It is time for the last match of 2018, and Germany are set to close out the year with their final UEFA Nations League fixture against their old rivals from the Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen. The Oranje’s 2-0 win over France may have already consigned the Germans to relegation from Group A of the new tournament, but this match is far from being a meaningless dead rubber.
The Nationalmannschaft may be out, but their opponents need a point to edge world champions France for top spot and a place in next year’s mini-tournament finals in Portugal. There is still plenty at stake for Germany too. With the draw for the Euro 2020 qualifiers based on the team rankings, a win will guarantee them a place in the top pot of ten.
Germany have never lost three competitive matches in succession, and they will be looking to maintain that record at the Veltins-Arena tonight. There are plenty of empty spaces in the stands.
Coach Joachim Löw has made three changes to the team that beat Russia 3-0 last week in Leipzig. Toni Kroos is back in to replace Kai Havertz, while Matthias Ginter and Jonas Hector make way for Mats Hummels and Nico Schulz. Joshua Kimmich retains his spot in the midfield spine alongside Kroos, while the coach sticks to his youthful front line of Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner.
The teams are out for the anthems, and everybody is good voice. Manuel Neuer is again wearing the captain’s armband, and he meets his Dutch counterpart Virgil van Dijk for the customary pre-match exchange. Germany are kitted out in their traditional colours, while the Dutch are back in their equally familiar combination of orange shirts and socks with white shorts.
1 min. Germany kick off. They create a good chance inside the first minute. Schulz finds Werner to this right the Leipzig man sends a pass out to Thilo Kehrer on the right. The former Schalke man has a half chance, blasts the ball high over the target.
4 mins. Kimmich makes a strong run down the middle and finds Kehrer, who wins Germany’s first corner. Kroos’s kick is cleared by the men in orange.
9 mins. Germany lose possession in midfield, and Ryan Babel is well closed down by Hummels who comes away with the ball. The break is on, and Kroos finds Gnabry whose first touch reaches Werner. Werner nods the ball on, and fires a lovely right-footed shot on the half-volley. ‘Keeper Jasper Cillessen cannot get there, and the home side have an early lead. 1-0.
11 mins. Sané charges down the left and is well challenged, but the Dutch are unable to clear their lines. Kimmich recycles the ball and feeds Sané again, and the Manchester City man’s cross almost finds Werner.
13 mins. Schulz concedes a free-kick, which is floated in dangerously. Niklas Süle clears. There is a little ping-ping in the box from the resulting corner, but the Germans are able to regather themselves and punt the ball in the fielf.
14 mins. Kroos gives the ball away, and Dutch have a chance to break. Quincy Promes is brought down just outside the box by Hummels. Free-kick to the Netherlands, and a yellow card for Hummels. Memphis Depay’s kick is straight into the wall, and the home fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
20 mins. Hummels gets things moving from the back, and Kroos plays a lovely pass over the top of the orange shirts for Sané to chase. The fast-moving winger gets there first, and controls the ball despite a poor first touch. He fires in a left-footed shot, which takes a deflection of Kenny Tete into the bottom right-hand corner past Cillessen. After his barren start, Sané has now scored two goals in his last two outings.2-0.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) November 19, 2018
24 mins. Löw’s men have a bit of breathing space now, and there is a lot more solidity to their game. They are pressing well when off the ball, and calm on it.
30 mins. Schulz wins another corner. The Dutch clear, but only as far as Gnabry. The Bayern man shows some fast feet and is able to get his shot away, but Cillessen gets everything behind it.
33 mins. Another Dutch free-kick out on the right, and Depay swings the ball into the German box. There are plenty of white shirts to deal with it.
34 mins. Daley Blind swings a ball into the box, and Süle heads it over the bar and behind for a corner to the visitors. Hummels clears well.
36 mins. Schulz charges down the left and swings the ball into the box. Sané leaves it for Werner, but the number nine is unable to get there. That was a swift move.
37 mins. Gnabry spins away smartly from his marker and finds Sané, whose shot is blocked. The Germans quickly set up another assault on the Dutch goal, and Kimmich is clattered by Gini Wijnaldum. The Dutchman is booked by the Romanian referee.
39 mins. Kimmich looks a little groggy, but is back on his feet. Kroos bends the ball into the box, but the visitors are able to clear their lines. But Germany have the ball again.
40 mins. Werner darts into the box, and gets the ball out to Schulz. The Hoffenheim man sends a lovely looping ball into the box, and Gnabry works hard to get in front of full-back Matthijs de Ligt. He shows some good strength to get his head on the ball, but it floats wide.
42 mins. Some great skills from Sané. He charges past two orange shirts to the byline, and keeps the ball in play before cutting it back into the danger area. Sadly, there is no opportunity for a finish. That was a lovely move from the Manchester City man.
44 mins. Babel pulls up sharply, and walks off to the touchline. The change is made, and Hertha BSC’s Javairo Dilrosun is on to make his international debut.
45+1 mins. Sané and Gnabry combine again, but this time the Dutch clear their lines.
45+2 mins. More excellent close control from Sané, who finds Werner in the box. The striker is unable to find a teammate. The whistle blows for half-time.
That was arguably Germany’s best 45 minutes of competitive football in more than a year. They have pressed hard, remained patient, and the front three have shown plenty of pace and invention. Four shots on goal for the Nationalelf against none for Dutch, and two goals on the board. With just 44% possession.
It has been a great show so far from Löw’s young guns, but we will want to see more of the same in the second half.
46 mins. The visitors get the second half underway, and quickly lose the ball in their own half. Gnabry makes a lovely run towards the box, finding Werner out to his right. The Leipzig man has time to line up his shot, but can only hit it straight at Cillessen. He will be disappointed with the finish. That should have been Germany’s third.
48 mins. Germany are keeping the ball well now, and are looking dangerous as the see any sort of space in front of them.
50 mins. Gnabry is flagged offside. That was close. Very close.
51 mins. Kroos gives the ball away, and is booked as he grapples with Depay to get it back.
53 mins. Kimmich wins the ball, and sets up another attack. Werner looks to make his way in to the box, but cannot maintain control.
55 mins. A Dutch free-kick into the German penalty area is spectacularly punched away by Neuer.
59 mins. The visitors try to thread the ball through the German defence, but Süle does well to seal off the leak.
60 mins. A second change for Koeman’s men. Wijnaldum is off, and Tonny Vilhena is on.
61 mins. Tete sends a dangerous-looking cross from the right, but Hummels is there to chest it back to Neuer. That was calm.
62 mins. Antonio Rüdiger gives the ball away under pressure, and concedes the free-kick. Germany clear, and break quickly. Gnabry’s lovely through-ball finds Werner, who looks to have got the better of Tete before sending his shot wide of the target. That was another great chance, and Werner clearly had more time than he thought he did.
63 mins. That will be Werner’s last contribution. A change for the Nationalmannschaft was already being lined up, and he makes way for Marco Reus.
66 mins. Dilrosun is in trouble, and it looks like the substitute is going to be substituted on debut. He walks off with the physio, and Luuk de Jong replaces him.
67 mins. A moment of history for Thomas Müller. The FC Bayern man is all set to come on, winning his 100th international cap. Gnabry is the man to make way. Müller is the fastest player to the mark in terms of time, taking just 3183 days to reach the mark.
68 mins. Schulz again makes his way to the byline, and finds Reus. The final ball is poor though, as Reus hits it straight at the legs of a defender. As the Dutch look to break, Kimmich takes a yellow card for the team for a shove on Promes.
71 mins. Müller advances towards the opposition penalty area after a quick exchange with Sané, but his return pass is far too strong.
72 mins. A lovely flick over the top of the Dutch defence from Müller is neatly picked up by Reus, but the Dormtunder is unable to find Sané who is lurking with dangerous intent.
74 mins. Müller tries to thread the ball through for Sané, but the ball hits a defender.
76 mins. Another Dutch free-kick, another curling delivery from Depay, and another easy clearance from the German defence. The visitors are seeing a bit more of the ball though.
78 mins. Depay has a go. He charges into the German box, past Süle and then Hummels before getting his shot away. It looks to be going wide, but Neuer makes sure.
80 mins. Sané’s evening comes to an end, as he makes way for Leon Goretzka.
81 mins. Another lovely piece of play from the home side. Müller cushions the ball for Kimmich, who swings the ball into the box. Schulz meets it smartly, but his effort strikes a defender and goes behind for a corner. That was on target.
85 mins. It was all going so well. Sometimes, simplicity is the best way. The men in white try to play the ball out from the back rather than whack the ball away, and Goretzka is caught in possession. Promes finds the space he needs, and curls the ball into the top right-hand corner with his right foot. That was a fantastic strike, and Neuer had no chance. 2-1.
87 mins. From the ridiculous to the sublime, and quickly back to the ridiculous. Germany break beautifully down the left, and Goretzka’s cute flick puts Reus in space. The substitute finds Kehrer out to his right, and the right-back doesn’t know whether to pass or shoot. The result is a badly scuffed shot that rolls just wide of the far post. It was clearly a case of the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it was another more than decent opportunity.
88 mins. Müller wins a corner, which comes to nothing.
90 mins. We are into final minute, and the Dutch are starting to put some pressure on. The German defence cannot get the ball out from the back. Hummels can only half clear, Kimmich cannot chase the ball down, and it is back into the German box again.
90+1 mins. Oh well. Vilhena sends the ball back into the danger area, Luuk de Jong nods it on, and van Dijk thumps it past Neuer on the volley. Out of nothing, the Dutch look as though they have got the point they needed. Talk about rubbing it in. 2-2.
90+3 mins. That has completely knocked the stuffing out of the hosts. The game was won, yet here we are with the scored at 2-2. As it stands, the Dutch are top of the group table.
90+4 mins. The final whistle blows.
There was so much hope. Germany dominated the contest, and should have had it in the bag long before the Dutch even had their first shot on goal. It could and perhaps should have been three or four. In the end, they are denied a precious win, and exit the tournament with a paltry two points from their four matches. The Dutch making it through to the final stage just makes it even worse.
Just to add another twist, Germany’s position in the top pot for the Euro 2020 draw is hanging by the thinnest thread. They now need Portugal to beat Poland in their final match, which will prevent the Poles from edging ahead on the rankings.
What an unbelievable year for Germany 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/iQVtrvg5iK
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 19, 2018
In a twisted sense, that ending was pretty fitting. More so given the way the year has gone. With any luck, it draws a thick black line under the unmitigated disaster that was 2018.
v Netherlands, Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, 19.11.2018
Werner 9., Sané 20. / Promes 85., Van Dijk 90.+1.
Germany: Neuer (c) – Rüdiger, Süle, Hummels – Kehrer, Kimmich, Kroos, Schulz – Werner (63. Reus), Gnabry (66. Müller), Sané (80. Goretzka)
Netherlands: Cillessen – Tete, de Ligt, van Dijk (c), Blind – de Roon, F. de Jong, Wijnaldum (60. Vilhena) – Promes, Depay, Babel (45. Dilrosun, 66. L. de Jong)
Referee: Ovidiu Alin Hațegan (Romania)
Assistants: Octavian Șovre (Romania), Sebastian Gheorghe (Romania)
Goal Assistants: Radu Petrescu (Romania), Sebastian Colțescu (Romania)
Fourth Official: Radu Ghinguleac (Romania)
Referee Observer: Marcel Vanelshocht (Belgium)
Yellow Cards: Hummels, Kroos, Kimmich / Wijnaldum
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 53% / 47%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 7 / 8
Attempts off Target: 5 / 0
Corners: 5 / 4
Fouls Committed: 14 / 11