Germany’s Olympiamannschaft needed a margin of five or more goals to make the last eight, and achieved their task with minimum fuss. Against a team that looked completely out of their depth at this level, Horst Hrubesch’s team scored ten goals without reply – a fantastic result that made the headlines, but was still six short of their Olympic record – a 16-0 win over Russia at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.
There is certainly something special about the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte – the scene of the Nationalmannschaft’s famous 7-1 World Cup semi-final victory over Brazil in 2014.
Records, record, records
In July 1912 Gottfried Fuchs scored an astonishing ten goals, and 104 years later it was SC Freiburg’s Nils Petersen who grabbed the plaudits with a five-goal haul. Not that fans in Germany will be crowing that much. After two tough draws against Mexico and South Korea, the goal-fest against the Pacific islanders was pretty much expected.
From their amateurish tactics through to their crude tackling, Fiji looked like a Sunday pub side. The match was so one-sided at times that it bordered on cruelty. The Germans could have tried to go on to match their record Olympic score, but clearly took their foot off the gas once they had reached double figures. It was hardly a great advert for football at the Olympics, but as they say – it is the taking part that counts.
10-0 looked like a rugby score, and I am sure there were some people wondering whether (a) Germany were in the rugby sevens tournament, and (b) they had scored two tried to beat the Fijians. (Note: Fiji are actually pretty decent at rugby and are a decent shot for the gold medal).
The Petersen Show
Bundesliga journeyman Petersen was the star of the show, with a hat-trick before half-time as Germany racked up half a dozen. Their initial task achieved, it was all about who was going to finish first and second in the group. At half time with the Koreans and the Mexicans locked in a goalless stalemate, Germany needed to match the Koreans’ eight against Fiji to take top spot – so long as the score in the other match remained the same.
Serge Gnabry’s third goal of the tournament set the Germans on their way after just eight minutes, and Petersen scored his first just seven minutes later. Skipper Max Meyer then added a third after half an hour before Petersen wrapped up his hat-trick in the space of seven minutes. On the brink of half-time, a Gnabry free-kick flew into the Fijian net past the hapless ‘keeper Simione Tamanisau.
Five-star Nils Petersen was the highlight of Germany’s ten-goal demolition of minnows Fiji in Belo Horizonte
Four more in the second half
Meyer then weighed in. He scored his second and Germany’s seventh just four minutes into the second half, and completed his own hat-trick just three minutes later. With the score still 0-0 in the other match, Germany had edged to the top of the group table ahead of the Koreans.
At this point, Tamanisau became the star of the show. A crude Sunday park challenge gave the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot, but Germany’s worrying inconsistency from the Elfmeterpunkt continued where it had been left off in the Euros. This time it was Meyer, whose tame shot was easily gathered by the Fijian ‘keeper.
Fancying his chances of facing another penalty, Tamanisau repeated the act just moments later. This time, Petersen stepped up score his fourth.
The Freiburg man knocked in his fifth and Germany’s tenth with twenty minutes still on the clock, but after that point the Germans could afford to slow things down. With more matches to come it was a sensible tactic, but it also looked like an act of mercy. At that point they were still at the top of the table, but just seven minutes later South Korea scored against Mexico.
The 1-0 win would be enough to see the Koreans finish top of the group with seven points from their three matches, with Germany in second place two points behind. Reigning champions Mexico, meanwhile, were eliminated.
Womens’ team through to last eight
After their 6-1 win over Zimbabwe and fortuitous 2-2 draw against Australia, Silvia Neid’s team needed a draw against group leaders Canada to make sure of their place in the quarter-finals, with a win against the Canadians guaranteeing top spot. The chances of elimination were remote, but still a mathematical possibility; two of the three third-placed teams were sure of a place in the last eight, and Germany were already on four points with a solid goal difference.
In the end, it went right down to the wire.
A thirteenth-minute penalty from Melanie Behringer put the Germans in pole position, but Canada equalised just thirteen minutes later. With Australia already two goals up in the other game being played at the same time, nothing could be taken for granted. Germany laid siege to the Canadian goal for a good ten minutes before half-time, but couldn’t find a way through.
The noose tightens
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Canada took the lead – by which time the Aussies had increased their advantage to five against the hapless Zimbabweans. It was time to take the calculators out. At the hour mark in both matches, both teams were locked on four points, with Germany hanging on to second place by a thread on goal difference. Neid’s team were in front with a 9-5 record, with Australia on 7-4.
Then, Australia scored a sixth. Both teams were now level on goal difference, but Germany held the edge on goals scored. The noose was being tightened.
With more than twenty minutes to score a seventh goal, Australia were favourites to edge into second spot. But somehow, the African side kept them out. A third Canadian goal would have also seen the Germans drop down to third place, but everybody’s eyes were now on the Aussies. It looked a matter of when rather than if they would score their seventh.
It never came. Instead, out of nowhere Zimbabwe conjured a goal of their own on the break. A seventh goal for the Aussies would have seen them finish dead level on both goal difference and goals scored with the Germans, but in the end we didn’t need to worry about the drawing of lots or any other nonsense. The final whistles blew in both matches, and second place had been secured.
In the end, results elsewhere meant that Germany would have still taken one of the two best third-place slots. But nothing quote beats a bit of last group game drama. Next up, China.