The youngsters of German football played their final game of the U-21 European Championships against Russia on Wednesday night. A less than exciting tournament for the German fans ended in high spirits after Germany clinched a 2-1 win in Netanya. Goals from Sebastian Rudy and Patrick Herrmann sealed the win, leaving Adrion’s men with a 3rd place finish in their group.
Germany dominated the first twenty minutes of the game with chances for Herrmann and Volland being well saved by Filtsov. But against the run of play, senior international Alan Dzagoev opened the scoring for Russia in the 22nd minute. More poor defending from Germany led to this goal, thanks to a very unconvincing clearance, which fell straight to Dzagoev to fire home.
Germany deservedly equalised in the 32nd minute after good work down the left from Kevin Volland. The Hoffenhiem striker then played a great ball across the face of the goal for Herrmann to tap home. Germany were in control throughout the first half and were given even more help towards all 3 points when Russia’s Schennikov was sent off for a high tackle on Herrmann just before half time.
For the first time in the tournament, we were being able to enjoy good passing, fluent football from the German players. The full backs were getting forward well and the midfielders were for once, being able to dictate and control the tempo of the game. Against ten men, some teams sit back and take what they have. But it was great to see that this approach wasn’t the ethos of the German boys. They pressed the ball and enjoyed possession when they had it; so it was good to see them actually enjoy playing football, which is really what it is all about at their age.
Good work from Herrmann then led to Germany being given the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. Sebastian Rudy tucked away the penalty, which sealed what was in the end, a good and deserved with for Adrion and his team.
On first look, 3 points from 3 games is a poor result for Germany. But on further reflection – with games against Spain, Holland and Russia – could we really have expected anymore? The squad was weak compared to the players who were used during qualifying and the side was always going to struggle against the likes of Spain and Holland anyway. Considering that in the other game on Wednesday night, Spain thumped Holland 3-0, our 1-0 last minute goal result doesn’t seem too bad.
For me, as soon as the squad was named, we were out of the tournament early. Without players like Gündogan, Esswein, Draxler, Kirchoff and even Leitner, it was going to be difficult to get results in the games against Spain and Holland. Obviously, the DFB had different views on international youth football this year than the countries of Spain and Holland.
By playing the likes of Isco, De Gea and Munian, Spain sends the message that it is pursuing another U-21 European Championship. Apart from showing that these great players, sadly, can’t yet make it into the senior side, the Spanish officials have shown that they care greatly about their young internationals. So even if these players can’t make their way into the senior side, they are gaining experience and international know-how all the time with the same faces around them in the U-21s. And these same faces are likely to be the faces that they will be playing alongside on the national side in a few years’ time.
Although the big German names who played through qualifying may have been tired after their domestic seasons, the likes of Isco, Muniain and Rodrigo all played consistently for their clubs and were still able to play in the U-21s. For me, it would’ve been a lot nicer to see off one of the best seasons in German football with a great showing of the famous young players that German clubs can produce.
Although we didn’t get that, we did get to see some of the smaller names show why they should get more recognition. Hopefully nothing much is made of the less than satisfying showing from the young Germans, and hopefully the likes of Leitner and Draxler show themselves in the next U-21 European Championships.
There’s always next time.
Header courtesy of dpa, Roland Weihrauch
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