Both German Olympic sides started slowly, struggling to put together results. The men’s team scraped two draws against Mexico and South Korea in their first two games, making the quarter-finals after demolishing a weak Fiji team. The women’s team started by giving group minnows Zimbabwe a hiding, but also scraped through after a fighting draw against Australia and defeat against Canada.
But we all know that the Germans – whatever the level, whatever the gender – are the dictionary definition of the tournament teams. Die Turniermannschäft.
Behringer fires Olympiafrauen into semis
Having extracted themselves from the group stages, both teams switched the on button. Silvia Neid’s team would only score one goal against China at the Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, but it could have been a lot more.
The Chinese defence was torn apart on numerous occasions, and when the goal finally came it was a cracker. With fourteen minutes to go and China somehow holding on, FC Bayern München’s Melanie Behringer crashed the ball into the net from outside the box.
Melanie Behringer fires the Olympiafrauen into the semi-finals with her winner against China
It was a deserved lead, yet football truly is a funny old game. A completely unnecessary challenge by Leonie Maier on Shuang Wang gave the Chinese a completely unmerited lifeline from the penalty spot, and although there were no doubts about the referee’s decision, it felt like justice had been done when Wang hit the post from the spot.
The Olympiafrauen are through, and now face up to Canada again in their semi-final. The Canadians will be slight favourites after their 2-1 win in the group phase, but this is knock-out football now. The thing Germany are best at.
Then there is the venue. Yes, Belo Horizonte.
Four-star Olympiamannschaft thrash Portugal
Last year, the a number of Horst Hrubesch’s Olympic squad faced up to Portugal in the semi-finals of the Under-21 European Championship. It resulted in a humiliation for the Germans, a 5-0 pasting at the hands of a talented young Portuguese team.
Portugal were favourites when the two teams lined up at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília, but nobody would have thought that as the men in white and black produced their best performance of the tournament by a country mile – and arguably the best show by any German international team since the senior Mannschaft’s 7-1 win over Brazil in 2014.
Quite simply, Portugal were taken apart.
One goal at half time, when it could have been more
The first half saw the Juniormannschaft put everything together. There was that familiar crisp passing and stifling possession, and the creation of plenty of chances. Yet the crucial goal eluded them. As the clock ticked towards the end of the first half, they could have been away and clear.
Then came the break. A minute into injury time, a slick pass from skipper Max Meyer found tournament top striker Serge Gnabry, who slotted home from a tight angle. It was the boost Germany needed, as the Arsenal man took his tournament tally to six goals in four matches.
Second half procession
The second half was a procession. The chances continued to come, but now they were put away with clinical precision. RB Leipzig striker Davie Selke should have doubled the lead after fifty-six minutes, but a minute later Borussia Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter rose above the opposition defence to head home from the resulting corner.
As a match it was all over, but Hrubesch’s men just kept going. It was as if they were hard out for revenge for that 5-0 pasting. Selke finally got on the score sheet with fifteen minutes remaining with a smart low shot into the bottom right-hand corner, and with three minutes left FC Augsburg’s Philipp Max lashed the ball into the Portuguese net, set up by the impressive Julian Brandt.
Wearing the famous number thirteen shirt, Philipp Max celebrates Germany’s fourth goal against Portugal
Max is the son of former Nationalmannschaft one-capper Martin Max – and one can say that there is a good chance he will get a fair few more senior appearances than his father.
The German attack was mightily impressive, and it looks as though all of the pieces have been put together. The midfield were outstanding, but the man of the match was the excellent Brandt. The Leverkusen winger was unlucky to not make the senior squad for the Euros, the Mannschaft’s loss has been the Olympiamannschaft’s gain.
If Brandt, Meyer and hot-shots Gnabry and Selke can maintain this high standard, a first-time Olympic gold is beckoning. Next up in the last four, Nigeria.