1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany escape with draw against Ukraine in 1,000th match

Hecko Flores
June 12, 2023

Germany's 1,000th match, a friendly against Ukraine, will mainly be remembered as a sign of solidarity with the war-torn country. However, it was also a reminder of Germany’s shortcomings.

A Ukrainian fan holds up a scarf that reads "glory to Ukraine"
Thousands of Ukrainian fans were among those in the crowd at Bremen's WeserstadionImage: Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

A sold-out crowd of almost 36,000 in Bremen gasped as local hero Niclas Füllkrug inexplicably missed Germany’s clearest chance at point-blank range just 90 seconds into a match against Ukraine which ultimately ended in a 3-3 draw.

It didn't take long for the Werder Bremen striker to make up for his mistake, getting credit for a deflection off a Marius Wolf shot in the sixth minute, finally bringing some calm to his team.

Hansi Flick's Germany have struggled to convince against serious opposition recently, so when it was announced that they would celebrate their 1,000th international with a charity match against Ukraine, it had seemed like a sensible decision.

"It's difficult," said coach Flick ahead of the game.

"I think for the Ukraine players, a match like this can serve as a nice distraction from everything that's happening back home," he added. "I hope that we can have 90 minutes devoted to football. We want to do our part so that everyone in the stadium can enjoy and watch an attractive football game."

Entertaining football

The sunny and warm conditions were beyond perfect for what was truly a friendly — a match between friends.

The Mexican wave made its way multiple times around the Weserstadion after Germany not only took the lead, but looked completely dominant in the first 15 minutes of the game.

But in the 18th minute, the visitors found an equalizer through Viktor Tsygankov. While originally ruled offside, the video assistant referee stepped in, causing the large Ukrainian crowd to erupt in joy and turn the momentum in their favor.

Ukrainian players celebrate their first goal
Viktor Tsygankov's first goal came out of the blue to draw Ukraine levelImage: Federico Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance

Just five minutes after conceding, Germany's defenders were left scrambling again. Mykhaylo Mudryk's shot ricocheted off defender Antonio Rüdiger and landed in the back of the net to put Ukraine ahead. The home crowd went silent.

The break gave Flick the opportunity to regroup and reorganize his squad but only 10 minutes into the second half, Tsygankov scored Ukraine's third goal, his second of the evening. The German crowd booed and whistled, clearly unhappy with their team's performance.

"I can't complain about our team's attitude and commitment. I told them that, too," Flick said at the post-match press conference. "They tried throughout the 90 minutes to turn the game around."

The crowd also booed Flick’s substitutions in the second half, in particular his replacing Füllkrug with Kai Havertz. But it was the Chelsea player that scored Germany's second in the 83rd minute and drew a penalty in the dying minutes of the game, which captain Joshua Kimmich took to even the scoreline and rescue a late draw.

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz's late goal gave Germany fresh hopeImage: Marc Schueler/Imago

“If you're trailing 2-1, 3-1, it's normal that the fans are unhappy, that they whistle is also normal." Flick said. "But you still felt that once we scored our second and then the 3-3, the fans cheered the team on."

More than a game

The game is one of a number of friendlies ahead of Euro 2024. Having previously crashed out of the Nations League, Germany are left with no competitive fixtures before they host next summer's tournament.

Yet for many fans, particularly those sporting the Ukrainian flag and its colors, the draw against Germany in Bremen meant a lot more than the actual result.

Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. While many people have stayed in the country to fight for freedom, millions have fled and are now living abroad.

"It's a symbolic game, for Germany it's their 1000th match. For us is also important. It's the first match for our new coach Serhiy Rebrov," Illya, a Ukrainian fan from Luhansk now living in Poland told DW.  

"It's a very difficult time for all of us, the fans, the players, our families. So this is a special moment of unity."

Hansi Flick and Serhij Rebrov
Hansi Flick tried to put a brave face on things, while Serhij Rebrov could have hardly asked for moreImage: IMAGO/Jan Huebner/IMAGO/Franziska Gora

Jerseys to be auctioned off

Not only was the match an expression of Germany's solidarity with Ukraine, but it was also used to raise funds for the war-torn country.

The German Football Association (DFB) is to auction off the special-edition jerseys worn by Germany during the match and donate the money to help social projects in Ukraine. The DFB said its foundation and partners had already donated more than €10 million ($10.8 million).

"Today football isn't really center stage but through the sport there's the opportunity to raise awareness," Denis, a 28-year-old Ukrainian who moved to Germany when he was three- years old, told DW.

"Many say that we shouldn't mix sports with politics but I think football has the power to move people and give them hope and comfort in difficult times. It's important to at least be able to think of something else for 90 minutes and a goal can bring some joy to people's faces."

Edited by Chuck Penfold.