In a game of two halves, Germany snuck a late win against the Netherlands in Euro 2020 qualifying.
The Germans started off superbly and went 0-2 up before the Dutch fought back to make it 2-2 after the interval. Things looked to be going well for Ronald Koeman’s men but then the Germans stole it at the death. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Nico Schulz
Germany have had a serious left-back problem ever since they moved Philipp Lahm over to the right. They’ve not managed to find a player worthy of their stature, with Jogi Low often preferring to just start centre-backs out there. Lately he had been playing Jonas Hector, and earlier in this international break it was RB Leipzig’s Marcel Halstenberg; but tonight it was Hoffenheim’s Nico Schulz. And he staked a huge claim to have the spot permanently.
Schulz was a tireless force up and down the German left playing as a wing-back. He helped his side defend but it was in attack where he really staked his claim, first by providing a sublime cross for Leroy Sané to open the scoring. That alone would have been enough but he continued to threaten the Dutch with his runs and then as the clock approached 90, he drifted intelligently into space at the head of the attack and brilliantly passed the ball into the far corner of the net with his weak-foot.
Loser: Matthijs de Ligt
With all of the hype about Matthijs de Ligt, the teenage centre-back had an absolutely shocking first half in the Johan Cruyff Arena. He looked sluggish and slow, utterly unable to cope with the pace and movement of Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry. His humiliation was highlighted by the fact that he slipped, literally just fell over, trying to adjust his footing to block Leroy Sané. That slip allowed the German to score and set the tone – De Ligt struggled hugely until the break, with Virgil van Dijk even swapping sides with him to try and keep him out of harm’s way; but nothing seemed to be working.
Winner: Matthijs de Ligt
Mad what a half-time team-talk can do though, eh? De Ligt emerged from the locker room looking every bit the titanic centre-back he had been said to me. From the embarrassment of the first period, suddenly the teenager was dominant again. Back on the right side of defence, Leroy Sané was dealt with much more aggressively. De Ligt was taking now prisoners, and rose superbly to guide a wonderful header into the back of the net just three minutes into the second period, getting the Dutch back into the game; he then spent the rest of the match stifling the German counter-attack with consummate ease.
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Loser: Marc-André Ter Stegen
You have to feel for Marc-André Ter Stegen. He may never play for Germany at this rate. There is no question that Ter Stegen has been the best German goalkeeper for the last two years, but Manuel Neuer has remained the no. 1 when fit – even playing at the 2018 World Cup despite being so rusty people got tetanus just from watching him.
But when Jogi Low dropped a whole host of World Cup winners and announced a fresh start, this seemed to be Ter Stegen’s time… except Neuer remained. He started against the Netherlands, and had a few moments of outrageous fortune when Dutch forwards played into perfect positions kicked the ball straight at him, allowing him to make big saves that made him look like the titan he used to be. There’s no way he’s getting dropped now, so it’s more time on the bench for Marc-André
After being a huge disappointment for Manchester United and then an inconsistent if at times delightful presence for Lyon, Memphis Depay may have found his calling in life: an elite international footballer. One of those players who puts on his national shirt and becomes superman. 10 goals in 14 matches is nothing to sniff at.
With the Dutch 0-2 down at half-time, they came out of half-time needing someone to stand up and be a hero. To stand tall and drag the side back into the match; Memphis’ sumptuously struck cross that lasered onto the head of Matthijs de Ligt nominated the no. 10 and then just under 15 minutes later his neat finish, preceded be a near-imperceptible but enormously effective hesitation, guaranteed that he would stand tall as the Dutch hero – well, until his defence collapsed at the death, anyway.
Winner: Jogi Low
In the summer it looked like Jogi Low had to leave his post as Germany coach. He had been in charge for over a decade and the side looked like it had grown stale. But he kept his job and his big gambit to get back in the nation’s good graces was the pick a very young side shorn of several established World Cup winners. And against the Dutch he sent his side out in a 3-4-3 false nine.
This was a big risk that could have backfired, but it worked a treat in the first half. The Dutch defenders had absolutely no idea how to handle Low’s system and it was Sané and Gnabry, playing as the wing-forwards, who ripped them to bits and hammered in two fantastic goals. Low was riding high, but then the Dutch fought back to level things up at 2-2 and it looked like same old Low.
Then Low made some changes, bringing on Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus. He never made his third sub, but he didn’t need to. Ilkay Gundogan pulled the ball down and dissected the Dutch defence, sliding a gorgeous pass in behind the full-back for fellow sub Marco Reus to race onto. The Dortmund legend looked up and played a superb pass across the face of the box for Nico Schulz to tap home. 2-3 to Germany in the last second, with Low’s tactical set-up putting Germany miles ahead and then his subs winning it for Die Mannschaft when it all appeared to have gone wrong. Not a bad night!