After a solid if not exactly spectacular group phase, Germany are back in Lille to face Slovakia – third place finishers behind Wales and England in Group B. Having been beaten 3-1 in Augsburg by the Slovaks only last month there will be a few lingering concerns – but this is a major tournament, and die Mannschaft are the ultimate tournament team.
There is only one change from the starting eleven that lined up against Northern Ireland in the final group game – for many, the final piece in the picking the right team puzzle. Mario Götze is on the bench, with Julian Draxler recalled to start in the offensive midfield alongside Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller, who wins his seventy-fifth international cap.
Elsewhere, it is a case of as you were. ‘Keeper Manuel Neuer retains the captain’s armband, Joshua Kimmich retains his spot at right-back after his fine showing against the Northern Irish, and Mario Gómez again leads the line as the coach plumps for a genuine number nine rather than a false one. After a slight injury worry, the now indispensable centre-back Jérôme Boateng is in a solid-looking back four.
It’s a bright afternoon at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, and Germany are again in their traditional white shirts and black shorts with the Slovaks in all blue. The stadium roof is open, and there’s a mottled look to the pitch which has only recently been patched up and relaid. The stands are decked out in white and black, and it feels like a home game.
1 min. Polish referee Szymon Marciniak gets the game underway, and Germany kick off.
3 mins. Joachim Löw’s side have started steadily, holding onto the ball. Jonas Hector looks to send in the first cross from the left, but the blue-shirted defence clear easily.
4 mins. Toni Kroos overhits his ball into the Slovak box, and it floats harmlessly for a goal kick.
6 mins. Hector and Müller look to combine out on the left, but the moves break down and Slovakia clear. As the Germans build again on the right, Draxler is fouled by Norbert Gyömbér.
7 mins. Kroos’s free kick is floated in beautifully, and Sami Khedira’s header is tipped over by ‘keeper Matúš Kozáčik.
8 mins. The corner is floated in, but fails to find a white shirt and Ján Ďurica clears for Slovakia. The ball falls to Boateng who is lurking just outside the penalty area, and the full-back unleashes a cracking right-footed effort from twenty yards that takes the slightest of deflections, before fizzing past Kozáčik and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. It is Boateng’s first goal for the Mannschaft, and what a time to do it. 1-0.
Jérôme Boateng charges off in celebration after opening the scoring – his first goal for the Nationalmannschaft
13 mins. Kimmich finds space down the right, and floats in a cross towards Gómez who is shoved to the ground by Martin Škrtel. It’s an easy decision for the referee, who points to the penalty spot before before booking the Slovak skipper.
14 mins. Özil steps up, and his kick is well struck but at the perfect height if the keeper dives correctly. Kozáčik makes the right decision, diving to his left to palm the ball away.
16 mins. Gómez dances into the Slovak penalty area and gets in a shot which is blocked. Just moments later, Kroos has a shot from distance that goes wide.
19 mins. There’s a bit of ping-pong inside the German box, but Neuer collects.
22 mins. The Mannschaft are completely dominating this game with close to seventy percent of the ball, and if Özil had put that penalty away it would surely have been all over by now. As it stands, Slovakia are still a goal away from levelling the scores.
23 mins. A lovely ball from Mats Hummels frees up Hector, and the left-back’s low cross is smothered and collected by Kozáčik.
24 mins. Draxler floats in a great ball from the left, and Gómez uses his height and strength to steer nod the ball down in the path of Özil, whose right-footed effort flies narrowly wide with the keeper beaten.
26 mins. Khedira has a pop from distance which is well blocked by Škrtel, and after the ball is recycled Müller’s drive is pushed away by the busy Kozáčik.
28 mins. An Özil cross from the left is met my Müller, but the ball floats harmlessly over the target.
29 mins. Jan Kozák’s side cannot get out of their own half at the moment. Kimmich challenges and wins the ball before pickout Draxler, but after skipping past his marker and dancing into the box the Germany number eleven is unable to find a white shirt.
31 mins. Özil’s smart pass finds Müller in space, but der Raumdeuter’s effort flies high over the crossbar.
33 mins. Kimmich finds Hector in space out on the left, and the 1. FC Köln man’s dangerous cross skids across the box before being cleared.
35 mins. Another floated cross from Kimmich towards Müller, who is beaten to it by Škrtel who gets a knock on the head for his pains.
37 mins. Everybody is working hard, and everything is going perfectly for the Mannschaft at the moment. Draxler skips between two defenders, but his shot is blocked by Škrtel.
38 mins. Hector’s backpass is slightly underhit, but alert sweep-keeper Neuer is quick of his mark to get to the ball ahead of Michal Ďuriš.
39 mins. Özil slices the ball through the Slovak defence again, finding Draxler who advances towards the edge of the penalty area. The Wolfsburg man turns and shoots, but cannot get enough power on the shot.
41 mins. A chance out of nowhere for Slovakia. Right-back Peter Pekarík’s cross is well met by Juraj Kucka who rises above Kimmich. Kucka’s header is on target, but is brilliant tipped over the bar by Neuer.
43 mins. A bit of a concern, but it’s back to the other side of the pitch. Hector to Khedira, who then finds Draxler. Draxler has had an excellent game so far, and this time he floats effortlessly past his marker and towards the byline before playing the perfect cutback. Gómez is there, and his left-foot finish is both clinical and decisive. 2-0.
The ball is in the back of the Slovakian net, and Mario Gómez makes it 2-0 two minutes before half time.
45 mins. The whistle blows for half time.
This is been an almost perfect display from the Mannschaft, with nearly every man turning out a first-class display. Kroos and Khedira have controlled the middle of the pitch, the centre-backs have pushed out with purpose, and the full-backs have offered a continual threat. Özil and Müller have carved up the Slovak defence, and it has been a case of attack after attack after attack.
Boateng’s first goal in the Nationaltrikot has been well overdue for a while now, and Gómez simply does what he is there to do: score goals. The standout performance, however, has come from Julian Draxler. Back in the side after two ordinary displays against Ukraine and Poland, it has been a sublime display – one full of skill, style and confidence.
There’s one change at the start of the second half for Slovakia, with Ján Greguš replacing Vladimír Weiss.
46 mins. Slovakia kick off the second half. The first action sees Kimmich shown the yellow card for a handball when challenging the so far absent Marek Hamšík.
49 mins. Kucka lines up a powerful shot which is on target, but it is straight at Neuer. Easy for the German ‘keeper.
53 mins. Kucka is brought down by Hector some twenty-five yards out, but Hamšík’s free-kick flies over the wall and the crossbar.
57 mins. Another free-kick for the Slovaks after Milan Škriniar is brought down by Draxler, but this time Kucka’s effort is well off target.
60 mins. Draxler twists and turns brilliantly past two defenders and is surely clipped as he looks to run towards goal, but the referee waves play on.
63 mins. Müller wins a corner out on the right. Kroos’s kick is nodded back towards goal by the towering Hummels, and it is that man Draxler who is on the end of it. Having turned and swivelled beautifully, his well-timed volley crashes into the roof of the net, and Kozáčik has no chance. 3-0.
Julian Draxler caps off a sparkling display, scoring die Mannschaft’s third with a lovely volley.
64 mins. A second change for Slovakia. Veteran Stanislav Šesták comes on for Ďuriš.
67 mins. Hummels wins the ball brilliantly, but is inexplicably booked when the referee interprets it as a foul on Šesták.
68 mins. Ďurica’s free-kick is powerfully struck, but narrowly wide. Neuer just watches it fizz past, not worried in the slightest.
71 mins. A double change. Boateng, on a yellow card, is replaced by Benedikt Höwedes, and Draxler gets a warm round of applause as he is replaced by Lukas Podolski who makes his first appearance at Euro 2016.
76 mins. Bastian Schweinsteiger is on for Khedira as the Mannschaft make their third and final change. It feels like 2006 again, with Poldi and Schweini back on the pitch together.
77 mins. Podolski sends in a venomous cross from the left towards the lurking Gómez, but Kozáčik collects.
80 mins. Slovakia know that they are finished, and Germany slowly start to wind things down. The fans are singing the familiar songs, and it should be an easy closing ten minutes. No team has scored four goals at these Euros so far – can Germany be the first?
81 mins. Poldolski chests the ball down in the box and is denied by Kozáčik, but the flag is raised for what is a very narrow offside decision.
83 mins. Podolski is causing all sorts of trouble in the Slovak box, and wins a corner. His direct style is a complete contrast to Draxler’s light tough and craft, but just as determined.
84 mins. Slovakia’s final change. Kornel Saláta is on for Gyömbér.
86 mins. Another corner for Germany, as Hector’s cross is forced behind. Özil’s floated delivery is cleared, and Germany patiently look to rebuild again.
88 mins. A succession of corners now for the men in white, who have set up camp in the Slovak half. Now Hector finds space to send in another cross towards Gómez, but it floats across the face of the goal and past the big striker.
90 mins. An almost languid move from Jogi Löw’s men. Müller breaks down the right to collect Özil’s pass, and his ball inside finds Kroos, whose first-time shot from ten yards is well parried by Kozáčik.
90+2 mins. The final whistle blows.
What a display that was. After a slow start to the tournament, it looks as though Jogi Löw finally has his perfect starting eleven, with plenty of additional firepower on the bench. Joshua Kimmich had another great game, Mario Gómez was again on the scoreboard with his fifth Euros goal – drawing level with Jürgen Klinsmann – and Julian Draxler had a blinder of a game.
Germany were on top right from the start, and apart from one moment when Manuel Neuer showed just why he is the best goalkeeper in the world, they dominated completely. The Slovaks spent most of the ninety minutes chasing shadows, and could do little in the face of a German team that got everything right.
There are no questions to be answered tonight. Next up, Italy or Spain.
v Slovakia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, 26.06.2016
Özil pen 14., Gómez 43., Draxler 63. / –
Germany: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng (71. Höwedes), Hummels, Hector – Kroos, Khedira (76. Schweinsteiger) – Müller, Özil, Draxler (71. Podolski) – Gómez
Slovakia: Kozáčik – Pekarík, Škrtel, Ďurica, Gyömbér (84. Saláta) – Škriniar – Hrošovský, Hamšík – Kucka, Weiss (64. Greguš) – Ďuriš (64. Šesták)
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Assistants: Paweł Sokolnicki (Poland) , Tomasz Listkiewicz (Poland)
Goal Assistants: Paweł Raczkowski (Poland) , Tomasz Musiał (Poland)
Fourth Official: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands)
Reserve Assistant: Erwin Zeinstra (Netherlands)
Referee Observer: David Elleray (England)
Yellow Cards: Kimmich, Hummels / Škrtel, Kucka
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 59% / 41%
Attempts on Target: 7 / 2
Attempts off Target: 9 / 5
Corners: 8 / 1
Fouls Committed: 14 / 12
Man of the Match: Julian Draxler (Germany)