On a night of high drama, Germany have squeezed into the last 16 of the European Championship with a 2-2 draw with Hungary. Germany had been minutes away from going out but will now face England in the last 16 in London.
Germany 2-2 Hungary, Munich
(Havertz 66', Goretzka 84' — Szalai 11', Schäfer 68')
If Germany’s win against Portugal was them arriving at the tournament, this dramatic draw against Hungary was a reminder that the frailties of this side still linger. Germany may have finished second in Group F but they sneaked rather than strode through to the knockouts of Euro 2020.
The result could be characterised as another example of Germany willing themselves out of a losing position.
"We made mistakes, but fought and showed sensational character," Joachim Löw said afterwards.
Leon Goretzka’s impact, Joshua Kimmich’s commitment and Joachim Löw’s ability to react in-game were all proof of that, but beyond that lies a familiar issue: when the opposition doesn't make it easy, Germany struggle.
"Our poor performance was more to do with our game against the ball than with it," Kimmich said afterwards. "We wanted to perform differently and we have to analyze that."
The celebratory feel of Germany’s victory against Portugal and the early evening sun had been swapped for a wet, dark evening full of political overtures. Everything about this game was different, from the weather to the loud boos that Germany fans directed towards Hungary’s supporters. This game felt as charged as the build-up to it had been, and it threatened to spill over when a fan ran broke through security to hold up a rainbow flag in front of the Hungarian team during the anthems.
UEFA’s refusal to grant the request to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colorsdidn’t stop the city of Munich handing out rainbow flags to fans outside the stadium. If this was an evening to show your colors, then the majority of German fans did.
Germany’s team did too though. The bite and intensity on show against Portugal had disappeared. Despite having 70% of the ball, Germany waded through midfield as the stagnant use of possession returned. And when Mats Hummels was caught out early on, Germany were facing an exit their performance merited. In attack, Germany were left hoping a Hummels header off the bar had gone in.
Then came the wind and the rain and Germany’s Euros appeared to be being washed away with it. Instead, Löw, to his credit, used it to clean the slate as he swapped to a back four and moved Kimmich into midfield.
Hope came briefly in the form of goals elsewhere and an equalizer from Kai Havertz, but then Cristiano Ronaldo scored again against France in Budapest and Andras Schäfer scored a second for Hungary. Germany were staring another group-stage exit in the face.
Germany passed and passed and passed but couldn’t find a way through. Löw grew desperate and turned to Timo Werner, then the ailing Thomas Müller and even later Kevin Volland and Jamal Musiala.
Fittingly, it was Goretzka who saved Germany. For the man so vocal about the need for a diverse world to score the equalizer in this game after the last few days added to the drama. Goretzka’s goal put Germany through, and the energy in his celebration — the Bayern Munich midfielder ran past the visiting supporters with his fingers curled into a heart shape — was probably enough to light up the stadium.
"At the end of it all, you have to say to get through this group is good and that was our goal," Löw said afterwards. Kimmich said the performance put a "dampener on the group" because Germany "should have handled it more comfortably."
Germany might have topped the group had Leroy Sané's cross been on target. The difference was a Round of 16 clash against Switzerland and England, but Sané’s wayward delivery was a microcosm of another chance not taken by the Bayern Munich winger who looked to have played himself out of contention.
Still in the tournament, Germany still have a chance of winning Euro 2020 but for this team, that title looks to be at the end of the rainbow.
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