Before the Euros started, a lot of people didn’t expect Germany to make it through the group stages.
Being drawn in the proverbial ‘Group of Death’ with reigning champions Portugal and world champions France, it was hard to see a way out for Joachim Löw’s side.
It is not hard to see why looking at the group that many would write Germany off straight away. Three years ago in Russia, it was an embarrassment of a team that had won the World Cup four years previously in Brazil. Whether it was the curse of the holders no one can know for certain, but the German side that were outplayed by Mexico and South Korea and scrapped a 2-1 victory over Sweden saw them exit the World Cup in the group stage.
In the years that followed, there has been a ‘relegation’ from the Nations League, defeats to North Macedonia, a hammering against Spain. It was not looking good for the four-time world champions. There was an almost changing of the guard feel about the German national side. The experience of the likes of Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller, even Mesut Özil were told they would never represent their country again. It felt like Jugi Löw’s time was up, and the team were just going through the motions until the Deutscher Fussball Bund (DFB) saw fit to replace the manager that had stood on the side lines for 15 years.
The news came that this tournament would be Löw’s last. This would be his chance to go out on a high. Not to be remembered for the embarrassment in Russia, the subpar performances and steady decline since the World Cup win in Brazil. This would be his chance to show that Germany are still a football superpower and give incoming manager Hansi Flick something to build upon, and not something to repair.
After that first performance against France, and Portugal dispatching of Hungary, there was a sense that Löw’s last tournament in charge would end the same as the last, with an exit in the group stages. Even with the reintroduction of the experience of Muller and Hummels, there was just a feeling that Löw had taken this German side as far as he could. The group of death would be exactly that.
There was a feeling that Germany’s first win would come in their final game against Hungary, the perceived whipping boys of the group. But football has a funny way of changing things. Just when you think your goose is cooked, football has a funny way of lifting you back up.
The same side that suffered the wrath of Kylian Mbappe would step into the ring against Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese champions. The following 90 minutes however, were vastly different to the previous game against the World Champions. This Germany side had fight, showed their quality, and seemed determined not to let Löw walk away from the job with failure as his legacy. The spirit of 2014 was back. The quality that beat Brazil 7-1 in their own back yard was back, just with different heroes.
The name on everyone’s lips would be Robin Gosens, the left wing back who took it upon himself to decimate the right hand side of the Portuguese defence. Joshua Kimmich would do the same on the right hand side. While the talk before the game centred around Ronaldo and how he would obviously win the game by himself. The talk after became a welcomed and resolute defence. Never write off the Germans.