Nico Schulz grabbed a dramatic last minute winner for Germany against the Netherlands to get their European Championship qualification campaign off to a winning start in the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Germany struck first in the 15th minute after a near post cross from Schulz was controlled by Leroy Sane, who was left free as a bird thanks to a Matthijs de Ligt slip, before the Manchester City forward finished brilliantly with a fine strike across the goalkeeper.
The Dutch were made to pay for missed chances after Serge Gnabry’s direct run was bettered only by an outstanding edge-of-the-box finish into the top corner to double Die Mannschaft’s advantage.
It was a different game in the second half however, and shortly after the interval, De Ligt headed in his first international goal after a wonderful in-swinging Memphis Depay cross, to pull one back for the hosts.
Just after the hour, the German defence failed to deal with a low cross, and Depay capitalised with a first-time finish in the area to equalise for the men in orange.
Germany snatched a win right at the death when substitute Marco Reus gave Schulz the simple task of finishing from 12-yards out to give Joachim Low a much needed win.
Key Talking Point
Unlike their rivals, Ronald Koeman’s young Dutch side are a team that are certainly going in the right direction, but their inexperience was badly exposed in the first half.
In particular, Virgil van Dijk and De Ligt simply could not cope with the trickery and pace of Sane and Gnabry, with the defence looking disorientated by the new German formation.
But Koeman must have given a hell of a team talk at half time, because the Dutch were a totally different side in the second period. They controlled the game much better and started running at the German defence with a real purpose.
Koeman had clearly recognised that Germany’s weak link was on the flanks, and they were determined to find a way through with relentless crosses, but their naivete struck late on as they left the excellent Schulz completely open in the box.
Despite the last minute sucker punch, the future is certainly bright for this Netherlands team, and on the evidence of the second half alone, they will be a serious threat at next summer’s championship.
Starting XI: Cililessen (7); Dumfries (6), De Ligt (6), Van Dijk (5), Blind (5); De Roon (5), Wijnaldum (6), De Jong (6); Promes (6), Depay (7), Babel (5).
Substitutes: Bergwijn (7), Luuk De Jong (N/A)
Star Man – Memphis Depay
Largely anonymous in the first half, Depay was instrumental in the Dutchmen’s second-half fight back. His pace and crossing ability were both on display and he gave the German back five problems throughout the half.
Koeman will be keen for his number nine to be more consistent, but he did step up once his side were 2-0 down, and he grabbed a deserved goal with a neat bottom corner finish.
Key Talking Point
Low has been under serious pressure since the terrible World Cup and Nations League campaigns, and Die Mannschaft would have been looking to have a positive bounce without the World Cup winning triumvirate.
Germany started like a team who had a point to prove, and Low’s 3-5-2 formation confused the Dutch to the point where they quite frankly made Van Dijk and De Ligt look ordinary.
However, considering how comfortable they were, Low would have been extremely disappointed by the collapse in the second half, especially with their obvious inability to defend crosses being very much on display in this match.
With many suggesting that German football is in crisis, that last minute winner over their rivals was badly needed for Low and the team as a whole. Judging by the level of opposition in the group, the Germans will have no problems qualifying for next summer’s tournament.
Starting XI: Neuer (8); Sule (7), Ginter (6), Rudiger (6); Kimmich (7), Kehrer (6), Goretzka (6), Kroos (6), Schulz (7); Gnabry (7), Sane (8).
Substitutes: Gundogan (6). Reus (7).
Star Man – Leroy Sane
Low raised many eyebrows last summer when he left Sane out of his 23-man World Cup squad, and the Manchester City forward just seems to get better and better every time he plays.
Van Dijk, who has often been described this season as the best defender in the world, was given an absolute run around by Sane, who played a more central role than he has in the past, but adapted brilliantly.
He was a constant nuisance for the Dutch defence to deal with, and his immense pace and dribbling ability is starting to be combined with a seriously intelligent footballing brain.
In the supposed new era for Die Mannschaft, this team absolutely needs to be built around the 23-year-old, who has become his national team’s star man.
The two sides will now break for nearly three months. The Netherlands will travel to Guimarães in Portugal on 6 June in the Nations League semi-final against England, before the final which takes place in Lisbon three days later.
Their next qualifier isn’t until 6 September, where they will face the Germans in the reverse fixture in Berlin, before travelling to Estonia on the 9th.
The German’s next match in the Euro 2020 qualifiers isn’t until early June, but they face the much easier prospect of a trip to Belarus, before they host Estonia on the 11th.