LONDON — Germany are the most successful team at the European Championships, with eight titles including a remarkable run of six consecutive crowns. The quest for a seventh in a row ended in the 2017 edition, at the hands of a little-known Danish team in the quarter-finals.
So when the two sides met in their Group B opener at Brentford Community Stadium on Friday, there was inevitably a sense of revenge for the Germans – which culminated in an emphatic 4-0 win over a youngster. Danish team.
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Two things about this memorable 2017 game stood out, the first being the slicks of rain that fell on Rotterdam on the day the game was due to take place. The second was the result – with the pitch much drier after a 24-hour rain delay – Denmark coming from behind to win 2-1.
The loss left Germany reeling, with the perennial favorites knocked out of the tournament looking like a shadow of their former selves. The only Euro they had participated in that they failed to win the title was in 1993, and even then it took penalties for hosts Italy to oust the European powerhouse from the competition.
The defeat also marked the beginning of the end for manager Steffi Jones, who will eventually be replaced by her former international teammate Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. And while the Voss-Tecklenburg side have had a poor run of results in this competition, Germany have exacted the most crushing revenge on the team that dumped them unceremoniously five years ago.
With Germany’s strength split between defense and attack, the pace and fluidity that had been absent from their game for the past two years returned with a bang. With Germany invading midfield, the balance was lost entirely for the Danes, leaving their thousands of fans crowded into the stands to watch in dismay.
The German press started early as she began turning the screw relentlessly, cannonading the woodwork three times in the opening exchanges. But while other German teams might have dropped their heads and accepted it wasn’t their night, this team stayed the course. Continuing to overload the Danish half of the pitch, Lina Magull found the opening when the ball bounced off Stine Ballisager for the Bayern Munich midfielder to chase and slam between goalkeeper Lene Christensen and her near post.
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Even though Germany might have been out of sight at half-time, the game remained delicately balanced. With memories of watching their half-time lead in 2017 dissolve in Rotterdam, Die Nationalelf came out roaring for the second half. Having lost three times after taking the lead in 29 Euro matches, the Germans weren’t going to let that lead slip away in London.
The game was put out of reach for the Danes when Lea Schüller netted her seventh goal in eight games with a well-taken header from a corner kick early in the second half. Two goals down, Denmark dug deeper into themselves, unable to make the play or reach the German backline.
Speaking after the match, German midfielder Lena Oberdorf said: “We have already analyzed Denmark. I can’t really play their game with Pernille Harder. She’s such a great player. I looked at her and thought, “I’m watching a master at work.” But they couldn’t really find her.”
As Danish coach Lars Søndergaard told ESPN after the match: “In a way it went wrong, we knew how they would play but we couldn’t get out of the press. ‘after 10-20 minutes we had a little insecurity in the passes, but you have to play the press, so and then we tried with the long balls but too far back and we couldn’t put ourselves behind them.”
He continued: “And the second thing was our pressing, we didn’t succeed because they played so fast, the one-two touches, especially on their right side.”
The theme of flawless finishing continued as substitute Lena Lattwein scored Germany’s third goal of the night beating Christiansen at the near post with the most adamant finishing, the goal being the consequence of endless overloading in the Danish surface.
The result was presented for all to see: German dominance and Danish inexperience, as Danish captain Pernille Harder admitted: “We are still a very young team learning every day. We are improving ourselves every day. is. We have to learn and then move on to tomorrow. “
Going into the Euros, there was no doubt that there was talent in the Danish ranks; not just with the enigmatic Harder, but also with the younger generation that has left fans excited for the future. However, that inexperience showed in London with five players in the starting XI aged 24 or under.
The Danes failed to win, as Søndergaard noted, “I just think the Germans played very well today. We didn’t play the way I expected, that’s a bit nervous but we have to get up and it’s a bit tough.”
A sentiment shared by Harder.
“It’s a brand new team since 2017. I think we had four players today from that team. We have a generation change, young players who are really talented and I’m sure the future will be really good,” she said. said.
While Søndergaard and Voss-Tecklenburg had a mixture of youth and inexperience on their respective benches, Germany’s depth was revealed when stalwart 31-year-old Alex Popp – making his Euro debut due to a an injury for the 2013 and 2017 tournaments — met Sydney Lohmann’s cross to deflect the ball into the back of the net with a diving header for Germany’s final goal.
The header was the rubber stamp of a win that cemented Germany as title contenders for the first time in over five years, their game wasn’t even that good when they clinched their last European title in 2013 or their first Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. As midfielder and 2017 veteran Sara Däbritz told ESPN after the victory, “I think it’s important that we know that we have the qualities to play for the title, to have the dream of winning the Euro.
“I think it was a very good start today, but it was only the start, so it’s important to continue to stay focused for the next games. We want to see game by game and give the best of ourselves and hope to go far.”
As for Denmark, the young team in the most difficult group of this summer, there is the prospect of Finland in four days, the game is not only a must win if they are to have any hope of getting out of the phase of groups, but the best chance to wash away the failures of the night and show the quality within the group of 23.
As Søndergaard admitted, the team cannot look past Finland, especially not to a free-scoring Spanish side they will meet in Brentford on July 16. the group, we should forget that now and we should take the game against Finland and see if we can get some revenge in performance.
“It will also be a tough game, but we want to put our game in there and get our foot on the ball; we have to be better than today.”
With Spain having beaten four of their own sides against Finland earlier today in Milton Keynes, Group B looks to be playing out as the most suspected. But the script may not be written yet.