(Note: if you are interested in Germany’s Olympic football History and how that 2016 group got to Rio, check out my earlier article. Also, I didn’t include any YouTube clips of the games, because they might be geoblocked in your country. But if you just google “Germany Fidschi 10:0,” for example, you’ll find a video that’s available in your region very easily.)
Weird. That’s how it feels to watch the men’s football matches in Rio. Teams wear jerseys with different badges, stadiums are half empty if Brazil isn’t playing and there aren’t any advertising panels around the field. Quite a culture shock.
But the games are fun as hell! Euro 2016 was an ode to “coward ball.” Germany and Spain were the only teams that came to France with an attacking mindset; everybody else tried to park the bus for 120 minutes to force a penalty shootout. At the Olympics though, teams play an open style and defending is terrible. Germany’s scoring record was 19:5 after four games; I bet Croatia and Portugal could play each other twenty times and you wouldn’t see as many goals.
The Group Stage
As I predicted in my preview piece, Mexico and South Korea gave us more trouble than one would expect. The Koreans had a two month Olympic training camp before they travelled to Brazil, by contrast Germany had a week to get ready.
Against Mexico (2:2), Matthias Ginter saved our butts when he equalized with ten minutes left. The Korea game was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, we were down 0:1, up 2:1, down 2:3 in the end escaped with a crucial point thanks to Gnabry’s last minute goal. Had we lost, our guys could be back in Deutschland by now.
Germany came into the last game, knowing they need a big win against Fidschi. We were up 10:0 after 70 minutes, Nils Peterson scored five times and punched our ticket to the Quarterfinals.
Attack was by far our strongest area on the pitch. The sight of Julian Brandt and Max Meyer against below average defenders is amazing entertainment. Julian Brandt was so much faster than every Fidschi defender, that he didn’t even have to make cuts to get into the box. He just ran straight down the touch line and nobody in pursuit got an angle on him.
The Bender twins are like a black hole in midfield that sucks up every single ball.
Defensively, Germany has more than enough individual talent, but Süle and Ginter aren’t used to each other as you could see in the first two matches.
Quarterfinals – Sweet Revenge for 2015
At the U21 Euros last year, Portugal beat Germany in the semifinals by five goals to nil. Unfortunately neither Portugal nor Germany brought players to Rio who also played in Sweden last year (Renato Sanches, Emre Can, Joao Mario, Kimmich to name a few), but it is still kinda nice to get back at them with a 4:0 thrashing. It seemed like Hrubesch and his guys had finally ironed out the defensive issues that plagued Germany in the first two games, attack hasn’t been a problem anyways. The German team now gets to move in with the other athletes at the Olympic Village in Rio.
Roadmap to Gold, Silver or Bronze
We will face Nigeria in Sao Paolo, while Brazil takes on Honduras in Rio.
I bet TV channels and rights holders pray every night that they won’t get Honduras vs. Nigeria in the Gold medal game. Brazil vs. Germany is the matchup the whole world wants to see. Can Neymar deliver Brazil’s first ever Olympic Gold and remedy the “7:1” at the same time? This matchup would be bigger than Phelps, Usain Bolt and the USA Dream Team combined. All Brazil games were sold out, players and supporters look just as invested, as if this was a World Cup. In Germany, people are already in Bundesliga preseason fever and won’t care if we lose. The pressure is clearly on Brazil, let’s hope they crumble under it like they did in Belo Horizonte two years ago.
Brazil looked shaky in the first match, the Selecao only managed a scoreless draw against Iraq.
Other than that, Germany is only two wins away from gold. A gold medal, the first one in DFB history, would also be the best going away present for our youth coaching legend Horst Hrubesch, who’s retiring after the Olympics. Hrubesch isn’t very outspoken, looks like the guy next door and doesn’t get much love from the media. In Germany we only make U21 games a big deal if Germany loses. That’s why Hrubesch, a genuine legend as a player and coach, is so criminally underrated. Hrubesch the player scored the game winner in the 1980 Euro final and won the European Cup with Hamburg.
As a coach, he secured the first ever German U21 and U19 Euro titles. Danke Horst, I hope you get that medal and maybe a nice advisory job abroad. If was the head of the English, Dutch or American FA, I’d be on the phone right now to make Hrubesch an offer. That guy has been along for the ride during the radical overhaul of the German youth system, his knowledge and experience could really help struggling FAs.
Mannschaft MVP: Serge Gnabry the “Forgotten Prodigy”
When Serge Gnabry was a 15 year old child, Arsenal payed Stuttgart 100.000€ for his transfer rights. Gnabry made his Premier League debut for Arsenal in 2012 when he wasn’t even allowed to legally drive (17) in Germany.
It seemed like a “German Wunderkind” was emerging in England under “Wunderkind Expert” Arsene Wenger. But since his EPL debut four years ago, Gnabry earned only 483 EPL and 21 UCL minutes. In those minutes the young German produced just one goal and one assist. That’s it.
During his loan spell at lowly West Bromwich, Gnabry couldn’t make the starting eleven either. People forgot about him and wrote him off, even though the guy is 21 years old and not done at all. Coach Hrubesh always believed in him, that’s why he was included in the Olympic Roster.
And Gnabry payed him back big time, he is by far the best player in this tournament and even outshines megastar Neymar. Stuttgart, Hertha, Wolfsburg and Bremen are supposed to be interested in signing Gnabry, whose rights still belong to Arsenal. Maybe Arsene Wenger will give him another shot at Arsenal, but even if that’s not the case Gnabry has earned himself a Bundesliga contract in Rio. What a neat story!
Please check your regional listings for kick off times, these are Brazilian times.
August 17th: 13:00 Brazil vs. Honduras / 16:00 Germany vs. Nigeria
August 20th: 13:00 Bronze Medal Match / 17:30 Gold Medal Match
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