LONDON – Germany are the most successful team at the European Championships with eight titles, including a remarkable run of six consecutive titles. The battle for seventh consecutive place ended in the quarterfinals against an unpopular Danish team at the 2017 edition.
When the two sides met in Friday’s Group B opener at the Brentford Community Stadium, there was inevitable revenge for the Germans – culminating in an emphatic 4-0 win over a young Danish side.
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Two things stood out about this memorable game of 2017: First, the rain showers that pelted Rotterdam on the day the game was supposed to take place. The second was the result – with a much drier pitch after a 24-hour rain delay – Denmark came from behind to emerge 2-1 winners.
This defeat left Germany in shock, and all-time favorites were kicked out of the tournament looking a shadow of their former selves. The only European Championship they had played in that they hadn’t won the title was in 1993, and even then they had it cost hosts Italy a penalty shoot-out to edge the European powerhouse out of the competition.
The defeat was also the beginning of the end for coach Steffi Jones, who would eventually be replaced by former international teammate Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. And while Voss-Tecklenburg’s side came into this competition on poor terms, Germany exacted the most devastating revenge on the side they summarily dropped five years ago.
As German strength was divided between defense and attack, the rhythm and flow that had been missing from their game in recent years returned with a bang. As Germany rolled down the center of the field, the balance was completely upset for the Danes and their thousands of fans in the stands faced horrified spectators.
The German press got off to an early start as they began turning the screw relentlessly, cannoning the woodwork three times in the early changes. But while other German sides might have hung their heads and accepted it wasn’t going to be their night, this side stayed the course. Lina Magull continued to overload the Danish half of the field and found the first set when the ball was bounced back by Stine Ballisager to allow the Bayern Munich midfielder to chase and pop between goalkeeper Lene Christensen and her near post.
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Although Germany could have been out of sight at half-time, the game remained finely balanced. With memories of how their half-time lead dissolved in Rotterdam in 2017, The national team came out roaring for the second half. After three defeats after 29 Euro lead games, the Germans didn’t want to give up their lead in London either.
The game was finally out of the Danes’ reach as Lea Schüller scored her seventh goal in eight games early in the second half with a well-placed header from a corner. Two goals down, Denmark sank deeper into themselves, unable to influence the game or get close to the German defence.
After the game, German midfielder Lena Oberdorf said: “We analyzed Denmark beforehand. We had a pretty good pressing situation. We practiced a lot so we knew what they were going to do and I think you could see it today. They can’t really play their game with Pernille Harder. She’s such a great player. I looked at her and thought, “I am watching a master at work.” But they haven’t really found her.”
As Denmark coach Lars Søndergaard told ESPN after the game: “In a way it went wrong for us, we knew how they were going to play but we couldn’t get out of the press. Maybe after 10-20 minutes we got a bit of uncertainty in the pass but you have to play out of the pressing so we tried the long balls but way too far back and we couldn’t get behind them.
He continued: “And the second thing was our pressing. We didn’t make it because they played so fast, the double touches, especially on their right side.”
The theme of clean finishes continued as substitute Lena Lattwein scored Germany’s third of the night, beating Christiansen at her near post with the most insistent finish, the goal a result of endless overload in the Danish box.
The result was visible to everyone: German dominance and Danish inexperience, as Danish captain Pernille Harder admitted: “We are still a very young team that is learning something new every day. We are on our way to get better every day. We have to learn and then continue tomorrow.
At the European Championships there was no question that there was talent in the Danish ranks; not only with the enigmatic Harder, but also with the younger generation who are getting fans excited about the future. However, that inexperience was evident in London with five players in the starting XI aged 24 or younger.
The Danes couldn’t prevail, as Søndergaard noted: “I just think the Germans played very well today, a little bit difficult.”
A sentiment echoed by Harder.
“Since 2017 it’s a whole new team. I think today we had four players who started from this team. We have a generational change, young players are coming in who are really talented and I’m sure that the future will be really good,” she said.
While both Søndergaard and Voss-Tecklenburg had a mix of youth and inexperience on their respective benches, Germany’s strength was shown when 31-year-old stalwart Alex Popp – who made her European Championship debut due to injury at the 2013 and 2017 tournaments – – caught a Sydney Lohmann cross to head the ball into the back net for Germany’s final goal.
The header was the hallmark of a win that cemented Germany as title contenders for the first time in over five years, his game not even being that good when they clinched their last European title in 2013 or their first Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Like midfielder and 2017 veteran Sara Däbritz told ESPN after the win: “I think it’s important that we know we have the qualities to play for the title, to have the dream of winning the Euros.
“I think it was a really good start today but it was just the beginning so it’s important to keep going and keep focus for the next games. We want to see from game to game and do our best and hope far get.” “
As for Denmark, the young team in this summer’s toughest group, there’s the prospect of Finland in four days, the game not only a must-play if you want any hope of progressing from the group stage, but also the best chance the Washing away the failures of the night and showing the quality within the group of 23.
As Søndergaard admitted the side cannot look beyond Finland, especially a scoring Spanish side who they will meet in Brentford on July 16. In the group, we should forget that now and take the game against Finland and see if we can reciprocate in performance.
“It’s going to be a difficult game too, but we want to bring our game into play and put our foot on the ball; we have to be better than today.”
After Spain won four of their own against Finland earlier in the day in Milton Keynes, Group B appears to be playing as most is suspected. But the script may not be written yet.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/germany-gerw/story/4697239/germany-make-case-to-lift-euro-title-once-more-by-banishing-old-demons-in-big-win-over-denmark Germany make case to lift Euro title once more by banishing old demons in big win over Denmark