I.The German team didn’t have to play in such a charged atmosphere for a long time. The political turbulence of the past few days, which also unfolded its strength on Wednesday evening, was only one thing. In addition, violent storms hit the Munich arena, lightning flashed, heavy rain poured in eddies over the lawn and the stands.
The football professionals on the pitch were exposed to violence during the first half, and for the German national team the evening in this shimmering atmosphere turned into a test that started badly and turned into a memorable drama. In the end, it was a goal by substitute Leon Goretzka in the 84th minute that saved Joachim Löw’s team 2-2 – and thus participation in the round of 16 of this European Championship.
For the Germans, the draw means second place in the group behind world champion France. So it goes on to London, where the English will have a home game in front of up to 45,000 spectators against the team of the German Football Association on Tuesday (6 p.m.). But first of all, this evening of pure thrill has to be digested and worked up, which could have ended very differently.
Meet Szalai and Schäfer
After the 0: 1 by the Mainz Bundesliga professional Adam Szalai (11th minute), progress was on the knife edge early on. When Kai Havertz equalized in the 66th minute, the Germans had the point they needed for the round of 16 in their hands. But right from the start, the Hungarians took the lead again, thanks to Andras Schäfer (68th).
Because the Germans found it difficult to get going offensively and defensively twice, they ended up having almost too few arguments against the unpleasant Hungarians, who competed with four Bundesliga professionals – besides Szalai, Peter Gulacsi, Willi Orban (both Leipzig) and Roland Sallai (Freiburg). But Goretzka’s powerful shot still ensured the great liberation.
The game against the Hungarians had been under the sign of the rainbow for days, as a sign of tolerance and against discrimination. The Munich arena was not allowed to shine brightly, the European Football Union did not allow that with the reference to a political character of the message.
On the pitch, however, Manuel Neuer’s captain’s armband shines in rainbow colors, the German goalkeeper had already set this little sign in the first two games. The symbolic charge was omnipresent, the Hungarian fans showed with words and gestures what they thought of the debate that had started in Germany, and while the Hungarian anthem was being played, an activist with a rainbow flag walked onto the field before stewards intervened.
When it started, Löw was standing on the edge of the field with his hood pulled down over his face. The more uncomfortable place, however, had Neuer, who had the powerful-voiced, but also provocative Hungarian fans in his back. But it got worse when the Hungarians first counterattacked directly.
The German chain of errors began with Ginter, who played an unclean half-high ball. The Germans were actually back fast enough, but then neither Rüdiger nor Kroos could decide to put pressure on Sallai, and Szalai was one step ahead of central defenders Hummels and Ginter on his cross: 0: 1.
As expected, Löw had to do without Thomas Müller, who suffered a capsule injury on his right knee in the final moments of the game against Portugal; at least he was sitting on the bench. Contrary to what many suspected, however, the replacement was canceled: It was not Goretzka who was allowed to start, but Leroy Sané. It was the more offensive move, and at the same time the one that best suited the 3-4-3 system.
Many eyes were on the German wing tongs with Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens. Before the kick-off, Löw said that he was more likely to “expect the half positions to decide the game”. He was right, the paths on the outside were largely blocked, but the national coach himself did not seem satisfied with how and where his players were looking for rooms elsewhere. After falling behind, the Germans tried to gain control of the situation, but that was only partially successful.
Attacking pressure was only felt sporadically, and opportunities were rare. After 17 minutes, a cross from Havertz whizzed past the Hungarian goal without a toe touching the ball, after 21 minutes the opportunity presented itself twice: First Hummels headed the crossbar after a corner kick kicked by Kimmich, then brought it Ginter didn’t put any pressure on the ball from close range. And the attack department? At Sané there was a lot of fuss about little, Gnabry and Havertz were not yet storm-proof.
After the break, Löw switched to a back four, Kimmich moved into the center, but it didn’t look like a spark, even in the dry. A shot by Havertz was easy prey for Gulacsi (52nd). Goretzka came on for Gündogan. It was then a standard situation that brought the balance. After a free kick from Kroos Gulacsi misjudged himself, instead Hummels got the ball, Havertz pushed him over the line – great relief on the German bench and the fans.
The goalscorer Havertz made way for Timo Werner, Thomas Müller came for Gnabry. But immediately, initiated by Szalai, the 1: 2 fell. At first Sané looked bad in a duel, and Neuer didn’t look good when he came out either. Now the need was great. It took a second hit. Löw now also brought Kevin Volland and Jamal Musiala, a full offensive – and then, after Musiala’s preparatory work, Goretzka’s filing and Werner’s attempted repulsion, that direct hit by Goretzka.