Germany off to the perfect start with deserved win over awkward Ukraine

So, it begins! After all of the build-up, predictions and (meaningless) warm-up matches, the Euros finally start for the Mannschaft against the Ukraine in Lille. Incidents off the pitch have made the biggest headlines so far, but the world champions will be looking to get everybody talking about football again.

After Poland’s 1-0 win over Northern Ireland earlier in the day, there is probably a little bit of pressure on Jogi Löw’s men to pick up all three points – especially with the big game against the Poles up next.

There are few surprises in the starting line-up, with ‘keeper Manuel Neuer taking the captain’s armband in the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger. With Mats Hummels still not fit to start and Antonio Rüdiger recovering from an operation after his late withdrawal from the squad, Shkodran Mustafi comes into the middle of the four-man back line alongside Jérôme Boateng.

Mustafi will be looking at turning out a solid display. Benedikt Höwedes fills in at right-back, while Jonas Hector remains the first choice on the left.

The absence of skipper Schweinsteiger sees the expected defensive midfield partnership of Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos, while further up the field Julian Draxler makes a start alongside more established regulars Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller. Up front, false nine Mario Götze is preferred to the other Mario, traditional nine Gómez.

The atmosphere is fantastic inside the 50,000-capacity Stade Pierre-Mauroy, with the Germans in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß and the Ukrainians in all yellow. It is a damp evening, with the pitch looking a little slippery. Fritz Walter Wetter?

1 min. English referee Martin Atkinson blows his whistle, and Germany get things under way.

2 mins. Germany make their first push into the opposition half as Höwedes makes his way to the byline, but the ball is shepherded out by a Ukrainian defender.

4 mins. Draxler gets a sniff of a chance just inside the Ukrainian box, but is unable to control his shot.

5 mins. Out of nothing, Ukraine get the first shot on target. Right-back Artem Fedetskyi wins the ball and sends the ball towards the edge of the German penalty area, and Yevhen Konoplyanka’s first time shot is brilliantly saved by Neuer. The men in yellow can’t make anything of the resulting corner, and the danger is cleared.

8 mins. A nice build up from the men in white and black, but Höwedes is unable to find a colleague with his cross into the Ukrainian box.

12 mins. Germany have started to move the ball around nicely, and create their first chance. Draxler floats down the left to send in a weighted ball that is smartly headed back down by Müller for Hector. The 1. FC Köln left-back has time and space, but slips slightly before send miscuing his shot.

19 mins. Müller is brought down by Yaroslav Rakitskyi, and Germany win a free-kick out on the right. Kroos sweeps the ball beautifully into the box, and centre-back Mustafi arrives to power it home at the far post with a Hummelsesque finish. The perfect start. 1-0.

Shkodran Mustafi rises above his marker to power Germany in front

22 mins. The volume is being upped by the Germans in the crowd now, and the team are passing the ball around nicely.

23 mins. Kroos has a shot at goal which is deflected behind for a corner. The Real Madrid man takes it himself, and goalscorer Mustafi is called for a foul as he challenges ‘keeper Andriy Pyatov.

26 mins. Ukraine win a free-kick out on the left which is floated in by Konoplyanka, and Müller puts it behind. The corner is well delivered, and Yevhen Khacheridi gets there first. His header is on target, and Neuer makes his second crucial save of the evening. The next corner is swung in, but Boateng clears.

28 mins. A brilliant chance, beautifully crafted. Kroos dinks a delightful ball over the Ukrainian defence, and Khedira times his run perfectly. Taking a lovely first touch, the Juventus man’s shot is well struck and on target, by Pyatov gets himself in position to effect the block.

32 mins. The corners now coming for Germany. Short out on the left, and then from the right as Draxler’s speculative effort is deflected behind.

34 mins. Germany are dominating this game, have the lead and are looking comfortable. Kroos is really bossing things right now. They haven’t had it all their way though, and Ukraine remain dangerous.

36 mins. A real heart in the mouth moment. Andriy Yarmolenko lifts the ball into the German box, and there are no white shirts in sight as Konoplyanka looks to collect. The goal is at his mercy and his shot takes a deflection off Boateng, who recovers brilliantly to clear the ball off the line.

39 mins. Yarmolenko has the ball in the back of the German net this time, but is correctly flagged offside.

40 mins. Draxler floats another ball in from the left towards Müller, who is in two minds and unable to execute any sort of finish.

42 mins. Another dangerous Ukrainian ball is swung across the German box, and Hector puts it behind. The corner comes to nothing. Mykhaylo Fomenko’s men have really worked their way back into this game, and half-time cannot come soon enough for Löw’s men.

45 mins. There’s another corner for Ukraine as a sharp low cross from Vyacheslav Shevchuk is cleared by Boateng. Neuer collects the kick, and calm is restored.

45+1 mins. Draxler is clipped, and Germany win a free-kick out on the left. This time Kroos’s ball into the box is cleared. The whistle blows for half-time.

It has been an action-packed half, with chances at both ends. Germany have the lead and could have been two up, but Ukraine have given as good as they have got after looking secind best for long spells. Manuel Neuer has produced two world-class saves, and Jérôme Boateng’s clearance off the line was nothing short of miraculous.

The German defence continues to look shaky, but further up the field much of the action has been sublime – with Toni Kroos right at the centre of the Mannschaft’s midfield operations. It is going to be hard to shut down the Ukrainians completely in the second half, but one can only feel that there is at least one more goal in the offing for Jogi’s Jungs.

46 mins. No changes for either side, and Ukraine kick off the second half. Germany make the first forward foray, as Özil’s ball into the Ukrainian box is cleared.

48 mins. A lovely ball forward from Boateng towards Draxler, whose right-footed effort is well met by Pyatov. It has been a good start to the second half by the Mannschaft.

52 mins. Ukraine cannot get a touch at the moment, and a passage of play that lasts well over a minute finishes with a Kroos effort that skims the top of the crossbar.

53 mins. Müller shows off his English language skills to the touchline assistant. What looks like a throw to Germany is flagged the other way, at which Müller asks “can you see it?”

55 mins. Kroos has another shot from distance, and despite the slight deflection Pyatov collects.

57 mins. Ukraine are awarded a free-kick from some twenty-five yards out, and Rakitskyi’seffort is turned behind by Neuer. A wise decision, as it looked to be sneaking just inside the post. The corner puts the German defence again under pressure, but the impressive Boateng hammers it clear.

61 mins. More patient approach play from the Germans. Khedira makes space for himself, and his firm shot is well stopped by Pyatov.

65 mins. Khedira looks to have another crack at goal, but Shevchuk closes in to block.

66 mins. There’s a change for the Ukraine, with Yevhen Seleznyov coming on for the inconspicuous Roman Zozulya.

68 mins. Götze is bundled over by Konoplyanka, who is booked. The free-kick sparks a swift German move, with Höwedes’ floated cross from the right headed over by Draxler.

73 mins. There’s a lovely little interchange down the left between Draxler and Müller, but they are well marshalled by the Ukrainian defence.

74 mins. Another sub for the Ukrainians, with Viktor Kovalenko making way for Oleksandr Zinchenko.

75 mins. Götze strolls forward, and slips the ball inside to Müller whose low deflected shot is turned behind by Pyatov. The corner comes to nothing.

78 mins. Germany make their first change, and it is out on the left with Draxler making way for VfL Wolfsburg team mate André Schürrle.

82 mins. Schürrle finds space at the edge of the opposition penalty area, but his slightly scuffed effort flies wide of the target.

84 mins. Some great defensive work from Müller, who then looks to find the fast-advancing Schürrle who is charging towards the Ukrainian goal. Pyatov gets there first though.

86 mins. The men in yellow are looking tired now, and the Mannschaft are playing their well-perfected keep-ball game.

87 mins. Another slide rule pass sends Özil through on goal, but Pyatov closes him down to make the save. The play quickly swings to the other end, and a complete loss of concentration from Mustafi almost gifts the Ukrainians an undeserved equaliser. His header back to Neuer catches the keeper completely flat-footed, but thankfully the danger passes as Boateng cleans up. Time to wipe the brow and take a deep breath.

88 mins. The Ukrainians have been provided with a second wind here, and just need one break to level the scores and deny the Germans the three points.

90 mins. The captain is on the pitch. Götze is off, Bastian Schweinsteiger is on.

90+1 mins. More pressure from the Ukrainians, who win a last-gasp corner.

90+2 mins. The corner is cleared out easily, and Höwedes charges forward to release Özil out on the left. Having been pretty much anonymous all evening, the mercurial playmaker delivers the perfect cross, which is finished on the half-volley by Schweinsteiger. It’s a fairy take moment, which is has actually brought a tear to my eye. The deal is sealed, and the three points are in the bag. 2-0.

One minute. One touch. Bastian Schweinsteiger wraps things up in injury time

90+3 mins. The final whistle blows.

What a finish. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s first goal in the Nationaltrikot since October 2011 – his first in open play since August 2009 – caps off a gloriously dramatic finish to an exciting and at times hair-raising game.

Ukraine certainly had their moments and provided plenty of scares, but nobody can deny that this was a deserved win for Jogi Löw’s men. The 2-0 result puts them at the top of the group table ahead of Poland, and the next instalment against the Poles will surely determine who finishes top.

v Ukraine, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, 12.06.2016

2-0 (1-0)
Mustafi 19., Schweinsteiger 90.+2. / –

Germany: Neuer (c) – Höwedes, Boateng, Mustafi, Hector – Kroos, Khedira – Müller, Özil, Draxler (78. Schürrle) – Götze (90. Schweinsteiger)

Ukraine: Pyatov – Fedetskyi, Khacheridi, Rakitskyi, Shevchuk (c) – Sydorchuk, Stepanenko – Yarmolenko, Kovalenko (74. Zinchenko), Konoplyanka – Zozulya (66. Seleznyov)

Referee: Martin Atkinson (England)
Assistants: Michael Mullarkey (England), Stephen Child (England)
Goal Assistants: Michael Oliver (England), Craig Pawson (England)
Fourth Official: Robert Madden (Scotland)
Reserve Assistant: Francis Connor (Scotland)
Referee Observer: Bo Karlsson (Sweden)

Yellow Cards: – / Konoplyanka
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 63% / 37%
Attempts on Target: 13 / 5
Attempts off Target: 5 / 2
Corners: 6 / 12
Fouls Committed: 10 / 9

Attendance: 50,000

Man of the Match: Toni Kroos (Germany)

Germany off to the perfect start with deserved win over awkward Ukraine

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