross.

The Swiss resisted late Hungarian pressure and Breel Embolo seized on a defensive error in stoppage time to seal the points.

“I liken football to chess and today we got our tactics right,” Swiss coach Yakin said. “We focused on making the most of our strength and we made our opponents’ lives very hard.”

Switzerland face Scotland in their second game on Wednesday, while Hungary play Germany the same day.

“The first half was very bad ... we were too passive,” Hungary coach Marco Rossi said, lamenting his side’s errors at the back. “I am not looking to point fingers. I am the coach, so I take responsibility.

“It’s hard to correct the kind of mistakes that we made. Our players do not make mistakes like this every day. We play Germany in four days. I dare anybody to bet one Hungarian forint on us. As of today that looks impossible.”

SPAIN THRASH SORRY CROATIA

Later on Saturday, first-half goals from Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal set Spain on course for a comprehensive 3-0 win over Croatia giving the 2008 and 2012 champions the perfect start to their campaign.

Morata broke the deadlock in the 29th minute in Berlin as the Croatians lost the ball up front and Fabian split the defence with a perfect pass for the Spanish captain to surge through and slot the ball past Dominik Livakovic.

Fabian added the second himself three minutes later and defender Carvajal added a third just before the break as Lamine Yamal, the youngest player ever to appear at the Euros, picked him out to score and effectively end the game as a contest.

Croatia had a goal ruled out when Bruno Petkovic’s missed penalty was played back into his path for him to score, but the strike was chalked off due to Croatian players encroaching during his original penalty kick as they slumped to a bitter defeat.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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