News : EM 2021: German U21 national team is European champion – sport
Late on Sunday evening, after the final whistle, the German U21 footballers danced and staggered over the lawn of the Stozice stadium in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. With a 1-0 (0-0) final win against Portugal, they celebrated winning the European Championship. They embraced each other as well as their head coach Stefan Kuntz, his assistants Daniel Niedzkowski and Antonio di Salvo and goalkeeping coach Klaus Thomforde.
For these four it was already the third final in a row. In 2017 in Krakow they led a German U21 to a 1-0 final victory against Spain. In 2019 in Udine they had to console themselves and the players after a 1: 2 final defeat against Spain. From these two experiences, the coach Kuntz had the important experience: “Winning is more fun than losing.”
It is the third European Championship triumph for a German U21. The first was won in Malmö in 2009 by a team with Manuel Neuer Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng and Sami Khedira under coach Horst Hrubesch. Nevertheless, the Germans still cannot come close to the five U21 European Championship titles from nations such as Spain and Italy. The German Football Association is well on the way to establishing itself permanently among the best young nations under its successful quartet of coaches.
The Portuguese won all tournament games up to the finals – that is where their series ended
Kuntz sent exactly the same starting eleven into the final that had already been on the pitch in the semi-final victory against the Netherlands. In the Portuguese, the goalkeeper (Costa) and three defenders (Dalot, Queiros, Leite) were named Diogo, which certainly complicates the internal emergency approach. Especially since the Germans repeatedly brought them into dire straits. While they had drawn two in the group stage, the Portuguese had won all tournament games up to the final. That was where their series ended.
The complexity of the task against a Portuguese generation, who had become U17 European champions in 2016 and U19 European Championship runner-up in 2019, was immediately apparent. The opponents pressed extremely high and came to fast and dangerous deals after winning the ball. It was a wonderfully intense game. The German team could still be happy about their zero zero, even when after a quarter of an hour a deflected shot by Florian Wirtz dripped down from the crossbar. It was the ninth aluminum goal for the German team in the sixth tournament game.
The game remained a goalless balancing act until the 49th minute, because both teams defended well and radiated latent danger to the front. But four minutes after the break, Lukas Nmecha, employed by RSC Anderlecht, took the 1-0 lead with his fourth tournament goal after Ridle Baku’s outstanding through pass through the seam of the Portuguese back four. The 22-year-old also became the tournament’s top scorer with his fourth goal.
The Portuguese responded with attacks, which in football jargon are probably filed under “angry”. 18 minutes before the end, Karim Adeyemi missed the decision in front of the goal for the German team. The lead hung by a thread, but the thread held. The final whistle in Ljubljana was drowned in jubilation.