Germany U21 European Championship: The lessons of a defeat
In the end, luck and unhappiness were very close together. At the front, before the winner's podium, the Spaniards celebrated. In a jubilation grape, the newly-minted European champions hopped and danced, sometimes their screams of joy were heard. A few meters behind, crouched Benjamin Henrichs and Nadiem Amiri on the pitch, two of the German Under-21 international who had lost a few minutes earlier the European Championship final. First, they sat quietly next to each other - then they fell into each other's arms.
Such images belong to endgames that inevitably put their participants in two opposing moods. Two years ago, the roles had been distributed differently, as Germany had won just against Spain. This time, only the Spaniards cheered, even if they had to worry again after Amiris hit in the closing stages.
As soon as the first frustration subsided, said U21 coach Stefan Kuntz, his players would already realize "that they would take a lot of positive things" that will "unlikely help them" in their careers.
Losglück and opening victories
The final round for Germany started with a sure victory against Denmark, followed by a 6: 1 against Serbia and at the end of the preliminary round a 1-1 draw against Austria, which was enough for first place.
In the semifinals, the U21 then won the "Heat Battle" of Bologna against Romania 4: 2 after she was at half time still the losing team and in arrears. The final against Spain was then game five, and it was the first to be lost.
Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images
With two goals Amiri had a large share in the semi-final victory against Romania
The history of the German performance in this European Championship also includes the fact that the U21 months before the start of the tournament, the lightest group B was awarded by Losfee Andrea Pirlo: Denmark, Serbia, summarily picked up by Kuntz as the group's favorite, and Austria.
In Group A, for example, hosts Italy, which had perhaps the strongest squad, failed in the preliminary round. Instead, Spain continued. A similar fate befell England in Group C, which won Romania ahead of France.
Praise from the national coach
The final was also the coach Joachim Loew arrived. He had seen a very good game, he said, and that the performance of the U21 had impressed him a lot: "The team has played a great tournament overall." The 59-year-old then also said a sentence that sounds not very original, but somehow fits for such an evening. One could also "draw conclusions from a defeat".
For example, that the players still afford too many individual mistakes, which are used mercilessly by strong opponents like the Spaniards. Goalkeeper Alexander Nübel, for example, has immense talent and sometimes parries shots that are hard to hold. But the 22-year-old still makes regular mistakes: he had caused a penalty against Austria, against Spain he had a shot from Fabián bounce forward, Dani Olmo dusted off to 2: 0.
Nevertheless, Nübel could be one of the players who appear in the not too distant future in the senior team. Lukas Klostermann and Jonathan Tah have often been there lately, and Maximilian Eggestein has already nominated Löw, but he has not let him play yet. All players who were in the squad at the U21 European Championships could "reach the top," Löw said.
Waldschmidts position change
Perhaps the coach has thought at this moment also to Florian Neuhaus. He brings a lot with what is needed in the senior national team on his position in the central midfield: technology, game understanding, the feeling for the room in the back of the opposing defense.
And then there is Luca Waldschmidt, not only with seven goals top scorer at this European Championships, but also together with the ex-Hamburger Marcus Berg and the most successful scorer ever in a continental U21 finals. At his club, the SC Freiburg, Waldschmidt had played mostly as a hanging tip instead of as a central attacker. But in the national team Kuntz let him act as a center forward with a lot of freedom - and the quota of the 23-year-olds gives the coach right.
When coach Stefan Kuntz was asked what he was looking forward to, he said: "That we showed that the German talents can compete with all the talents in Europe."