Germany were beaten finalists for the second consecutive time after losing 5-4 to the Netherlands in this year’s final. A stoppage time equalizer from the Dutch canceled out Goretzka’s goal earlier to send the game to penalties. Stendera’s miss in the shootout meant that the Netherlands lifted the EURO trophy for a second year running. It was a cruel end to a stellar tournament from this Germany side though whose record leading up to the EUROs is one of the best in history and is surely a valuable learning experience for a very talented group of players.
Lineups and Formations
After impressing against Poland, Stefan Böger started Werner and Dittgen instead of Stendera and Benkarit. His opposite, Albert Stuivenberg, stuck with the same eleven that overcame Georgia 2-0 on Sunday. One advantage Stuivenberg had over Böger was the fact that three of his players, namely Trindade de Vilhena, Hayer and team captain Ake, were also part of the Netherland’s EURO winning team last year in Serbia, in which they beat Germany 5-2 in the final. That added bit of experience also made the difference this time around. Germany continued with the 4-2-3-1 while the Dutch lined up with their famed 4-3-3.
Both teams started with a lot of energy and motivation. The Dutch level of technique and skill on the ball was visible early on, having slightly more possession than Germany but failing to really create clear goal scoring chances with it. Germany’s strong defense kept them at bay for most of the first half but they too had their troubles going forward. Much of their build up broke down past the halfway line with a lot of misdirected passes, misread runs and unsuccessful touches.
The match was in stark contrast to last year’s goalfest, neither side wanting to take a chance and risk conceding a goal. Many of the chances that were created came from outside the box, Brandenburger and Werner for Germany in the 19th and 23rd minute and Anderson and Hayer for the Netherlands in the 25th and 31st minutes. The best chance of all came right before the break when right winger Menig released a shot from 15 meters that beat Schnitzler but bounced right off the crossbar and appeared to go over the line but referee Kruzliak let play continue. Replays proved him right, as the ball bounced right off the line. It was a close call though that could have easily gone the other way.
Böger needed some kick in his attack and brought on Stendera for Dittgen at half-time, a move that would alter the complexion of the match. Just five minutes into the second half, Stendera’s corner gave Germany the all important lead after Goretzka headed it past goalkeeper Olij. Germany were more fluid in their build up and in their movement and threatened a second, third and even fourth goal but Süle (52.), Stendera (57.) and Brandenburger (61.) could not capitalize on their chances. Surprisingly, throughout much of the second half the Netherlands could not get out of their own half and like Poland on Sunday, struggled to get past Germany’s midfield. Goretzka’s goal brought them to the final and it was only appropriate that his goal would also help them win it. It was not to be though.
With seven minutes remaining Böger pulled Brandt and put on Kempf, giving Germany three players in central midfield and hoping to maintain the result. Perhaps thinking the game was in the bag, Böger also pulled Goretzka in the final minute of the match and second later the Netherlands sent in a hopeful cross from the right that was not cleared. The ball landed to substitute Acolatse who hammered home a dramatic equalizer. Germany could not believe it. With momentum on their side now the Netherlands went to penalties with great confidence while Germany were still clearly shaken by the late goal. Despite nerves, Germany converted all their penalties but one, Stendera’s shot saved by Olij. Unfortunately for Germany, the Netherlands converted all theirs and were crowned champions in the most dramatic way possible.
With 28 wins out of 30 matches, this U-17 side is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in recent memory and something that both the players and the coach can carry forward with pride and optimism. Böger had this to say after the match, “We played a fantastic tournamnet and I am very proud of my team. The goal came at the most unfortunate moment and the players obviously feel defeated but my job is now to build them back up.”
Despite the loss, the fact that Germany have taken part in three of the last four finals says a lot about the work done in Germany’s youth academies and with the Netherlands equally successful another final between these two sides is not difficult to imagine next year in Slovakia.
Image courtesy of dfb.de
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