ANALYSIS | Nagelsmann will be confronted with complex decisions as Germany advance to quarter-finals


In a highly anticipated Round of 16 clash at the Euros, Germany emerged victorious against Denmark with a convincing 2-0 win. Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park (Temporarily, BVB Stadion Dortmund), provided a familiar and comfortable setting for current Borussia Dortmund players Nico Schlotterbeck, Emre Can, and Niclas Füllkrug.

The Germans began the game on the front foot, immediately putting pressure on Denmark’s goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, from both long-range efforts and a myriad of set pieces. The German side’s early aggressive play earned them multiple corners, signalling their intent to dominate proceedings and establish momentum. Schlotterbeck appeared to have given Germany an early lead, overpowering the Danish defence to win an aerial duel, but VAR intervened to rule out the goal due to a foul in the buildup, a decision met with inevitable frustration, but one that did little to deflate the flow of Germany’s play.

From a tactical perspective, Julian Nagelsmann was able to once again enable Toni Kroos to have time to operate alongside his two centre backs, let Jamal Musiala freely roam the pitch in pursuit of deep midfield pockets to gain possession, and keep the Danish wing backs honest in their spatial relation to both Joshua Kimmich and David Raum.

Midway through the first half, a severe lightning storm caused an unexpected weather delay. This interruption, while unwelcome, provided a brief respite and a chance for tactical reassurance from Nagelsmann. Despite the break in play, Germany continued to assert their dominance, though the first half concluded goalless, with both sides heading to the locker rooms in a deadlock that would have helped keep the Danish dream alive.

Nico Schlotterbeck’s performance causes a selection headache for Nagelsmann

The second half saw Germany’s central defenders, Antonio Rüdiger and Nico Schlotterbeck, exploiting Denmark’s high defensive line with precise long balls that had previously only been produced from the right side of the German back three. The mandatory addition of Schlotterbeck has potentially caused a serious selection headache going forward.

While Jonathan Tah hasn’t necessarily played his way out of the role, it must be said that Dortmund’s Schlotterbeck has more tools with which he can navigate opposition pressing structures. In particular, the ways that he can both progress the ball with more dangerous intent and unlock ambitious back lines in the same sequence.

These passes, cutting through the Danish defence with surgical precision, repeatedly found Kai Havertz, who came tantalisingly close to breaking the deadlock on several occasions. Havertz’s intelligent movement and positioning were a constant thorn in the side of the Danish central defence. Only thwarted by the lack of the finishing touch.

Denmark believed they had broken the deadlock early in the second half after a botched clearance from a set piece led to the ball finding the back of the net. However, once again, VAR disallowed the goal for a painfully close offside call, much to the relief of the German supporters. Just minutes later, Germany had their own VAR intervention, resulting in a penalty after Joachim Andersen was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box in an attempt to block a cross.

It was Havertz that stepped up to take the spot-kick, dispatching it with all the equanimity that you would associate with the player profile of the Arsenal false 9, and giving Germany a 1-0 lead, sending the German fans into raptures amidst the rain-soaked brilliance of Dortmund’s floodlights.

Forced to chase the game, Denmark’s defensive line pushed higher up the pitch, creating space for Germany to exploit. Schlotterbeck seized this opportunity with a sublime pass to Musiala. The young playmaker, gliding beyond the reach of an exhausted Danish defence, showcased his finesse by slotting the ball past Schmeichel into the bottom right corner. This goal, which doubled Germany’s lead, effectively sealed the match and underscored Musiala’s burgeoning reputation on the biggest stage.

Despite a couple late threats on Manuel Neuer’s goal, Germany’s control remained unchallenged. Denmark, despite their best efforts, were unable to penetrate the well-organised and invigorated German defence. The (mostly) disciplined performances of Rüdiger and Schlotterbeck were particularly noteworthy, as they neutralised Denmark’s attacking threats with consummate ease and absurd moments of athleticism.

Germany take a step forward as maturity shows

This victory marked another significant step forward for Nagelsmann’s side, showcasing their newfound psychological advantages and the subsequent support of the German faithful. The aforementioned advantages have matured. This Germany possesses a mental fortitude that is synonymous with the history of the national team, but not of recent history. A team that now takes profoundly visible pride in both attack and defence. Never second guessing itself or fatally losing its identity.

Germany’s dominance and strategic execution were on full display, reinforcing their status as serious contenders in the tournament and not merely hosts in transition. As the tournament now progresses, Nagelsmann will be confronted with complex decisions. Potentially none of which appear more daunting than the prospect of taking on a rejuvenated Spain.

The odds? While Georgia hopes to shock the world, they allude to a monumental battle in Stuttgart between two incredibly impressive attacking units and, arguably, the two most exciting players in the entire tournament in Musiala and Lamine Yamal.

GGFN | Reece Edwards

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