After a longer than usual winter break, Germany’s 2019 begins in Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen Arena against Serbia. After a traumatic 2018 and a catalogue of disasters both on and off the pitch, coach Jogi Löw has set his stall for the renewal of the Nationalmannschaft.
Having ditched the experience FC Bayern München trio of Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng, this starting eleven has a very fresh – and inexperienced – look about it. The back four looks particularly green, with a total of just 21 senior caps between them. RB Leipzig’s Marcel Halstenberg makes his second appearance in the Nationaltrikot, while team mate Lukas Klostermann is making his international debut at senior level.
Apart from skipper Manuel Neuer, 24-year-old Joshua Kimmich is the most experienced player in the German lineup. It is encouraging, but at the same time slightly worrying. There may be a moment when they will start to miss the older, more experienced heads.
The coach may have washed his hands of three of his World Cup winners, but the fans have not. There are a few spaces in the crowd, but the banners are out for Bayern Trio. We have their numbers – 5, 13, 17 – and a message thanking these great players for their service.
— DFB_Fanclub (@DFB_Fanclub) March 20, 2019
The two teams step out, on what is a clear evening in Lower Saxony. Germany will be in their traditional white/black/white ensemble, while Mladen Krstajić’s men are kitted out in all red.
1 min. Germany kick off. Klostermann has a speculative effort which is put behind for a corner.
2 min. Klostermann crosses, and teenager Kai Havertz gets the first shot on target. It is hit straight at Serbian ‘keeper Marko Dmitrović.
6 min. The team look to be finding their feet here. Not much is happening, but there has been little danger from the Serbs either.
12 mins. Serbia get some time on the ball and win a corner. It swung in, Klostermann’s clearance is not great, and falls straight to Luka Jović whose header leaves Neuer no chance. The marking is non-existent, and it is not a great start for this new-look back four. 0-1.
18 mins. Klostermann sends in a cross for Werner, but a red shirt gets there first. The visitors clear their lines.
22 mins. Serbia are robbed of possession in their own half, and Timo Werner has a chance to run on goal. Dmitrović gets in the way.
24 mins. Leroy Sané has had a particularly poor start, and needlessly gives the ball away.
25 mins. There is plenty of possession outside the box, but no threat getting inside. The play switches quickly to the other side of the pitch, and Klostermann has to make the clearance.
29 mins. The home side break quickly, and Sané finds Werner out on the right. The Leipzig man’s low cross is just too string for Julian Brandt. The best attack so far, but that is not really saying much.
31 mins. Sané twists and turns into the box, but Milenković makes the block.
32 mins. Sané goes down in the box with a flourish, and the Scottish referee is not impressed. Play on.
33 mins. Kimmich sends in a cross looking for Brandt, but Klostermann is unable to get out of the way. The ball floats harmlessly wide.
35 mins. Is that a shot from Sané at he edge of the box? It is badly sliced, and floats straight into touch.
37 mins. How did that stay out? Kimmich finds Sané, who in turn plays the ball towards Werner who gets a decent shot in. Somehow, Dmitrović is right in the way and keeps it out.
39 mins. Sané looks to make a run down the right, but is robbed of possession.
41 mins. Another swift move from Krstajić’s side, and the German defence are torn open again. With the goal at his mercy, Adem Ljajić blasts it over the bar. That should have been put away.
44 mins. The Germans are all over the place again as they face a Serbian free-kick, and Nikola Milenković cannot get his gangly frame into position in time. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
45 mins. The whistle blows for half-time, and there some loud whistles from the crowd too.
For all of the pre-match hype, this has been a truly disappointing half of football. This young team have looked all at sea, and their inexperience is blindingly obvious. The back four in particular have looked less than stellar, and the coach may soon start thinking that his decision to get rid of the remaining old heads was a massive mistake.
If the defending has been atrocious, it has not been that great up the pitch either. There was a miraculous stop from the Serbian ‘keeper, but apart from that there has been nothing to write home about.
The coach has made a couple of changes for the second half. Neuer is replaced by Marc-André ter Stegen, and the unfortunate Havertz makes way for Marco Reus.
46 mins. The visitors kick off.
48 mins. Another lovely move from the Serbian side, but Darko Lazović sends an ugly shot into the crowd. With a bit more quality up front, the visitors would have been out of sight in this contest.
52 mins. Werner has time and space on the left, but his low cross is far too telegraphed and is easily cleared by Antonio Rukavina.
56 mins. The disappointing Brandt makes way for Leon Goretzka.
57 mins. Sané and Goretzka combine as Germany make their way into the box, and the Manchester City man wins a corner. Halstenberg’s kick flies over the crowd, and falls to Reus whose long-range effort is off target.
59 mins. A chance, created and almost finished by Reus. The Dortmund man’s dancing feet sees him slip past his marker and fire a shot on target, but Dmitrović does well to make the block. The Serbian stopper is earning his corn tonight.
61 mins. A quick break from the Germans, but a poor first touch from Sané. The offside flag is up anyway as the ball dribbles wide.
62 mins. A double change for Serbia. Sergej Milinković-Savić and Mijat Gaćinović are off, areplaced by Saša Lukić and Nemanja Radonjić.
63 mins. Halstenberg dinks the ball into the box towards Sané, but Werner goes for it and loses possession. That pretty much sums up the team’s performance so far.
64 mins. Halstenberg crosses from the left, and Sané looks set to execute a der Bomber León special. He goes for the header instead, but directs it straight at Dmitrović.
65 mins. It looks like it is going to be one of those evenings. Kimmich finds Sané who in turn finds his club team mate Ilkay Gündoğan, who shifts past the ‘keeper. His shot from a tight angle is heading for the goal, but Nemanja Maksimović slides in to make a miraculous clearance.
69 mins. Another German attack. Reus has the ball, and cuts its back towards the edge of the box. Goretzka keeps his head, wrong-footing his marker before crashing a right-footed shot past Dmitrović. That was a lovely goal, and the home side are level. 1-1.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 20, 2019
70 mins. Another change for the visitors. Milan Pavkov is in for goalscorer Jović.
73 mins. Reus finds Sané, who opens things up after putting two Serbian defenders on their backsides. His shot does not match the buildup though, and is straight at the ‘keeper. From the resulting corner, Halstenberg heads over.
77 mins. A Sané slalom run culminates in a nice left-footed effort that is creeping in just inside Dmitrović’s near post, but the ‘keeper does well to keep it out. Germany have certainly upped the ante here, and are starting to smell Serbian blood.
78 mins. Another attack. Gündoğan slips the ball through into the path of the onrushing Reus, but Dmitrović hares off his line to blot out the chance.
79 mins. Another Serbian double substitution. Andrija Živković is on for Lazović, and Miroslav Bogosavac makes way for Stefan Mitrović.
84 mins. Only one team is looking to win this game, but time is running out. After the poor first half, this has been a much better show from the Nationalmannschaft. A lot of that is down to Marco Reus, who has provided a real spark. That spark has set off Sané, who has also burst into life.
86 mins. The men in white recycle the ball and keep up the pressure, and Kimmich charges towards the byline. His cross is just a little too strong for Goretzka, whose header floats high and wide of he target.
88 mins. Klostermann does well to stave off a Serbian attack, conceding a corner. The Leipzig man has stepped into touch for some treatment. In fact, he is off. Thilo Kehrer is on. For Serbia, Maksimović makes way for Branko Jovičić.
90 mins. Radonjić has a shot, and ter Stegen does enough to stave off the danger. It is the first and so far only thing he has had to do.
90+1 mins. Jovičić wants to swap shirts with Sané. Somebody ought to tell him that there will be four minutes of additional time.
90+3 mins. Sané is in the wars again. That was a horrific challenge from substitute Pavkov, who is shown a straight red card. Completely deserved, in what has otherwise been a decent and fairly-contested match.
90+5 mins. Sané is replaced by Nico Schulz. A few seconds, one more international cap in the bag.
90+6 mins. Time is up.
If the first half was dire, the second was far more encouraging. The defensive woes of the first half were largely forgotten as the home side hunted their opponents, and were a little unlucky not to start 2019 with a win.
In the first half, the attack had been bereft of ideas; after he introduction of Marco Reus and then Leon Goretzka, there was a much better shape. This allowed Leroy Sané to come out of his shell, and the Manchester City man could have won the game for Jogi Löw’s men. For Serbia, the plaudits have to go to ‘keeper Marko Dmitrović.
This was a decent test, against an opponent that was unwilling to lie down – right until the end when the gruesome foul on Sané provided a sour closing note. In four days time, there is a much tougher encounter in store in Amsterdam.
v Serbia, Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, 20.03.2019
Goretzka 69. / Jović 12.
Germany: Neuer (c) (46. ter Stegen) – Klostermann* (90. Kehrer), Tah, Süle, Halstenberg – Kimmich – Gündoğan, Havertz (46. Reus) – Brandt (56. Goretzka), Werner, Sané (90.+6. Schulz)
Serbia: Dmitrović – Rukavina, Spajić, Milenković, Bogosavac (79. S. Mitrović) – Maksimović (88. Jovičić) – Milinković-Savić (62. Lukić), Gaćinović (62. Radonjić) – Lazović (79. Živković), Ljajić – Jović (70. Pavkov)
Referee: Bobby Madden (Scotland)
Assistants: Francis Connor (Scotland), Alan Mulvanny (Scotland)
Fourth Official: Nicholas Walsh (Scotland)
Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / Pavkov 90.+3.
Ball Possession: 62% / 38%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 12 / 5
Attempts off Target: 8 / 2
Corners: 7 / 6
Fouls Committed: 6 / 11
* Full international debut