The long-awaited European championship, originally scheduled for last year and officially still known as Euro 2020, is finally approaching with the opening fixtures set to take place next week. The teams involved have started their final preparations and friendly matches, and in one of them, Germany met Denmark at the Tivoli Stadion Tirol in Innsbruck, Austria, on Wednesday evening.
An equal contest
Rarely do Germany play a game which they aren’t supposed to win, but left without some of their top stars for this one, it wasn’t easy to dominate a well-organized opponent like Denmark, who do have a couple of class players themselves. Yet, Germany managed it for most of the first half.
Joachom Low’s team kept control of the ball for a large part of the opening 45 minutes, building attacking moves slowly with notable patience. They couldn’t break through Denmark’s disciplined lines before the break, apart from a few half-chances which came up to nothing on the scoreboard. Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry all wasted some promising situation through a lack of concentration, or merely luck as Gnabry’s effort rattled the crossbar.
However, it took the Germans less than three minutes into the second half to break the deadlock as Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus kept his head in a scramble to slam past Kasper Schmeichel from close range.
From that point on, the tide shifted and Denmark started pushing for an equalizer. They searched for an opening, and it was now their turn to try and get past an organized defence. It wasn’t an easy task, but the team under the command of Kasper Hjulmand did improve the overall impression and helped generate the feeling of equality between the rivals, looking at the whole contest.
In the end, it was a moment of quick thinking and a skillful pass from Inter Milan playmaker Christian Eriksen, coupled with a smart run and level-headed finish from RB Leipzig forward Youssuf Poulsen, that produced the equalizer in the 71st minute.
The Neuhaus question
It was perfectly clear to most people ahead of the game that Neuhaus was named in the Germany starting XI only because Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan needed a rest after featuring in the Champions League final on Saturday, just like Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
However, the 24-year-old was one of the best players in the middle of the park. He showed great maturity in picking through his options as well as skill on the ball, and even his out-of-possession work was highly commendable. To put it simply, he was everywhere, a constant menace to the Denmark players in possession as he won it for his team in potentially dangerous positions on several occasions.
Naturally, Gundogan is still expected to reclaim his spot in Low’s team when the competitive action starts, providing he is fit of course. But Neuhaus certainly did enough for Low to know he has another high-quality option in central midfield, and those around him can hardly claim they felt the absence of the City man. It’s therefore not really surprising that he’s being linked with top clubs ahead of the summer transfer window.
For their part, Denmark did extremely well against a strong opponent, even if the Germans were missing a couple of stars in their ranks. Despite Eriksen’s assist and Poulsen’s finish, the man of the match among Hjulmand’s men was arguably captain Simon Kjaer. The AC Milan, helped by a very good performance from Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard too, stopped Germany’s formidable attackers on countless occasions, displaying a fine mixture of grace, skill and physical power, not to mention reading the situations with the knowledge of a defender of vast experience.
The two central defenders, as good as they were, were flanked by Atalanta’s Joakim Maehle and Valencia’s Daniel Wass, and shielded ahead by Tottenham Hotspur powerhouse Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Delaney. The presence of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel behind was also felt, and Denmark looked a really good, compact defensive unit.
All in all, both Germany and Denmark will be very interesting teams to watch in the upcoming tournament.
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